General manager Ross Atkins can’t wait to see slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s busy off-season translate on the baseball field this year for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Guerrero spent a lot of his time shedding weight, certainly looking fit and fit and trim in pictures posted on his Instagram account. The 21-year-old has reportedly dropped 40 pounds from last season.
That certainly bodes well for the Blue Jays, who have pitchers and catchers arriving at camp this week. The team’s first full-squad workout is set for Monday.
“It’s incredible to see the smile on his face, the shape he’s in, how his routine has developed and how it’s become his own,” Atkins said of Guerrero on Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. “Every day this off-season he’s got better, he looks great, he’s in a really good position.
“I’m really excited to see how that’s going to impact every aspect of his game this year.”
‘Vladdy is special’
The six-foot-two Guerrero, whose weight is listed at 250 pounds, had nine home runs and 33 runs batted in last year while appearing in all 60 of Toronto’s games. The Jays posted a 32-28 record in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to secure the eighth and final spot in the expanded American League playoffs before losing to Tampa Bay.
Guerrero Jr., the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, made his much-anticipated major-league debut in 2019, hitting .272 with 15 homers and 69 RBIs in 123 games. He was sixth in voting for the American League’s rookie of the year award.
“Vladdy is special,” Atkins said. “What he’s able to do with his athleticism when he’s maximizing it and his swing are really fun to watch.”
Atkins can see Guerrero’s off-season work paying off in 2021.
“If you think about the reps it takes and how many swings they [hitters] will take before they get into a batter’s box . . . so much of it is about the athleticism that you can repeat,” he said. “So the better shape you’re in, the more repeatable things are going to be because you’re able to repeat them more in your practice.
“Hitting is in some ways, and I think, is harder to evaluate, assess and project and predict or study than pitching because it’s so dynamic and you don’t know what the hitter’s thinking. You always know what they [pitchers] were trying to do, based on the outcome, where the catcher is set up . . . but with a hitter you don’t.”
Guerrero Jr. playing 1st and 3rd base in spring
The expectation is Guerrero will see time at third base during spring training. He was used exclusively at first and as a designated hitter last year.
As well, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who played left field in 2020, will get reps at first and third. Atkins said spring training is an ideal time for players to get time playing different positions.
“I think we have to envision all of those things and think about all of those potential scenarios that could occur,” Atkins said. “In an ideal world we don’t need to see that for an extended period of time because that means everyone is healthy, everyone is playing the positions they’re accustomed to.
“But what we don’t want to do is not think about that early in spring training, not use this time to give guys exposure to different positions so in the event we do have injuries . . . and really wanting ways to get different bats into the lineup this is the time to work on that, to give different players exposure to different positions.”
Atkins added it also gives manager Charlie Montoyo more options during games.
“It also creates different late-game decision-making opportunities for Charlie as he thinks about pinch-running, pinch-hitting and what that means for re-positioning and realigning our defence,” Atkins said.
The Blue Jays’ first exhibition contest is Feb. 28 in Tampa against the New York Yankees.
What made Rheal Cormier one of Canada’s greatest baseball players – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – Early in the 2000 season, Rheal Cormier and the Boston Red Sox were visiting Jason Dickson and the Anaheim Angels, as they were known then, bringing the New Brunswick pitchers together for the first time.
“The bullpens are stacked (at Angel Stadium), one on top of the other, and that’s where we struck up a conversation through the fence,” recalls Dickson. “I’ll never forget meeting him that first time. I’m the one that probably should have went up to him and introduced myself. I was too nervous to, but he didn’t hesitate to come up and congratulate me on being in the big leagues, ask how my family was doing, ask if I talk to people at home, get into a discussion around New Brunswick and senior baseball and fishing and hunting and all those things that make you a Maritimer. It was just like talking to one of the guys at home.”
Their shared roots made them a rarity in the majors, not only as Canadians, but as two of the three New Brunswick natives at the time enjoying success at the sport’s highest level, along with slugger Matt Stairs of Fredericton.
Cormier, from Cap-Pele, was five years older than Dickson, from Chatham, so the two didn’t cross paths on their way up to the majors. By the time they did meet, Cormier was establishing himself as one of the steadier left-handed relievers in the majors after Tommy John surgery ended his days as a starter, while Dickson was trying to return after a year lost to shoulder surgery.
