From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Terry Francona is getting back with one of his baseball families.Francona, who guided the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles, has been hired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, a team that collapsed in the second half this season after a promising first four months. The sides continued working Saturday night on the length of Francona's contract.The 53-year-old will be formally introduced as Cleveland's 42nd manager during a Monday news conference at Progressive Field."I'm really excited," Francona said on the air as an ESPN analyst, his job for the past season. "People who don't know me may have thought I was looking for something different."The Indians chose Francona over Sandy Alomar Jr., who served as the club's interim manager for the final six games after Manny Acta was fired on Sept. 27. Francona and Alomar, who spent the past three seasons as a coach in Cleveland, were the only candidates to interview for the Indians' opening.Alomar has been offered a spot on Francona's staff, most likely as bench coach.The Indians have always held a special place for Francona. After he was fired as Philadelphia's manager, he worked in Cleveland's front office as an adviser in 2001. He also spent a portion of the 1988 season on Cleveland's major league roster and his father, Tito, played with the Indians from 1959-64.Francona has stayed close with Indians president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti over the past decade. He said the chance to work with them again is what intrigued him most about the Cleveland job, which will have its challenges because of a much smaller payroll than he enjoyed in Boston."It's a good story, almost a family feeling," Francona said after his interview on Friday. "I don't think you can take a job because of that, but it still means a lot to me. Because of Chris and Mark and my relationship, I am excited to try to tackle, or attempt to tackle, every challenge that comes our way and do it together."There are some major challenges in Cleveland, where fans have been waiting for a World Series winner since 1948.The Indians were a major disappointment this season, going 68-94. They were within 3 1-2 games of first place on July 27, but went 5-24 in August -- the worst month in the franchise's 112-year history -- and finished 20 games out in the AL Central. Acta didn't get to finish his third season with the club."We have better talent than our record shows," Antonetti said earlier this week.With shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, second baseman Jason Kipnis, center fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians have a solid core of young position players to build around. Cleveland's bullpen was the strength of the team this season, but All-Star closer Chris Perez caused distractions with his comments and actions.The Indians lacked a proven power hitter -- DH Travis Hafner was injured much of the season -- and it remains to be seen if Cleveland owner Paul Dolan will spend in free agency to add talent.Francona interviewed with the Indians one day after Alomar, a six-time All-Star catcher for Cleveland and fan favorite. Alomar managed the Indians to a 3-3 record after Acta was dismissed. Alomar will likely be courted by other teams seeking a manager. He interviewed with Boston last year before the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine.Francona spent eight seasons with the Red Sox but was not brought back after the club fell apart down the stretch in 2011. This season, Francona worked as a TV broadcaster and said it was while preparing for telecasts that he realized how much he missed managing and being around players."We appreciate Terry's great contributions to our baseball coverage and we wish him the best,"? ESPN said in a statement, adding Francona will appear as a guest analyst during the network's World Series coverage.Francona has managed for 12 seasons in the majors, compiling a 1,029-915 record."I played for Tito (Francona) and everybody knows his track record is a good one," said Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, who was with Francona in Boston for 2008-9.Antonetti said part of Francona's appeal was how he developed young players like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester as they came up through Boston's system."In addition to that, he's a great communicator and an accomplished leader," Antonetti said.
The Capitals’ penalty kill unit has allowed a goal in four of the first five games this season, including one in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center.
As with every statistic this time of year, it comes with the following disclaimer: it’s a small sample size. That said, the Caps know that the unit can—and should—be better, particularly after it ranked second in the NHL last year.
“We’ve got some new people there,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But we’ve also have a lot of the same people.”
Washington’s penalty kill percentage currently sits at 71.4 as the team prepares to depart on a four-game trip to Western Canada. Last year, the unit’s percentage was 85.2. Only Anaheim’s penalty kill was better.
“It’s a mentality,” Trotz said. “Once you start digging yourself a little bit of a hole, you get worried about it. We just need a little confidence going for it. It’s not that we don’t have any, but we just have to get everybody on the same page. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.”
Since snuffing out all three of the Avalanche’s power play opportunities two games ago, the Panthers and Rangers each struck once. And both times, the goals were big ones.
On Thursday night in South Florida, Jaromir Jagr scored on the man advantage late in the second period to even the score 2-2. The Panthers squeezed off six shots on four power plays in that game.
On Saturday, Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey tallied midway through the second period to knot the score 2-2. New York got off four shots on three opportunities in the contest.
“I think the first two games, [the goals] were just kind of [deflections],” said defenseman Karl
Alzner, who is averaging almost two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game. “Even today was a little bit of a pinball out to the backdoor.”
Alzner added: “We just have to see what other teams are doing and continue to get in lanes and block shots. And when we make our switches and stuff like that, it seems like we’re at times a little bit slow to do it. We want to pressure, but we have pressure smart. And if we’re not [in sync], it happens to any penalty kill. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks right now on paper, but, yeah, we’d like to be better.”
Newcomer Lars Eller said he isn’t overly concerned yet, in part, because he feels opposing power plays have benefited from some fortuitous bounces and those bounces will even out over time.
“You can always improve,” Eller said. “I don’t think it’s the reason we lost [to New York]. A wrist shot from way out on the flank that bounces right to a Rangers’ player. Sometimes it bounces to one of us. Sometimes it bounces to one of them. Things are out of your hands a little bit sometimes. But there’s room for improvement.”
MORE CAPITALS: Rangers hand Caps first regulation loss
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Perry Hills threw a pair of touchdown passes in his return to the lineup and Maryland kept Michigan State winless in the Big Ten with 28-17 victory Saturday night.
Maryland (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) also extended the Spartans' losing streak to five games, the longest skid under 10-year coach Mark Dantonio.
Ty Johnson led Maryland's dominant running attack with 115 yards on nine carries, while Lorenzo Harrison finished with 105 yards on 17 carries. The Terrapins amassed 447 total yards .
Michigan State redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke got his second consecutive start and went 11 for 24 with 156 yards with an interception. He also ran for 79 yards on 10 carries. LJ Scott had a big day on the ground for the Spartans finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartans (2-5, 0-4) took their first lead, 17-14 on a 34-yard field goal by Michael Geiger with 1:35 left in the third quarter. Johnson continued to find a holes and a 44-yard run put Maryland into Michigan State territory. Two plays later, the Terrapins retook the lead on a 2-yard run by Kenneth Goins Jr.
Hills put the game away with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Levern Jacobs with 3:23 left in the game. Hills was 21 of 27 for 200 yards.
Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough was ejected with 4:39 left in the first quarter for targeting. That penalty helped Maryland extend a season-long 96-yard scoring drive, capped by Harrison's 8-yard run.
Michigan State: The Spartans face an uphill battle for a 10th straight bowl appearance with the toughest part of the their schedule still ahead. Michigan State must still play No. 3 Michigan next week and No. 2 Ohio State (Nov. 19).
Maryland: After a 4-0 start, the Terrapins gained some much-needed momentum to avoid missing a bowl game for the second consecutive season. However, Maryland plays three ranked opponents (Michigan, Ohio State and No. 8 Nebraska) over its final five games.
Michigan State hosts No. 3 Michigan (7-0, 4-0) next Saturday. The Spartans stunned Michigan 27-23 last season when safety Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up a flubbed punt and ran 38 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the final play of the game.
Maryland travels to Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers (3-4, 1-3) beat the Terrapins 47-28 last season and lead the all-time series 3-1.