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How Toronto Blue Jays plan on using Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi – TSN

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TORONTO — No matter the ultimate role, the Toronto Blue Jays are convinced of one thing when it comes to Shun Yamaguchi: His split-finger fastball will allow him to get outs in the major leagues.

Dipping their toes into the Japanese market for pitching depth Tuesday, the Jays agreed to terms with Yamaguchi, a 32-year-old right-hander, on a two-year deal worth a little more than $6 million total, according to sources.

The contract also includes undisclosed performance bonuses.

While there’s always a perceived upside that comes with the unknown, the veteran of 14 Nippon Professional Baseball seasons has logged 1,080.1 innings and registered a 3.35 career ERA in a variety of roles, including leading Japan’s Central League in strikeouts with 188 this year for the Yomiuri Giants.

Subject to the posting system, the Blue Jays will also have to pay the Giants 20 per cent of total guaranteed value of the contract as a release fee, which adds up to about $1.2 million.

Right now, the Blue Jays envision Yamaguchi attempting to earn a spot in the rotation next spring, but if he isn’t one of the best five or struggles, the 6-foot-2, 198-pounder could be used in any number of bullpen roles.

It’s notable that, in addition to being used as a starter since 2015, Yamaguchi also has 112 saves on his resume, and the splitter that’s viewed as a plus pitch might be the swing-and-miss offering needed to become a go-to option for manager Charlie Montoyo in high-leverage spots.

Yamaguchi earned his first Best Nine Award — essentially best player at every position — in his final season in Japan this year, and he’s the first Giants player to ever be posted.

In 170 innings, Yamaguchi allowed just 137 hits, struck out 188, and finished with a 2.91 ERA.

“I will take a shot at my dream of playing in the majors,” Yamaguchi told the Japan Times at a press conference in November. “I’d like to express my appreciation to Yomiuri Giants officials, manager Mr. (Tatsunori) Hara, my coaches, teammates and fans for the past three years.

“I will work even harder as I pursue a new challenge.”

Yamaguchi’s ability to pitch in multiple roles will assure him one of the 13 spots on Montoyo’s pitching staff, but his name will be among a growing glut of rotation candidates when pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin on Feb. 13.

Other than Tanner Roark and the $24-million deal handed to him by Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins at last week’s winter meetings in San Diego, there’s really no clear picture past that.

Veterans Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker seem locked into rotation spots, followed by a list that includes Yamaguchi and three players with starting experience in lefty Ryan Borucki and righties Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack.

Past that group of seven, there’s T.J. Zeuch and Anthony Kay, with Nate Pearson’s arrival looming, potentially in June or July.

Whether or not the Jays can add to the top of the rotation with one of few impact names left on the market remains to be seen.

Atkins is still chasing southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, but the asking price may be too much for the Blue Jays in the end, especially with both Los Angeles teams desperately seeking rotation help, while Dallas Keuchel could be in a similar spot when all is said and done.

Even if the Yamaguchi deal is more of a depth move than anything, the biggest impact could come from planting a Blue Jays flag in Japan, thus opening doors for future free agents to at least take a closer look at Toronto as a potential landing spot.

Led by Andrew Tinnish and Ryan Mittleman, the Jays scouted Asia aggressively this year and had shown limited interest in outfielder/first baseman Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who inked a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as outfielder Shogo Akiyama, 31, who remains unsigned and presents an intriguing solution to their hole in centre field.

The Jays had also done background work on Korean-born left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim, who agreed to a contract similar to Yamaguchi earlier this week, a two-year, $8-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

It has been almost seven years since the Jays signed a Japanese player, inking colourful infielder Munenori Kawasaki (2013-15) to a minor-league deal in March of 2013.

Tomo Ohka (2007), Ryota Igarashi (2012) and Nori Aoki (2017) have also pulled on a Blue Jays uniform in the past.​

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Exploring the Most Popular Motorcycles in Canada

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bike

For many years, Canadians have been embracing motorcycles, with the younger generation taking a particular interest in these two-wheeled powerhouses. The demand for convenient, powerful vehicles is more apparent than ever, and motorcycles seem to fit the bill. They offer drivers a quick getaway and make for great road trip partners from spring to fall.

When it comes to purchasing a motorbike, the question becomes which model Canadians should choose? The short answer is that it depends on the driver, lifestyle, budget, and driving style — but there are three models, in particular, that stand out above the rest.

Let’s take a look at the popular styles on the Canadian market today.

The Standard

As its name suggests, the standard bike is a common choice among Canadian drivers from Chatham to Sarnia and everywhere in between. Its clean design and efficient ergonomics make it a convenient option for beginner riders and anyone looking for a no-fuss bike.

You’ll likely find a variety of colours and popular standard brands in your local motorcycle store — some with customizable features like new tires, lighting features, or an advanced sound system. If you’re looking at a standard bike, you should ask yourself what kind of driving will you be doing. Will you be on smooth roads, or are you looking for a bike that can handle advanced terrain?

Aesthetically, standard bikes are often designed with classic elements fused with contemporary features. Today’s models can be fitted with various seats, tank bags, and luggage options, making this particular bike a popular choice among Canadians — beginners and experienced riders alike can enjoy this around-town model.

The Cruiser

A cruiser bike — also known as a chopper — was designed exactly as it was named, which is to cruise. This type of bike is situated lower to the ground with a more extended design. Its low seat height offers a more eye-catching aesthetic, and its minimal luggage makes it a considerable around-town vehicle.

The engine size of a cruiser can vary — some are equipped with a small engine while others are fitted around 1000cc. A cruiser can be outfitted with multiple accessories, making it a solid choice for Canadians looking to explore their country roads.

The Sport Bike

When it comes to speed and agility, a sport bike is a go-to choice. They’re designed with a forward-leaning ergonomic style which makes them ideal for taking sharp corners. Unlike other standard bikes on the market, sports models are often designed with aluminum or lighter materials, increasing their side-to-side range of motion. The seat height on these bikes is typically higher, which allows drivers to push the motorcycle farther without damaging the foot pegs or its fairings.

These bikes often have more horsepower than their standard or cruiser counterparts. They possess higher torque numbers than most bikes, and their lightweight materials offer a unique advantage to their performance. When it comes to advanced drivers in Canada — sport bikes are quickly becoming one of the most popular choices on the market.

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