The last thing you want to happen in an exhibition game between top rookie prospects? For one of your top prospects to go out with injury.
Veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who was traded from the Heat to the Raptors in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade deal last week, apologized on Monday for comments he made in his home country of Slovenia about the trade, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
A clip that surfaced on Twitter on Monday of Dragic speaking to Slovenian reporters was accompanied by the English caption, “Toronto is not my preferred destination. I have higher ambitions.” While there was some uncertainty about whether something may have been lost in translation, Dragic didn’t claim he was misquoted. He did tell Grange, however, that the context of the quote was missing.
“I was in the center of the city and the journalists were there and I was asked about Toronto and it was basically taken out of context,” Dragic said. “I told them that I had spent seven years in Miami and that would be the preferred destination for me because my family is there and everything, not Toronto.”
Dragic, who is on an expiring $19.5MM contract, was always expected to be part of the Raptors’ return for Lowry after the Heat picked up his team option, but there was speculation for much of last week that he might be flipped to a third team. The Mavericks were frequently mentioned as a potential destination, since Dallas had been on the lookout for a point guard in free agency and joining the Mavs would give Dragic the opportunity to team up with fellow Slovenian Luka Doncic.
It’s still possible Dragic will be moved to the Mavs or another team at some point, but no deal appears imminent, and he told Grange he’s prepared to spend the 2021/22 season in Toronto.
“My message basically, to all Toronto fans, is I would like to apologize,” Dragic said. “It didn’t come out the right way. I know they love their team, and they should be proud, it is one of the best organizations in the NBA. They’ve already won a championship and I didn’t, so what I said, it really was not appropriate.
“… I’ve always been professional. You can ask a bunch of people. Everywhere I’ve played, wherever I’m going to play, I’m going to be professional and do my job,” he continued. “I love basketball, I love to play and I’m going to give 100% wherever I play. Right now I’m (with) Toronto and that’s my main thing to think about.”
Asked during an appearance on 590 The Fan in Toronto about Dragic, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster cautioned that the 35-year-old’s comments were translated to English and he’d want to “get it directly” from the point guard to understand what he meant, Grange writes. Webster also stressed that the Raptors aren’t a rebuilding team looking to jettison veterans.
“We feel like we’re gonna be competitive, we have a core — as we’ve talked about — that’s been around for a while and has won at the highest level as well,” Webster said. “So think that we’ll just give it some time here to see how (Dragic) would fit in and if he likes it here or not. I think he’s a pro and he’s been around a lot and he’s obviously entitled to wanting to make the most of his years as his career comes down here … so I don’t think it’s in any way a slight or anything like that.”
The Lowry sign-and-trade was officially completed on Friday, so it can no longer be expanded to include a third team, but Dragic could be flipped to a third team immediately as long as his salary isn’t aggregated with another player’s in the deal.
Toronto’s early prowess at the plate generated a 5-3 win over the visiting Twins as the Jays took two of three games in the weekend series.
Berrios surrendered three runs on four hits, gave up a walk and struck out six over six and two-thirds innings of work.
Toronto (84-65) continued to hold second spot in the American League wild-card race entering the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Jays are 15-3 in September, which is the best in Major League Baseball, and are 21-9 at home since returning to the Rogers Centre in late July.
The last time Toronto was 19 games above .500 was Aug. 31, 2016.
The Blue Jays have 13 regular-season games remaining in 2021, including this week’s road trip that has them in Tampa Bay for three games against the Rays starting Monday followed by four in Minnesota.
Toronto sent 10 batters to the plate in Sunday’s first inning against Twins starter Luke Farrell (1-1), who is the son of former Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
Second baseman Marcus Semien started the barrage doubling down the left-field line with one out to then score on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single.
Shortstop Bo Bichette then bashed a two-run shot for his 26th homer.
A single to right from Teoscar Hernandez and an infield hit by Corey Dickerson put runners on first and second. They scored on back-to-back singles from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Breyvic Valera.
Gurriel increased his RBI total to a team-leading 27 in September.
Before arriving in Toronto via a July 30 trade with the Twins, the 27-year-old Berrios spent the first five-and-a-half years of his career in Minnesota.
He still wears the Twins red glove on his left hand on the mound.
Berrios (12-8), has won four of his last five starts, but struggled in Sunday’s fourth inning.
With one out, he hit former Blue Jays standout Josh Donaldson in the right forearm.
Miguel Sano moved Donaldson to third with a double to centre. Shortstop Nick Gordon scored his teammate with a double down the left-field line.
The Twins moved a run closer with a homer from Ben Rortvedt, their ninth hitter in the order, with two out in the seventh inning.
The 2-1 curveball was Berrios’s 100th and final pitch for the afternoon.
Trevor Richards replaced him and pitched well before giving way to stopper Jordan Romano for the final inning. Romano earned his 19th save.
The three-run homer launched by Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth inning provided the Blue Jays with enough runs to defeat the Minnesota Twins on Saturday in Toronto, and the blast pushed him past Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the team lead in RBI.
The 6-2 victory also restored the Blue Jays (83-65) to the second wild-card spot in the American League by a half-game over the New York Yankees.
The Yankees (83-66) were thumped 11-3 at home by Cleveland. The Boston Red Sox (85-65) held on to the top wild-card spot with a 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Hernandez has 106 RBI, two more than Guerrero, who has an outside chance at the AL triple crown. He’s first in batting average (.318) and homers (46), and now fourth in RBI, eight behind Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The 28-year-old Hernandez credits work on his mental game as the reason for his productive and consistent season. He’s not only been reliable at the plate but also in the outfield.
“He’s been the best hitter on a lot of teams,” Blue Jays starter Steven Matz said of Hernandez. “He’s easy to overlook with how good this lineup is. He’s been amazing.”
Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, a seven-time Olympic medallist, was among 14,722 at the Rogers Centre. She threw out the ceremonial first pitch and tossed a strike.
The Twins appeared headed for a ninth straight win in Toronto dating back Aug. 17, 2017. They led 2-0 after the first inning on a two-run homer to right field by former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who also belted a solo shot in Minnesota’s series-opening win Friday.
But Matz settled down after Donaldson’s homer Saturday to retire 16 of the next 17 Twins.
Matz has benefitted from the highest average of run support in Major League Baseball this season at 8.07 a game. He’s won his last four decisions. His 13th win matched Hyun Jin Ryu for the team lead.
“To be in a hole like that, you just want to make good pitches and put up zeroes,” Matz said.
“I just wanted to keep it close and wait for the bats to come alive.”
The bats perked up in the fourth. Minnesota rookie starter Bailey Ober (2-3) took a no-hitter into the inning. The home side got to Ober the second time through the Blue Jays’ order.
Marcus Semien led off the fourth with a solo shot to left field to become only the fifth second baseman in MLB history to hit 40 or more homers in a season.
Yesterday: 31st birthday<br>Today: 40th homer of the season<br><br>Not a bad weekend, huh? 🥳 <a href=”https://t.co/uaSwpoBN6f”>pic.twitter.com/uaSwpoBN6f</a>
Guerrero then walked, and Bo Bichette singled to centre. Hernandez lifted a first-pitch slider high into the sky that barely cleared the left-field fence for his 28th homer and a two-run advantage.
“I knew I hit it good, but just a little high,” he said.
Ober and OUT 💪<br><br>💣 <a href=”https://twitter.com/TeoscarH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TeoscarH</a> 💣 <a href=”https://t.co/9HaQgApXkQ”>pic.twitter.com/9HaQgApXkQ</a>
Toronto padded its lead in the seventh when Twins reliever Jovani Moran loaded the bases with walks to Alejandro Kirk, George Springer and Guerrero. Kyle Barraclough replaced Moran and was greeted with a two-run single to left from Bichette.
Bo adds mo’ 🙌 <a href=”https://t.co/E9JULud582″>pic.twitter.com/E9JULud582</a>
A two-out walk to Donaldson followed by a single to centre from Miguel Sano ended Matz’s day after 96 pitches and five and two-thirds innings of work.
Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards finished off the sixth for Matz. Tim Mayza generated a one-two-three seventh inning and struck out Nick Gordon to begin the eighth.
Righty Adam Cimber finished off the eighth, aided by a brilliant play from Bichette. He went deep in the hole to his right to throw out Donaldson.
The last thing you want to happen in an exhibition game between top rookie prospects? For one of your top prospects to go out with injury.
That’s what happened with Dmitri Samorukov and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s 4-3 prospect game win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Early in the first period, after a couple on-ice collisions, Samorukov left the game. It was an ominous moment, all the more so because Samorukov’s season was cut short last year due a shoulder injury. He had just been cleared one week ago to return to the ice from injury. He had been the talk of the first few days of the Oilers rookie camp, impressing team insiders with his great skating and big body.
Winger Xavier Bourgault also took a nasty hit-from-behind into the boards late in the game, missing the final three minutes of the game.
There was no word on the extent of the Samorukov and Bourgault’s injuries at the time we published this post.
Samorukov is part of Edmonton’s Big Boyz Brigade on defence, Edmonton’s group of young and hulking d-man prospects , all of them well over six feet tall.
The group also includes Philip Broberg, Michael Kesselring, Markus Niemelainen, Filip Berglund, Phil Kemp and Vincent Desharnais. They should form the Bakersfield defence this year.
Kemp, Broberg, Niemelainen, Berglund and Kesselring all played in the rookie game.
Each of the Big Boyz Brigade got stronger as the game went on. The Oilers rookies came back from a 3-1 first period deficit to win.
Here are brief reports on each of the Big Boyz Brigade, with my account limited because I was unable to go over video to review the key plays.
Kesselring: He got beat to a rebound on one goal against and failed to block a shot on another. But as the game went on, he got stronger, playing on a pairing with Markus Niemelainen. Kesselring got his feet going and made a number of strong plays, winning, moving and shooting the puck.
Niemelainen: He reminded me a bit of Kris Russell in this one (though a much bigger version of Russell), in that he’s fast on his skates and defensive minded. He also won the puck a few times in his zone and was only able to dump it out, as opposed to making a good pass to get it out. But, overall, got the job done on defence, though he failed to cut out a pass on one goal against and was slow to his man in front of the Edmonton net on another.
Kemp: He scored two bad angle goals, one through a screen and one on a deflection, but he scored them because he jumped into the attack and put the puck at the net. What’s not to like? He did get beat down the wing on one dangerous Flames rush in the first. But he also jumped up a few times to pinch and keep the puck in the Calgary end. This was the best I’ve seen him as an Oilers prospect. After Samorukov went out, he paired up with veteran Yanni Kaldis, who made a few nice passes for assists on the power play.
Broberg: He looked bad on one early goal against, wandering behind the net, and taking himself out of position to stop a slot pass, which eventually ended up in the net. Other than that, though, Broberg played well. He skated miles and skated fast. He was Edmonton’s top d-man on the power play, making a number of good passes and even better pinches in that role. A super solid 2021-22 debut for the Oilers.
Berglund: He looked much, much, much better here than he had when I last saw him play in Sweden in the fall, when he was playing hurt. He too had a bad moment in the first, getting caught in the n-zone on a Calgary rush and goal. But he was Edmonton’s steadiest d-man in this game, shutting down the attack, moving the puck, invariably in position. It looks like he and Broberg will form Edmonton’s top partnership in Bakersfield to start the year.
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