Johan Santana throws lightly off mound in Mets camp

Johan Santana throws lightly off mound in Mets camp

Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters on Saturday that Johan Santana probably wouldn’t be ready to throw off a mound for another “10 days or so.” But that estimate was about nine days off. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that Santana made light tosses from a mound on Sunday morning in Mets camp. He clearly…

Joseph still waiting for first RBI of 2016

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Joseph still waiting for first RBI of 2016

BALTIMORE—It looked like an ideal spot for Caleb Joseph’s first RBI. The Orioles had loaded the bases with two outs, but Joseph grounded out to end the inning.

Joseph began the game with a .175 average and no RBIs in 22 games. His fifth inning single didn't drive in a run, but it snapped an 0-for19 streak. 

In his first two years with the Orioles, Joseph had 20 home runs and 77 RBIs. 

Manager Buck Showalter said that he has confidence that Joseph will start to hit, but defense comes first for a catcher.

“He will again. I think they all know where the priority is. It’s stressed all through the organization. Offense is just a plus. If you can get offense at a position that normally doesn’t bring it…it’s an added plus,” Showalter said. 

“He makes a lot more contributions catching defensively than he does offensively. Caleb can hit. He’ll hit. I know he’s getting a little frustrated by it because he knows he’s better than that. It’s not one of those things that I stay up at night about.”

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Open court: Do any Raptors free agents fit Wizards?

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Open court: Do any Raptors free agents fit Wizards?

After a franchise-record 56 wins in the regular season and advancing to the conference finals for the first time, the Toronto Raptors’ season was a major success despite bowing out to the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.

The Wizards will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open. Their goals are to get younger without sacrificing experience (like Portland), more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.

They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.

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These are the Raptors’ best free agents available, in order of best fit:

Bismack Biyombo: He blew up in the playoffs, and he certainly will decline his $3 million player option for  next season. In a league where going small is emphasized over size, Biyombo is both. He's 6-9 and is strong enough to play center (listed as a power forward) and has elite shot-blocking ability to protect the rim and he's agile enough to switch out onto guards on pick-and-rolls. Biyombo's value, as a result, has skyrocketed despite not being much of an offensive threat outside of garbage putbacks. He'll cost $15 million to $17 million, one front office exec told CSNmidatlantic.com. That'll price him out of D.C. as long as Gortat ($12 million per) remains. A big with Biyombo's skill set as a backup at center, however, is ideal. 

James Johnson: An energy guy, he's a 6-9 career backup at forward. Johnson isn't know as a shooter but was a Toronto fan favorite. He made 37 starts but was hot and cold. Johnson earned $2.5 million, has experience but isn't old (29) and could be an option to fill out a bench. The Wizards were terrible when it came to 50/50 balls and hustle plays. With averages of 5.0 points and 2.2 rebounds, Johnson wouldn't cost as much as some of the options that follow. 

DeMar DeRozan: The 6-5 scorer will decline his player option for $10.1 million but it appears he'll likely remain in Toronto when he renegotiates his deal. He manufactures his offense from the foul line in a way that Beal could only hope and he stays healthier, but in every other category -- particularly when it comes to playoff performance on the road -- Beal has the edge. Wall is a better three-point shooter than DeRozan. In the unlikelihood that Beal and Wizards can't come to terms during his restricted free agency, DeRozan is a solid Plan B. But it won't come to this anyway.  

Luis Scola: The power forward, an unrestricted free agent, was the weak link in an otherwise strong starting five. Scola, 36, saw his time dwindle in the postseason. He's a good bench option if size is needed. Despite his age he started in all 76 games in which he played. Scola was like a fish out of water in the playoffs (25.8% shooting) and lacks three-point range which is what the Wizards need in a four off the bench.

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Ward: Retirement of O'Ree's number a 'no-brainer'

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Ward: Retirement of O'Ree's number a 'no-brainer'

It is not Joel Ward’s nature to use his first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final as a civil rights platform. That’s not who he is or what he’s about.

But when ESPN.com’s Joe McDonald asked Ward over the weekend if he believes the NHL should consider retiring Willie O’Ree’s No. 22 in recognition of him breaking the league’s color barrier on Jan. 18, 1958, he was quick to jump on board with the idea.

"That's something to definitely talk about for sure,” said Ward, who upon becoming a member of the Capitals in 2011 requested to wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. “It would be great if they did. … With the amount of respect Willie has around the league, it would definitely be something special if that did come up."

Currently, there is only one jersey number retired by every team in the NHL – Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99.

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O’Ree, 80, played in only 45 NHL games with the Boston Bruins (two games in 1957-58 and 43 games in 1960-61), but he paved the way for other black players to follow.  

“It's a no-brainer,” said Ward, whose San Jose Sharks will face the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Without Willie, it would be tough for me to be sitting here today.”

O’Ree has been an ambassador for the NHL for several years. In April he visited Washington to attend a private screening of the movie “Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future,” and spoke passionately about the racism he faced as a young player who hid from the Bruins organization that he was blind in one eye.

“I was faced with racism, bigotry, prejudice and ignorance and discrimination,” O’Ree recently told a group of students at the Anti-Defamation League Youth Congress in Boston.

“Every time I went to the ice I was faced with racial slurs because of my color and my brother taught me names will never hurt you unless you let them. I had black cats thrown on the ice and told to go back to the cotton fields and pick cotton.”

Ward, 35, faced a different kind of racism after he scored the series-clinching goal for the Capitals in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. In the hours after netting the overtime goal in Game 7 in Boston, Bruins fans tweeted racist remarks about Ward, whose parents were born in Barbados and raised their three sons in the Scarborough neighborhood of Toronto.

“I don't let it bother me at all,” Ward told reporters after the incident in Boston. “It's a few people that just made a couple of terrible comments, and what can you do? I know what I signed up for. I'm a black guy playing a predominantly white sport. It's just going to come with the territory. I'd feel naive or foolish to think that it doesn't exist. It's a battle I think will always be there.”

While he was a member of the Capitals, Ward was invited to throw out the first pitch on Jackie Robinson Day at Nats Park, telling the Washington Times about his deep appreciation and respect for what Robinson faced nearly 70 years ago.

“I always question myself whether would I ever be strong enough to go through something like that,” Ward said. “And the fact that he excelled hitting over .300 and knowing that he could be shot at any minute, every time he stepped up to the plate. He just seemed to tune that out in some miraculous way, so for somebody to pave the way like that and open doors for guys like myself is unbelievable."

It took Major League Baseball 50 years after Robinson’s first game to retire his No. 42 forever.  It’s been more than 58 years since O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier and Ward believes it’s time to at least start a similar discussion to honor the man whom many describe as the Jackie Robinson of hockey.

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