MLB All-Star suspended for 50 games

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MLB All-Star suspended for 50 games

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games without pay Wednesday after the Giants outfielder tested positive for testosterone, a big loss for San Francisco as it fights for a playoff berth. Major League Baseball said Cabrera tested positive for the banned performance-enhancing substance in violation of the drug agreement between owners and the players' association. His penalty was the first for a high-profile player since Ryan Braun's penalty was overturned by an arbitrator last winter, which led to revisions in the drug agreement to better define procedures for handling the urine samples. "My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement released by the union. "I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down." Cabrera is batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in his first season with San Francisco and is five hits shy of 1,000 in his big league career. Flashing bright orange spikes, he singled and hit a two-run homer last month in the National League's 8-0 All-Star win, which secured homefield advantage for the World Series. He will miss the final 45 games of the regular season and serve the remainder of the suspension at the start of next season or during the postseason, depending on whether the Giants make the playoffs and how far they advance. "We were extremely disappointed," the Giants said. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from our game." If the Giants wanted him to become active in the middle of a playoff series, they would have to play a man short from the start of the series until the suspension ends because rosters can't be altered in mid-series. Cabrera became the second Giants player to receive a drug suspension this season. Reliever Guillermo Mota was penalized for 100 games in May, becoming just the third major league player disciplined twice for positive drug tests. Mota is eligible to return Aug. 28, barring rainouts, and began a minor league rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with the Giants' rookie team in Arizona. There have been four suspensions in the major league drug program this year, with Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd also suspended 50 games apiece. There have been 70 suspensions under the minor league drug program. In mid-May, MLB and the players' union agreed to drop the 100-game suspension imposed on Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo for a positive drug test because of the same procedural issues that came up in the case of Braun, the Milwaukee outdfielder who is the reigning NL MVP. Alfonzo missed 48 games -- the final 15 of last season and the first 33 of this year. Braun's 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned in February by arbitrator Shyam Das after Braun's lawyers argued his urine sample was not handled in the manner specified by baseball's drug agreement. Das, who had been baseball's permanent arbitrator since 1999, was fired this spring. In December 2011, slugger Manny Ramirez received a 50-game suspension for a second positive drug test. The 12-time All-Star signed a one-year minor league contract with the Oakland Athletics on Feb. 20, but was released in June per his request while playing for Triple-A Sacramento before even reaching the big leagues with the A's. Ramirez retired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season rather than serve a 100-game suspension for a second failed drug test. The penalty was cut to 50 games because he sat out nearly all of last season. The 28-year-old Cabrera, who became a marketing phenomenon this year with nicknames like "Got Melk?" "Melk Man" and "Melky Way," produced a 51-hit month in May. Cabrera batted .429 in May with three homers, five triples, seven doubles and 17 RBIs. He hit safely in 25 of 29 games. The 51 hits matched Randy Winn for most hits in a month since the club came to San Francisco in 1958. Cabrera also set the San Francisco record for most hits in May, passing Hall of Famer Willie Mays' 49 from 1958. Cabrera came to the Giants in a trade with Kansas City last November that sent left-hander Jonathan Sanchez to the Royals. Cabrera -- who signed a 6 million, one-year deal to avoid salary arbitration -- batted .305 with 44 doubles, 18 homers and 87 RBIs last season. He is a big reason San Francisco began play Wednesday tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West. Cabrera had been listed in the original lineup for the series finale with the Washington Nationals, batting third and playing left field. Gregor Blanco replaced Cabrera. San Francisco said it will not make a roster move until Thursday's off day before opening a weekend series at San Diego. The clubhouse was closed before the game when the news of Cabrera's suspension broke. "Sad, man," Robinson Cano of the Yankees said. "He's a friend. I'm going to be there for him. I never talked to him about anything like that. Sad day."

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Capitals’ playoff opponent watch: Bruins slide to wild card, but will they stay there?

Capitals’ playoff opponent watch: Bruins slide to wild card, but will they stay there?

In the final stretch of the season, it’s time to start projecting possible first round matchups for the Caps.

Washington has given itself some breathing room away from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they can’t seem to shake the Columbus Blue Jackets who remain hot on their heels for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. As of now, however, the Caps remain in first place in the division which would mean a first-round matchup against the second wild card team.

As of right now the Caps would be playing: The Boston Bruins (86 points)

Caps’ record vs. Bruins this season: 2-0-0 (1 game remaining on April 8)

Boston slid out of third place in the Atlantic, but they did manage to stay in a playoff spot with two wins to end a four-game skid. This is not a wild card team to sleep on given that they boast one of the top offensive players and agitators in the NHL in Brad Marchand and a top netminder in Tuukka Rask. There is a concern, however, that Rask has been overworked this season and that is a sentiment shared by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. As good as Marchand is, Boston won’t be going anywhere without Rask. Does he have enough left in the tank to lead the Bruins into the postseason and if he does, how much more will he have left for the playoffs?

