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Still finding rhythm, Blue Jays’ Berrios pleased with Spring Training opener – Sportsnet.ca

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SARASOTA, Fla. – Even in the first Grapefruit League game of this abbreviated spring, even against a Baltimore Orioles team that still appears to be exceptionally bad, Jose Berrios is looking for any little edge he can find.

So, knowing he’s likely to face the American League East rival several times during the season ahead, the ace Toronto Blue Jays right-hander was careful with what he offered up in his first of four pre-season starts.

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No matter that he was facing only one, maybe two of the Orioles regulars. Every look counts and the less information a frequent opponent has against him, the better.

“I already have six years at this level, they know my weapons – but team is in the same division, so I don’t want to show all my strengths,” Berrios said after logging two outs in each of the first two innings of a 9-5 victory Friday. “They know me, but I don’t want them to keep seeing me so early. I wanted to feel where we are with the spin, the changeup, fastball we have to throw it over the plate. But I know when the lights go on that things are going to change a little bit.”

Such a strategic outlook coloured the entirety of Berrios’ approach to the 2022 season.

Feeling secure after signing a $131-million, seven-year extension allowed him for the first time to focus his off-season on being “ready for October” rather than gearing up to be ready for the middle of March, he said.

Among his focuses, picking up on a thread from late last year, was concentrating on keeping his weight on his heel rather than his toes on his back foot as he’s driving to the plate. The subtle weight shift allows him to avoid tipping forward and stay better in line throughout his delivery.

An immediate result is that despite a somewhat messy 27-pitch first inning – in which manager Charlie Montoyo pulled him with the intent of having him re-enter the game in the second – plus roughly 10 more in the second, he said there was no fatigue in his arm or elsewhere.

“In past spring trainings, my back hurt, my glutes hurt, like tight,” said Berrios. “Today, I didn’t feel those little things.”

All of which left him pleased with his day’s work. He felt strong though out of rhythm, which is to be expected given that he reported for duty last Sunday and started in a game five days later.

The Orioles got him for two runs on a Tyler Nevin double in the first and Berrios retired the only two batters he faced in the second, a beneficiary of the re-entry rule instituted this spring instead of the ability to roll-out innings employed a year ago.

“It was weird,” Berrios said of coming back into the game. Under different circumstanes, “maybe I’d feel frustrated or something. Now, we know why we came here. We came to work. We’ve got a plan, that’s what we do. Keep following the plan and try to execute.”

NOTES

Kevin Gausman starts Saturday at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Berrios is on pace to start opening day April 8 in Toronto. Is that the plan? “I think I have a chance,” he said with a smile. 

During a meeting with Major League Baseball officials Thursday, manager Charlie Montoyo and his staff were informed about the plan to use the re-entry rule this spring. In this instance, he said, “it worked out great” but when asked if he’d prefer the ability to roll out an inning, he grinned and said, “well, if you want to go by this game … I know how I feel right now because it was a five-hour game. That’s the rule. It worked out for us today.”

Time of game was actually three hours 33 minutes, but his exaggeration is demonstrative of a plodding game in which pitchers from both sides struggled to get out of innings.

Bo Bichette was hit by a pitch in the first and walked twice after before exiting the game. He was replaced by top prospect Orelvis Martinez, who made a couple of loud outs, including one rocket to shortstop that had the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sound off the bat (there was no Statcast data available for the game).

Righty Adrian Hernandez, who struck out 44 batters in 28.2 innings while walking just eight and allowing 12 hits at high-A Vancouver last year, was among those to impress Montoyo. He struck out three in 2.1 scoreless innings. “That changeup is pretty nasty,” said Montoyo.

Cavan Biggio, who didn’t make the trip, will focus his defensive work this spring at second base, right field and first base, said Montoyo. There are no current plans to get either him or Santiago Espinal reps in centre field.

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Formula 1 sets 22 races for 2022 & 3 sprinting events

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London, England- Formula 1 has confirmed that there will be 22 races for the 2022 calendar and 3 sprinting events.