“You’d hear the stories about Rheal, just like blue-collar work ethic, chopping wood, doing his thing — very grounded with who he was. Just unassuming, kind and generous,” says Dickson, who is now Baseball Canada’s president. “The last time I saw him was at Senior Nationals in Miramichi — I was there for Baseball Canada, and Rheal kind of snuck in late to the game. He wanted to see some people, but no big entry, no big whatever. I gave him a hug, asked him how he was doing, and that was so him, so unassuming. The guys he played with often talked about how hard he worked, didn’t take anything for granted, and I think that sums him up.”
Those are some of the lasting memories of Cormier, who passed away Monday after fighting pancreatic cancer. He was 53.
Our deepest condolences to the family of Rheal Cormier who passed away today after a courageous battle with cancer. Rheal played MLB for nearly 16 years; pitching for the Phillies from 2001-2006. Rheal was a supporter of The Foundation and will be deeply missed. pic.twitter.com/agdKhCl4QG
— Darren Daulton Foundation (@TheDDFoundation) March 8, 2021
Quietly, Cormier enjoyed one of the greatest careers by a Canadian in MLB history, with his 683 games second only to Paul Quantrill’s 841 among Canuck hurlers. In 2012, he was inducted to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Cormier posted a 4.03 ERA over 1,221.2 innings while producing 12.8 WAR as calculated by FanGraphs, logging a career-best 186 frames during his first full season in the majors with the 1992 St. Louis Cardinals, who chose him in the sixth round of the 1988 draft.
Trades to Boston in 1995 and then Montreal in 1996 allowed him to log 159.2 innings over 33 games for the 1996 Expos team that went 88-74 and finished second in the National League East. But his elbow blew the next year, Tommy John surgery followed and in 1999 he rejoined the Red Sox, where he transitioned to the bullpen and posted a 3.69 ERA in 63.1 innings.
During the ’99 playoffs, he logged 7.2 innings over six appearances without allowing a run.
After the 2000 season, Cormier joined the Philadelphia Phillies, with whom he logged a 3.62 ERA over 363 games until a 2006 deadline deal sent him to the Cincinnati Reds, where his performance dipped. In May 2007, the Reds released him after just six appearances, though he joined Atlanta on a minor-league deal afterwards, and finished his professional career with five games for triple-A Richmond.
And though his MLB days were done, Cormier did pitch for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a full-circle achievement after being on the 1988 team at the Seoul Games when baseball was a demonstration sport. Cormier also represented Canada at the 1987 Pan Am Games and Intercontinental Cup, and 2006 World Baseball Classic.
“Rheal probably doesn’t get as much credit as he should,” says Dickson. “I always go to the different websites and pull up Rheal’s stats to show people, and they’re shocked to see how long he played and how well he did it. That’s just him, just kind of flying under the radar.”
Cormier is survived by his wife, Lucienne, and two children, Justin and Morgan.
Gushue Falls to 2-1: Smith Makes Shot of the Tournament – VOCM
It was a classic matchup at the Tim Hortons Brier last night between defending champ Brad Gushue and former champ Kevin Koe.
They were tied in the eighth end but Koe eventually put it away 9-7 to remain undefeated.
Gushue, whose next match comes tonight against Saskatchewan, falls to 2-1.
Greg Smith, representing NL, dropped to 0-4 after an 11-4 loss to Nova Scotia.
Down 7-1 and nothing to lose, Smith made the shot of the tournament in what TSN is calling the “Rock Around the Clock.” Smith plays tonight against winless PEI.
— TSN Curling (@TSNCurling) March 8, 2021
James unbeaten as captain as Team LeBron beat Team Durant at NBA All-Star Game – TSN
ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.
The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.
But in the end, it had a familiar feel.
Team LeBron won again.
Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.
The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.
He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.
This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.
“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”
Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.
“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”
Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.
James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.
Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.
“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”
It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.
Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.
Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.
Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.
Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.
On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.
With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.
After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.
Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.
Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.
Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.
To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching
This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.
“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, ‘Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.
“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”
All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.
During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.
At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.
Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).
Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.
The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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