Tim Lincecum has essentially been benched

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Tim Lincecum has essentially been benched

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Left-hander Barry Zito will start Game 4 for the San Francisco Giants if they can extend their NL division series against the Cincinnati Reds.Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum? He's staying in the bullpen.San Francisco flew in from the West Coast on Monday trailing 2-0 in the best-of-five series. The Reds can finish it off Tuesday night when Homer Bailey (13-10) goes against the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong (14-9).Manager Bruce Bochy wanted to see how the first two games of the series played out before deciding his Game 4 starter. The Reds won 5-2 and 9-0, with Lincecum pitching two innings in relief on Sunday night.Bochy chose Zito (15-8) because of his strong finish to the season. The left-hander won his last five starts and seven straight decisions. The Giants won the last 11 games that he started."He's been really on top of his game, and I think he's earned this," Bochy said. "We all do. I'm glad to be able to tell Barry that he's getting the start. When you win your last 11 games that a pitcher starts, it's a pretty good thing."It was a touchy decision for the Giants. Lincecum pitched their Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas in 2010, but has struggled this season. He lost a career-high 15 games, had a 5.18 ERA and tied his career high with 17 wild pitches.Bochy considered starting Matt Cain, who lost the opening game of the series on Saturday night, if San Francisco gets to a Game 4."Sure, we put thought in it, but this is more a case with rewarding Zito with how he's been pitching and the job he's done, and I think he's earned this," Bochy said. "Instead of pushing a starter back on short rest -- there is a history of that not working too well. And this would have been the first time that we have asked Matt to do it this year."The Reds are unsure whether right-hander Johnny Cueto will be available if there's a Game 4. He started the series opener but left in the first inning with back spasms. If he's unavailable, the Reds could start Mat Latos, who relieved Cueto on Saturday night.Cueto's uncertain status isn't much of an issue with the Reds."Everybody is staying calm, not worrying if Johnny is able to pitch in the future," right-hander Bronson Arroyo said Monday. "We don't even know now, and I don't think anybody is panicked about it because we feel we're deep enough to compete regardless."

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Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

Morning tip: If Scott Brooks has any magic left in his touch with Wizards, now is the time

After a 34-21 start, it's hardly tiime to pull any fire alarms when it comes to the Wizards. But concern? That's legitimate after their second uneven, lackluster performance since the All-Star break.

Like the Philadelphia 76ers, the Utah Jazz ran circles around this defense. The Wizards were confused, not protecting the rim, allowing open three-point shots, etc.

Basically, they were playing 180 degrees opposite of the Jazz who held them below 100 points for the first time in 24 games. 

So what has gone wrong all of a sudden? Is one of the NBA's hottest teams no more?

-- The assertive, aggressive defense that was there during an 18-3 stretch has dissipated. They're botching coverages and rotations similar to what took place during a 2-8 start. They've lost that edge. John Wall, their best player, was absent on defense vs. the Sixers and it usually gets contagious. 

--Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris aren't pulling their weight. Porter is 6 of 18 shooting, including 1-for-7 from three; Gortat is 6-for-19; and Morris is 9-for-21, 11 fouls, a disqualification and ejection. But defensively they've all been worse. The best starting five in the East is no more.

--Jason Smith has played a total of four minutes in two games. Coach Scott Brooks has to find his most effective bench player for most of the season some minutes. The energy level that has been lacking tends to pick up by his mere presence on the floor.

--Kelly Oubre's calling card has been defense, and he has been absent on both ends. His eight minutes were his fewest since Nov. 26 (also the last time he didn't crack double-digit minutes played), when he was yanked from a game vs. the San Antonio Spurs because of his lack of focus. 

--Trey Burke is back to the player he was when the season began; unable to run the offense, not confident in his play and now behind Tomas Satoransky in the pecking order. Burke only played five minutes, half of what he played vs. Philadelphia. 

--Wall has 15 turnovers in the last two games.

--Brooks has to make some tough decisions with his rotations and if it requires benching key players or drastically cutting their minutes this might be the time to do it. In the past, it's in moments like these when the train begins to go off the tracks. He has to be ahead of the curve. 

[RELATED: Wizards complain of lack of free throws after loss to Jazz]

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Need to Know: Will the Redskins be interested in C Mangold, RB Murray?

Need to Know: Will the Redskins be interested in C Mangold, RB Murray?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 27, 2 days before the March 1 NFL franchise tag deadline.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/2) 3
—Start of NFL free agency (3/9) 10
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 49
—NFL Draft (4/27) 59
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 195

Monday morning Redskins musings as free agency approaches

1. It appears that the Raiders are going to let Latavius Murray, who rushed for over 1,800 yards combined in the last two seasons, test free agency.

I’d be surprised if the Redskins showed any interest. I’m not sure that they will be jumping into the RB free agent pool, at least not into the deep (expensive) end of it. They might draft a back to compete with Rob Kelley, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown. Chris Thompson will remain the third-down back.

2. Do you wonder why the Redskins have been reluctant to draft a safety?

Eventually, someone will need to figure out the safety position in the NFL. With all the spread offenses that safeties face in college the safeties have become more like additional corner. Also, the better defensive backs in college want to be cornerbacks because it pays better in the pros. The pool coming out is generally small to begin with and then it shrinks even further for each team due to the scheme factors that Farrar discusses. Su'a Cravens could be the solution to one safety spot for the Redskins but they continue to be in search of someone to pair with him. 

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

3. The Jets allowed C Nick Mangold to announce his own release. He was one of the best centers of the past decade; Mangold went to seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro twice. But I don’t see him being of interest to the Redskins. They are happy with Spencer Long and even if they weren’t, Mangold is 33 and he missed half of last season with an ankle injury. Those factors likely will make the Redskins steer clear.

4. Maybe some fans don’t care if they are getting information from the team through the media at the combine. Or at the Senior Bowl. Or anywhere. And it is the team’s option to have someone available or not during most of the offseason (a press conference prior to the draft is mandatory). But they are missing out on a chance to give their side of the story.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

5. We have another D-lineman signed as the Panthers retained DE Mario Addison.

Addison, who was with the Redskins for five games in 2012, also had six and 6.5 sacks the previous two year, not bad for a guy who has started just one game in the last three seasons. That average of just over $7 million per year sets another data point for the Redskins to use to try to retain Chris Baker. Addison is a 4-3 end while Baker is a 3-4 end so it’s not an apples to apples comparison but it will help figuring out what a reasonable contract is. Without seeing the details, it looks like Addison gave the Panthers something of a hometown discount as that’s a good price for a guy who was half a sack away from double digits.

In case you missed it

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.