The move follows Formula 1’s decision to permanently cancel Russia’s race at Sochi in the wake of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

Formula 1 organizers cancelled the event shortly after Russia’s military operations in February leaving the original slot open as they worked through various replacement options to fit with the original schedule.

Following the cancellation, Formula 1 received plenty of interest from host venues but had to work out if any addition would prove beneficial to the schedule rather than increase costs in terms of logistics.

With the original 23-race number set to be a record for a Formula 1 season, the event organizers then decided the most efficient approach was to simply drop the race that was originally slated for September 25 and leave two weeks between the previous three-straight slate in Europe and the following back-to-back weekends in Singapore and Japan.

Meanwhile, the number of sprint qualifying events that had been expected to be doubled to six this year will remain at three.

However, according to McLaren’s CEO, Zak Brown, Formula 1 teams are in favour of more sprints, “We tried to get six sprint races off last year, which obviously didn’t happen for this year. I think all the teams voted in favour of six sprint races now we have seen the data which tells us it creates more fan awareness, and that’s what I think is most important in growing the sport, how do our fans respond when we try new activities?”

Revised 2022 Formula 1 Calendar:

 

  1. Bahrain GP (Sakhir) March 20

 

  1. Saudi Arabian GP (Jeddah) March 27

 

  1. Australian GP (Melbourne) April 10

 

  1. Emilia Romagna GP (Imola) April 24

 

  1. Miami GP (Miami) May 8

 

  1. Spanish GP (Barcelona) May 22

 

  1. Monaco GP (Monaco) May 29

 

  1. Azerbaijan GP (Baku) June 12

 

  1. Canadian GP (Montreal) June 19

 

  1. British GP (Silverstone) July 3

 

  1. Austrian GP (Spielberg) July 10

 

  1. French GP (Paul Ricard) July 24

 

  1. Hungarian GP (Budapest) July 31

 

  1. Belgian GP (Spa) August 28

 

  1. Dutch GP (Zandvoort) September 4

 

  1. Italian GP (Monza) September 11

 

  1. Singapore GP (Marina Bay) October 2

 

  1. Japanese GP (Suzuka) October 9

 

  1. United States GP (Austin) October 23

 

  1. Mexico City GP (Mexico City) October 30

 

  1. Sao Paulo GP (Interlagos) November 13

 

  1. Abu Dhabi GP (Yas Marina) November 20

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CFL strike ends after league, players reach tentative agreement on new CBA – TSN

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The first Canadian Football League strike in nearly 40 years ended Wednesday night, opening the door for the full resumption of training camps and the first on-time start to the regular season since 2019.

The CFL and the CFL Players’ Association reached a tentative seven-year deal on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) Wednesday, less than 96 hours after the strike began when talks broke off.

Monday’s preseason game in Saskatchewan between the Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers is being rescheduled – an announcement is expected on Thursday – but in terms of actual casualties because of this labour stoppage, that’s it.

The end result is a deal – which still has to be ratified by the league’s board of governors and CFLPA members – that produces measureable gains for the players in several areas including health and safety, revenue sharing, salary cap, and guaranteed contracts.

There are tangible measures to slow player turnover, which has long been a CFL problem ignored in collective bargaining.

The big question mark economically is how meaningful the revenue sharing formula will prove to be for the players, and whether they will truly be able to share in any league prosperity.

There is always much debate about the state of the business in Canadian football, but this deal suggests that not all is doom and gloom. Coming off two years in which the league suffered massive losses from a lost 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and significant ones off a reduced 14-game schedule in 2021, the CFL did not bargain like a league that was on its last legs.

It provided minimum annual increases to the salary cap that are double those prescribed in the last CBA. And the league signed a deal that provides far more than what’s been given in recent memory. All of which suggests there must be some optimism about what lies ahead, barely a year after the CFL parted ways with the idea of merging with the XFL.

