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Blue Jays officially sign right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark –



TORONTO — Tanner Roark wasn’t dissuaded by the small ballparks and big hitters of the American League East when he signed with the Blue Jays in free agency.

The veteran right-hander should be fine in Toronto, he said, as long as he can keep the ball out of the air.

“Pop-ups, they go out for home runs. It is what it is,” Roark said with a laugh Wednesday in his introductory conference call with Toronto media. “The Blue Jays were the ones who were most interested in me and I want to go to a team that wants me.

“With the young core group of guys coming up and what we have at the big league level, maybe (I can) give some knowledge, teach them some things, answer any questions they want to know. I’m here for them.

“As for the AL East part, just make your pitches. Don’t hang a pitch or else it’s going to go far. That goes for any league, any division.”

The Blue Jays officially announced Roark’s contract Wednesday — a two-year deal worth US$24 million. The move was first reported at last week’s MLB winter meetings.

Roark, who turned 33 in October, will be stepping into a leadership role by default with a Blue Jays team stocked to the brim with young talent.

That youthful core is part of what attracted Roark to Toronto in the first place.

“They’re up and coming and they’re really young. I’m 33 years old, I don’t think I’m that old, but I’m one of the oldest guys on the team,” Roark said. “I know what kind of future this team can hold and these guys can hold within themselves just going through their first year, getting a taste of what the big leagues are about, learning from last year … I’m intrigued to see what these guys are all about.”

Roark, who entered free agency for the first time in his career this off-season, was 10-10 with a 4.35 earned-run average in 31 starts through 2019 for Cincinnati and Oakland, which acquired him at the trade deadline.

He is 74-64 with a 3.71 ERA over seven seasons, spending the first six of those with Washington before being dealt to Cincinnati last December.

Roark said the Blue Jays were the first to initiate contact with him this off-season.

He signed with the team after having conversations with pitching coach Pete Walker and bullpen coach Matt Buschmann and said he was intrigued by the prospect of working with young Blue Jays catchers Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire.

“Tempo for me is key and last year both (Toronto’s) catchers were rated great defensively and they’re young guys which is great too. …. that drew a lot of interest for me.” Roark said. “Now we’ll get to work together in spring training and we’ll to talk (about) how I pitch to certain guys and once we get on that same page and the rhythm gets going there’s nothing better.”

Toronto was 67-95 last season, with starting pitching being a major weakness. The Blue Jays also acquired right-hander Chase Anderson from Milwaukee last month to beef up their rotation.

Roark, who has one career start at Rogers Centre — a forgettable four-inning performance that saw him allow four runs on eight hits in an 8-6 loss for Washington in 2018 — provides some stability to Toronto’s currently thin rotation.

He pitched over 200 innings in 2016, winning 16 games for Washington that year with a 2.83 ERA, and has pitched at least 165 innings in four other seasons.

“I think what keeps me on the field is I work hard,” Roark said. “It can be a long arduous season, repetitive travel-wise, the mental part of it can just crush you. But I think working hard and doing what you need to do to prepare yourself for every fifth day, that’s the biggest thing.

“The stuff in between the starts is the real work and the fifth day is enjoyment of it all. All the work you’ve put in for four days and then you’re rewarded with a start to go out there and hopefully kick some butt.”

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Lightning’s Steven Stamkos ruled out for remainder of Stanley Cup Final –



EDMONTON — The only way we’ll see Steven Stamkos return to the Stanley Cup Final is if the Tampa Bay Lightning are able to finish the job without him.

The hard-luck captain was officially ruled out of the series by the Lightning on Sunday morning, but could still be called on to accept the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“Hopefully the next time we see him on the ice is during a trophy presentation,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

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No team has won the Stanley Cup without its captain in the lineup since the 1936-37 Detroit Red Wings, who were without Doug Young. The Boston Bruins did not have a designated captain in 1970 and 1972, but Johnny Bucyk accepted the trophy both years and played in the clinching game.

Stamkos has been battling an undisclosed injury throughout these playoffs. He made an emotional return for Game 3 of the Cup Final against the Dallas Stars and scored a beautiful goal, but was unable to play after the first period that night.

The 30-year-old saw a total of five shifts while spending nine weeks inside the NHL bubble rehabbing.