RELATED: As the season winds down, Ovechkin is ramping up

Other possible playoff opponents

Columbus Blue Jackets (105 points)

Caps record vs. Blue Jackets this season: 2-1-1 (1 games remaining on April 2)

Columbus and the Caps battled in a tight game over the week that saw the Caps earn a narrow 2-1 shootout win. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is making a case for the Vezina or the Hart with this play. He has a .935 save percentage and 1.97 GAA and is more than capable of leading the Blue Jackets deep into the playoffs. But, as Columbus continues winning, the battle for the Metro is becoming more and more of a two-team race. Pittsburgh, currently five points back of the Caps, would have to pass both Columbus and Washington for a Caps-Jackets first-round matchup. That seems unlikely at this point.

Pittsburgh Penguins (103 points)

Caps record vs. Penguins this season: 2-0-2

With the Caps and Columbus separating themselves from the Penguins, the race to win the Metro has suddenly become the race to avoid a first-round matchup with Pittsburgh. While the Caps have earned at least a point in each game against the Penguins this season, you can go ahead and throw the records out when it comes to these two teams. While this may not be the matchup you want to see in the first round, it perhaps would not be the worst thing in the world for Washington. The Penguins are not a healthy team right now as they are dealing with several injuries to key players including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Would the Caps be better off getting Pittsburgh early while they are still getting healthy?

Toronto Maple Leafs (87 points)

Caps’ record vs. Leafs this season: 1-1-0 (1 game remaining on April 4)

It’s hard to know what to expect from a young team like the Leafs when they reach the postseason. Toronto is way ahead of schedule with its rebuild and was not expected to reach the playoffs this year. With Mike Babcock behind the bench as well as young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Nikita Zaitsev this is a dangerous team that will be playing very loose and free with no expectations. Plus, they are a team the Caps always seem to struggle against. The last time these two teams met, Braden Holtby was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period. The health of goalie Frederik Andersen is a concern, however, as he is dealing with an unspecified injury. That could lead Toronto to slide in the standings down a wild card spot or perhaps even out of the postseason altogether, depending on how much time he may miss.

Tampa Bay Lightning (83 points)

Caps’ record vs. Lighting this season: 2-0-1

Every time I’m ready to write the Lightning off, they surge. Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman are single-handedly keeping a beaten up Tampa team in the playoff race. Here’s what makes them so dangerous: At some point, a Lightning team that has reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons is going to start getting some of their injured players back such as Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. At full strength, Tampa is much better than a wild card team. No one wants to be playing them when they finally do get healthy.

New York Islanders (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Islanders this season: 2-3-0

I'll be honest, I have no idea really what to make of the Islanders right now. They recalled Jaroslav Halak from the AHL and he started in a shootout win over Pittsburgh. Since then, they went back to Thomas Greiss and have lost both games. Now, to be fair, New York scored only one goal in both games so you can’t lay all those problems at the feet of Greiss. Having said that, however, why recall Halak if you’re not going to use him? Now the Islanders are back to three goalies and seemingly no plan on how to utilize them. This feels like a team just throwing everything at the wall and hoping something will stick. I am not giving them much chance of getting back into the wild card.

Carolina Hurricanes (82 points)

Caps’ record vs. Hurricanes this season: 3-1-0

A 12-game point streak in which the Hurricanes have gone 8-0-4 has resurrected Carolina’s playoff hopes. Rookie Sebastian Aho has been tremendous, Jordan Staal remains as dangerous as ever and the goaltending, long thought to be the Achilles heel of this team, has been just good enough. It’s not great, but it is not the glaring weakness it was last season. Bill Peters is one of the most underrated coaches in the NHL and the Hurricanes are peaking, but is there enough time left for them to climb over the teams in front of them?

For more Capitals coverage, check out the newest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

Jay Gruden says QB Kirk Cousins will have to adjust to Redskins' taller wide receivers

The Redskins have added some height to their receiving corps in free agency but that doesn’t mean that coach Jay Gruden leans strongly towards the big guys.

“I like big receivers. But I also like little ones like Jamison [Crowder],” said Gruden at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. Crowder, 5-9, is the team’s leading returning receiver after he caught 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Still, adding the 6-4 Terrelle Pryor and the 6-3 Brian Quick along with the hoped-for return to health of last year’s top draft pick, the 6-2 Josh Doctson.

“It’s a great advantage to have,” said Gruden. “To have guys 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3, has a 42-inch vertical and you throw Crowder in there and you get that change of direction.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ primary targets at wide receiver in the two years he has been the starter have been Pierre Garçon, who is six feet tall, and DeSean Jackson, who is generously listed at 5-10. They both departed as free agents. Garçon and Jackson receivers had many strengths in their games but going up and high-pointing the ball to make a catch over a defender was not one of them. That changes with Pryor, Doctson, and Quick.

“I think that’s something that Kirk has to really get used to,” said Gruden. “That’s going to take some time in OTAs and training camp. I think he’ll probe that and see what he can get away with.”

MORE REDSKINS: Doctson's short tweet delivers good news for Redskins

Gruden is wondering if he can get away with a pattern that they tried several times last year with very little success, a play that drew the ire of many fans on social media and talk radio.

“We can throw a lot of fades now,” said Gruden, laughing.

With some taller targets, they might actually have a shot at completing more of those. In any case, it will be very interesting to see how Cousins adjust to the team’s new type of receiver and what plays Gruden will call to take advantage of their height.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.