Party on: Indians, Napoli agree to minor league contract
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians have invited Mike Napoli to another party. But it could be over earlier than the last one.
Cleveland finalized a minor league contract on Wednesday with the popular free agent slugger, whose powerful swing and clubhouse leadership were instrumental to the Indians reaching the World Series in 2016. That year, “Party At Napolis” became a rallying cry for Indians fans who embraced the bearded and brawny Napoli.
Cleveland doesn’t have a roster spot for the 36-year-old, but manager Terry Francona wanted to give him an opportunity to showcase himself during spring games. Napoli had been working out with unsigned free agents in Bradenton, Florida, before the Indians called.
Napoli became one of the Indians most popular players in 2016, when he connected for a career-high 34 homers and 101 RBIs. However, when the club signed prized free agent Edwin Encarnacion last winter, there wasn’t enough money to also retain Napoli, who wound up signing with Texas.
Astros 1B Gurriel to miss start of season after hand surgery
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel had surgery on his left hand Wednesday and is expected to miss the start of the season.
Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow says doctors removed part of the bone broken before Gurriel arrived at camp. The 33-year-old Gurriel hit .299 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs last year in his first full season in the majors.
Gurriel appeared in one Grapefruit League game this spring, homering once in two at-bats.
Normal recovery time is six weeks, which means Gurriel would miss the first two weeks of the season. He’ll then serve a five-game suspension for an inappropriate gesture made toward Los Angeles pitcher Yu Darish during the World Series.
Russia reinstated into Olympic movement after doping scandal
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Russia’s ban from the Olympic movement has been lifted despite two failed doping tests by its athletes at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Wednesday’s decision by the International Olympic Committee appears to be an attempt to draw a line under the state-concocted doping scandal that tarnished the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
The IOC allowed more than 160 athletes it determined were clean in Sochi to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia” in Pyeongchang. Russians won two gold medals, in figure skating and ice hockey, along with six silver medals and nine bronze.
Russia’s hopes of marching under its flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony in South Korea were stymied by the two positive tests for banned substances, including a curler who had to forfeit his bronze medal. But the IOC said Wednesday that all remaining test results were negative, clearing the path for Russia’s return to the Olympic fold.
NFL combine begins with deep group of quarterbacks
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jon Gruden is back from the broadcast booth and the highest-paid coach in NFL history.
Unlike his colleague, Matt Patricia didn’t balk at leaving Bill Belichick’s brigade.
Andy Reid is in the midst of another major roster shake-up and his protege, Doug Pederson, is basking in Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl triumph.
All are in Indianapolis at the NFL combine this week hoping to better their chances of winning in 2018.
Top college prospects, including a group of quarterbacks that could produce five first-round draft picks, will spend four days getting poked and prodded, tested and timed.
GMs and coaches will do their best to get to know them off the field as well, either in formal 15-minute interviews or during a mixed zone after their physical assessments.
NBA ACADEMIES-WOMEN’S PROGRAM
NBA academies to include top female players camps
NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA is expanding its international academies to include developmental camps for top female prospects.
The league announced Wednesday that the first camp will be held in Mexico City from March 9-11 and will bring in the top 20-25 players ages 17 and under from the Carribean, Mexico, Central America and South America.
The camp will be overseen by Ruth Riley, Jennifer Azzi and former college coach Blair Hardiek. Besides playing basketball, the participants in the camp will also take part in a panel that will focus on personal and professional development, making the most of opportunities and goal setting. That will take place on March 9 as part of International Women’s Day.
Other camps are planned in Australia, China, India and Senegal by the end of the year.
Dick’s to stop selling assault-style rifles in its stores
NEW YORK (AP) — Dick’s Sporting Goods will immediately end sales of assault-style rifles in its stores and won’t sell guns to anyone under 21 years old following the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.
Dick’s Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said on “Good Morning America” Wednesday that after the shooting the company “felt it needed to do something.”
Stack says that the gunman, Nickolas Cruz, had purchased a gun at a Dick’s store, but not the one used at the school shooting, even though all existing rules were followed. Stack says that the system that’s in place won’t stop sales to dangerous people and said lawmakers must do something.
Stack said Dick’s is prepared for any potential backlash, but will not change its policies on gun sales.