From Comcast SportsNetCHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Steve Smith was on crutches after being treated for what the Carolina Panthers described as a left foot infection. Coach Ron Rivera says Smith is being treated with antibiotics, but the wide receiver's status for the remainder of the preseason is unknown. Smith was seen walking around the stadium on crutches, but was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason was also held out of practice with a strained hamstring. The Panthers (No. 20 in the AP Pro32) face the New York Jets on Sunday and then wrap up the preseason the following Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers could decide to hold both star players out until the regular season. Rivera says Carolina's starters will play into the third quarter Sunday.
CLEVELAND—A little more than two hours after Yovani Gallardo completed a simulated game, manager Buck Showalter announced that he would make a rehab start at Frederick against Potomac on Thursday night.
Showalter hopes that Gallardo, who threw 45 pitches on Saturday will be able to throw four innings or 60 pitches in the rehab start. Assuming Gallardo feels strong on Sunday and has a work day early next week, the rehab assignment is on.
“It’s encouraging. We’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. That’s about as far as I’m going to go, but we’ve got a plan if everything goes well,” Showalter said.
Gallardo, who has been on the disabled list since Apr. 23 with tendinitis in his was satisfied by the simulated game. He faced one major league hitter, Paul Janish, and two coaches, Einar Diaz and Wayne Kirby.
“I felt pretty good. The curveball was coming out like the previous two bullpens. Offspeed pitches were sharp. I’m pretty excited about how it all went today,” Gallardo said.
“I think it’s a matter of getting that pitch count up, to be honest. It’s one of those things. It’s going to be key and it’s all going to depend on how I’m able to recover each and every time that I throw.”
Janish has hit against Gallardo in the past, and was happy to help out.
“I think I stood in for four simulated at-bats, so I saw all of his pitches. He threw his changeup, his cutter, his curveball and his regular fastball. Everything was crisp and he seemed to have good control of everything, which I think is another indication that he’s not having any kind of tweaks or discomfort. I think control would be the first thing to go, so he looked good. Best way to say it is he looked good.”
Showalter was upbeat about Gallardo’s simulated game.
“He got a little tired at the end, which you can expect. The arm swing was good. You can tell by the smile on his face that he felt good about it,” Showalter said.
CLEVELAND—Buck Showalter raved about Manny Machado’s play at shortstop on Friday night. Machado also had four hits, but on one of those hits, Machado was thrown out running the bases.
Leading off the fifth inning, Machado’s drive to center kicked away from Rajai Davis, and instead of stopping at second, he raced towards third and was easily thrown out.
It’s not the first time this season that Machado has violated what many see as a cardinal baseball rule. Don’t make the first or third out of the inning at third base.
“There’s been a lot of times where he’s done something that may not be conventional, but it works out real well. I don’t want to take that away from him,” Showalter said.
“He knows. It’s just a reminder every once in a while that he’s 23 years old. There are some things that all young players have to experience so they don’t make those mistakes again. Is it a mistake if he’s safe? Sometimes you get so caught up in conventionality that we take away some guys’ freedom and their imagination. I think the big issue you have is if some guys are making the same mistake over and over again.”
With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis.
No. 10 Mike Richards
Age: 31 (turns 32 on Feb. 11, 2017)
Penalty minutes: 8
Time on ice: 12:10
Playoff stats: 12 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, even, 4 PIM, 11:15
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent (2015-16 salary: $1 million)
When Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan and his coaching staff began exploring the possibility of signing center Mike Richards back in November, they kept telling themselves that if he could keep up to the pace of the NHL he’d be the perfect third- or fourth-line center for a team on a mission to win the Stanley Cup.
Defensively, Richards was exactly what the Caps had hoped. He was an integral piece of a penalty kill that ranked second in the regular season (85.2 percent) and second in the playoffs (90.7 percent).
From a leadership standpoint, Richards also received high marks from his teammates, coaches and management.
But offensively, he was a disappointment, managing just two goals on 46 shots in the regular season and no goals on nine shots in 12 playoff games.
“I’m happy with what Mike did,” MacLellan said. “I think he added a lot to our locker room. He’s a great penalty killer, competitive guy. We really valued his experience. I would have liked to see more offense. He had some good chances, created some good chances for himself and just didn’t finish.
“I think he was a little frustrated. The offensive confidence that we thought might get there probably never got there. But everything else about his game I thought was excellent. He’s just a smart hockey player.”
Signed by the Caps as a free agent on Jan. 6, Richards played his first game for the Caps 10 days later and settled into a defensive role with the Caps, taking defensive zone faceoffs late in games and taking pressure-packed shifts with the Caps holding leads late in periods.
Despite his effectiveness in the defensive zone Richards looked a step slow and did not score his first goal until Feb. 22 in his 15th game, receiving a standing ovation from the Verizon Center crowd. His speed appeared to increase late in the season and he played well in the first round of the playoffs against the Flyers, but he looked slow against the Penguins in Round 2 and was dropped from the third line to the fourth.
“I enjoyed my time here, it was awesome,” Richards said on breakup day, sounding like a player who would not return. “Everyone right from Day One has been just welcoming. It was a different feeling, but everyone here was awesome. I got here and I enjoyed my time here and who knows what's going to happen? But I definitely have no regrets about coming to Washington. Obviously, I wish the result was better, but at the same time, this was pretty awesome here.”
MacLellan said he would speak with Richards’ agent about a return to Washington, but having stated a need for more speed on the Capitals’ bottom two forward lines, it seems unlikely Richards will re-sign with the Caps.
“No expectations,” Richards said. “I'm not even sure what's going to happen, so we'll kind of hang out for a bit and see what's going on and go from there.”
Assuming the Capitals do not re-sign Richards it remains to be seen whether he did enough in his return to the NHL to warrant a free agent contract from another team. He changed his off-ice training last summer with the hopes of improving his skating.
“I've always known that I could play,” he said. “It's just, I guess, if the will's there maybe to continue. I had a fun time here in Washington, I enjoyed hockey again and I’ll kind of decompress and see what's next.
“I mean, I'm 31 years old, so I'm not old by any means. But we'll see. I honestly don't even know. I had so much fun this year with this team. Extremely, extremely disappointed of just not being able to play hockey anymore with the group of guys here. Frustrated, but at the same time I enjoyed my time here.”
Like many of his teammates, Richards said the bond in the Capitals’ locker room this season was something special.
“This team is unbelievable, to be honest,” he said. “The group is so unique, I can't even put it into words how unique this group is, it's pretty special.It's just a fun group to come to the rink and be around every day.”
As for why the Penguins are still playing and the Capitals are not, Richards said that may take some time in his hometown of Kenora to figure out.
“I'm going to sit in my boat and fish a little and probably think about it then,” he said, “but it's too early to put your finger on anything to be honest.”