“He gamed it out,” said Cooper. “To be honest I didn’t think he was playing at all in these playoffs. I don’t think any of us did. So he gave us 2:47 of brilliant hockey, that’s a phenomenal story.

“He scored a huge goal for us in a win.”

The Lightning hold a 3-2 series lead over Dallas entering Game 6 on Monday.

Stamkos is the longest-tenured member of the organization and has endured a difficult run of injuries throughout his career. A broken leg saw him miss the chance to play for Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and blood clots forced him out of all but one game of Tampa’s 2016 run to the Eastern Conference Final.

He had a 15-game points streak going when he got injured on Feb. 25 this season. That was followed by core muscle surgery on March 2. Stamkos appeared to be on the mend while participating in training camp following the COVID-19 pause, but he suffered some kind of setback that kept him out until the brief, memorable appearance in this Stanley Cup Final.

“He did everything he could to get back, and he did get back, and unfortunately he couldn’t go any further,” said Cooper.

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

It’s been a difficult journey.

Stamkos was clearly moved after being called out to join Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Alex Killorn in accepting the Prince of Wales Trophy last round and sounded emotional after scoring against Dallas in the Game 3 win.

He remained on the bench throughout that game, and tested his skating stride during a couple television timeouts, but didn’t play for the final 46 minutes. He gave everything he could.

“I’ve watched these guys be so committed to what our end goal is, and to be part of it tonight, it was a dream come true and I’m so proud of these guys,” Stamkos said that night. “And to be able to share that moment with them and just even be on the bench and watch how well we played tonight, I have told these guys before: It’s inspiring.

“It was great to be part of.”

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Dana White reveals who’s next for Israel Adesanya and Jan Blachowicz – MMA Fighting



Israel Adesanya was dazzling in his title defense and Jan Blachowicz cemented himself as the new light heavyweight champion as the UFC 253 main and co-main events both ended in dramatic fashion.

While Adesanya and Blachowicz will undoubtedly enjoy their victories with a well-deserved post-fight celebration, it didn’t take long for the subject of their next fight to be raised on Saturday night.

In fact, it was Adesanya himself who made the call about the top contender in the middleweight division. He immediately turned his attention to Jared Cannonier, who’s been on his radar for the past year.

Cannonier is currently preparing for a showdown with former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 in October. If he’s victorious, Cannonier should expect his next fight to come against Adesanya with the middleweight title up for grabs.

“That’s the fight if Cannonier wins,” UFC president Dana White confirmed at the UFC 253 post fight press conference. “And I love that about Israel. He’s ready for who’s next, who else thinks they can beat me. The kid is an absolute stud.”

Adesanya will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on Cannonier’s fight in just a few weeks to see if his next opponent is secured or not.

Things aren’t quite as clear cut at light heavyweight, but there are only a few options that make sense for Blachowicz after he dispatched Dominick Reyes in impressive fashion to claim the vacant title.

The Polish veteran made it clear just after the belt was wrapped around his waist that he would like to cement his championship status by facing Jon Jones, who vacated the belt just recently with the intention of moving up to the heavyweight division.

Jones even went as far as hinting on Twitter that perhaps he could return to 205 pounds now that a challenger like Blachowicz exists for him but obviously nothing is set in stone at this point.

The other fight that could determine the next contender for the light heavyweight title will take place on Nov. 7 when Thiago Santos goes to battle with Glover Teixeira.

White confirmed the winner of that fight would earn the next crack at the new 205-pound champion unless Jones really did decide he wanted to return to his old stomping grounds.

“Those are the guys that are fighting for the next shot,” White said about Santos vs. Teixeira. “But obviously if Jon Jones wanted that fight, we wouldn’t deny Jon Jones the opportunity.”

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Stamkos out for remainder of playoffs – TSN



Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said forward Steven Stamkos will not return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “Hopefully next time we see him on the ice is during the trophy presentation,” Cooper said.

The 30-year-old returned to the Lightning lineup for the first time since February in Game 3 and scored a goal, but only had five shifts, playing just 2:47.

Stamkos skated off gingerly at the end of his final shift in the first period and was not on the bench for the start of the second. He returned to the bench and took a few twirls to test out the injury but did not return and was deemed “unfit to play” for Game 4.

Stamkos, who last played Feb. 25, had surgery in early March and aggravated the injury at least once over the summer.

Tampa Bay leads the series 3-2.

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