Phillies sign right-hander Rodrigo Lopez to minor league contract

Phillies sign right-hander Rodrigo Lopez to minor league contract

Jim Salisbury of reports that the Phillies have signed right-hander Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract with a spring training invite. This confirms a report by Fernando Ballesteros of Puro Beisbol. Lopez, who turned 37 in December, had a 5.68 ERA over four relief appearances with the Cubs last season and posted a 5.28…

John Wall makes video asking fans for prayers before knee surgeries


John Wall makes video asking fans for prayers before knee surgeries

Wizards guard John Wall had surgery on both knees Thursday morning, the team announced in a press release. Before going in for the procedures, he made a video explaining the situation to fans and asking for their prayers. 

If Wall seemed nervous in the video, it's because he'd never needed surgery before in his career. Not even for the broken hand that knocked him out of the 2015 playoffs. 

For an athlete's first surgical experience to involve both knees had to be unnerving. 

The three-time All-Star had bone spurs interfering with the patellar tendon removed from his left knee, while his right knee required a more routine athroscopic procedure to remove debris from the joint. 

He will rehab the knees over the summer and is expected to be ready by the start of the 2016-17 season, according to the Wizards. 

And if Wall is right that his troublesome knee has hampered him on the court for the last few seasons, he should be better than ever next year. That's good news for everyone. 

For Capitals, Game 5 will be 'most important game of our lives'


For Capitals, Game 5 will be 'most important game of our lives'

Following Game 4's loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals faced a very unfamiliar feeling. For the first time perhaps all season, the Caps now face adversity.

With the loss on Wednesday, Washington lost its third straight for only the second time this season. The Caps have been the best team in the NHL almost from start to finish, but now they sit just one loss away from the end of their season.

"Would have felt nice to tie it up 2-2 instead of 3-1," Nicklas Backstrom said. "It’s tough but at the same time we have to take it one game at a time."

"We’re looking forward," Jay Beagle said. "Our back’s against the wall and the most important game of our lives is coming up.”

That may not be overstating it.

After years of playoff disappointments, this year's Caps' team appears built for playoff success. They have an experienced head coach, a Vezina finalist in net, a dynamic top line, scoring depth, veteran leadership and a strong top four on defense. The team used this formula to cruise through the regular season and earn the second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history.

But if the Caps cannot find a way to beat the Penguins in three-straight games, the results will still be the same: A second-round exit and more questions in the offseason.

The team, however, is not thinking about. Instead, their only focus is on putting up a fight and pushing harder in Game 5.

"It’s not the best place to be but we’re proud of ourselves, we’re proud of our game," John Carlson said. "At some point we’ve got to dig deeper, we’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to find a way, no matter what."

"Obviously resiliency is going to be big," Beagle said. "We’re facing a lot of adversity and we’ve got a strong core group here. There’s no doubts in our minds."

Statistically, however, the Caps are fighting an uphill battle.

Per Elias Sports Bureau, teams hat hold a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have an all-time series record of 261-28. In team history, the Caps are 2-6 when trailing 3-1. Pittsburgh's own streak also makes this a daunting task as the Penguins have not lost three consecutive games since December.

Still, it is not impossible. In fact, the last time the Caps trailed a series 3-1, they came back to win, beating the New York Rangers in 2009. The Caps also trailed Philadelphia 3-1 in 2008 and managed to force a Game 7 before falling in overtime.

For their part, the Penguins expect the Capitals to push back in Game 5.

"We put ourselves in position to close it out in Game 5 and everybody knows it's going to be the most difficult one, the most challenging one," Sidney Crosby said.

As the series transitions to back to Washington, this time the crowd will be back with the Caps. That's something Alex Ovechkin hopes will fuel the team to its second win of the series.

"It’s huge," Ovechkin said. "The fans in our building, they’re going to push us forward and we’re going to play our best game."

For many Caps fans, the loss in Game 4 felt like an elimination game. The odds are against the Caps being able to come back and if they should fall, it will mean another offseason of facing the same questions, of reading the same narrative about this franchise and specifically about Oveckin's playoff futility.

But the Caps aren't done yet. That was the message from the players after Wednesday's game.

"We’re not frustrated," Beagle said. "We have to stay level headed. We’re still in it."

"It’s time for everybody to forget those two games," Oveckin said. "You never know what’s going to happen. We have to win the next one and see if there’s going to be a next."

With Rio Games out, focus on managing John Wall's minutes


With Rio Games out, focus on managing John Wall's minutes

Although John Wall still was a long-shot to make the 2016 Rio Olympics for USA Basketball, even with Chris Paul recusing himself from the team, it's certain he won't be an option to participate after Monday's surgeries to both knees and the now Wizards will consider a plan to preserve him during 82-game seasons, persons with knowledge of the situation told

Wall had calcium deposits, or bone spurs, removed from his left knee tendon. His right knee had to be flushed out of loose bodies that also caused him discomfort for most of the season. That was on top of soreness in both ankles, too.

Wall missed the last five games of the regular season because of right knee swelling. He is expected to be ready to play when the 2016-17 regular season begins. The Rio Games are Aug. 5-21 and Wall was listed among those in consideration for the 12-man roster though it was difficult to see him beating out the likes of Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Mike Conley at point guard.

Under then-coach Randy Wittman, if Wall wanted to play through pain -- and consider he put himself at risk by playing two playoff games a year ago with five broke bones in his left wrist and hand -- he'd be allowed to play. The same was true for Bradley Beal, who has had four consecutive seasons of stress reactions in his lower right leg.

In part because the Wizards have been so inconsistent and unable to put enough room between themselves and others in the playoff race, Wall doesn't get chances to rest the way other elite players tend to in season. This was part of a discussion had during exit interviews for Wall with managment, physicicans and his representatives.

During the 2014-15 season, Wall contemplated resting going into a West coast trip before the All-Star break but they were struggling and he played through it. The Wizards lost 6 of 8. After starting 6-5 in 2015-16, the Wizards were never able to get over .500 again and Wall consistently played during stretches in which he would've been better served resting.

How are these situations managed under coach Scott Brooks?  

For his career, Wall averages 36 minutes per game and exactly that for the last two seasons. By comparisons to other All-Star point guards, Curry has averaged 32-34 minutes in the last two seasons and Westbrook is at 34.

Paul averages 36 for his career but he is at 34 in his last two NBA seasons, too. 

Wall is entering his seventh year. He has played 82 games, 79 and 77 in each of the last three seasons.