So if there was so much ‘give’ from the owners side on this deal, what did they owners ‘get’ in return?

Essentially, besides the term of the deal, the league gained flexibility for its teams in how the league’s ratio of Canadians is applied. The CFL ratio is always the most hotly debated, misunderstood and controversial aspect of Canadian football – people tend to love it or hate it.

The league itself tends to love it … well, sort of.

There’s never been an intent to eliminate the league’s quota for 21 Canadian players on every roster, seven of whom have to be starters.

But reduce it? Sure, the league’s always been open to that and the players’ association has always opposed it.

The uncomfortable truth in all of this is reducing the ratio improves the quality of the game, and improving the quality of the game is something with which the league has become acutely concerned about of late. That’s not a knock on Canadians. It’s just a recognition that the numbers of players in the United States far, far, far outnumber those north of the border.

The sides came up with a solution that preserves the seven Canadian starters but provides for more flexibility for coaches to use American players than they would have been able to in the past. Specifically, veteran American players, those who’ve spent at least three years with their team or five in the league, will be allowed to play as Canadians in some circumstances.

That not only is going to put more of the best players on the field, it’s going to give additional value to American veterans, which slows roster turnover, another key issue this agreement effectively addresses.

Players have a strong incentive to re-sign with their teams, since that allows up to 50 per cent of the final years of their contracts to be guaranteed.

Overall, both the movement of players from team-to-team and out of the league should slow, which is a true win-win for players, fans and general managers.

It’s hard to imagine what the world of Canadian football will be like in 2029, when the new CBA expires.

No doubt much will have changed.

The league is marching into that future with a new collective bargaining agreement that addresses many longstanding issues in the CFL.

Who wins on the business side is hard to say, given all the uncertainties that lie ahead.

But right now all that matters to most is that collective bargaining has been put to bed and the CFL is finally ready to embark on a full season of football.

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Tale of two Battles: Alberta, Florida hockey fans divided during playoffs – Sportsnet.ca

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Hours before puck drop in the first playoff Battle of Alberta in 31 years, the mayor of the city located almost equal distance between Calgary and Edmonton was asked if Red Deer is an Oilers or Flames town.

“Without sounding too wishy-washy, it’s literally split down the middle,” Mayor Ken Johnston said over the phone on Wednesday.

“We did some very unscientific surveys this week phoning some of the jersey shops trying to get a feel for who’s buying jerseys. Even they were saying there’s a slight edge to the Oilers and then another store would say there’s a slight edge to the Flames. You talk to 10 citizens, you’re going to get four Flames, four Oilers, one Winnipeg Jet and one Vancouver (fan).”

While regional rivalries are one of the best parts of sports (and are showcased prominently in the regular season), it takes a bit of luck for that fun to carry over to the playoffs.

This year, we have a rarity in the NHL post-season. For the first time since the turn of the century, two second-round series feature in-state or in-province matchups: the Edmonton Oilers versus the Calgary Flames (the cities are about a three-hour drive apart) and the first-ever Sunshine state series between the Florida Panthers and the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (four hours between arenas).

And while there is far more of a hockey spotlight in Alberta, some Floridians are going to savour this moment, too.

“I’m torn. I’m on the east coast so I’m a Panthers guy, but I tell ya, both teams help my sales,” said Joe Webb, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, which has 33 locations across Florida.

“We have more restaurants on the east coast than the west, so the longer the Panthers stay in it, the longer we’ll benefit from the sales.”

The perfect scenario, Webb chuckled, is “seven games and OT.”

In Red Deer, restaurant owners feel much the same way.

Tari Klein, general manager of the East 40th Pub, recalls how the bar used to use a piece of tape to separate Oilers and Flames fans during previous battles — all in good spirits.

This year, East 40th has specific shots for both teams: the Oil Spill (Blue Curacao and Pear Liqueur) and the Flame (Fireball and Baileys).

A lifelong Oilers fan, Klein didn’t have trouble picking a team to cheer for when the Flames faced Dallas in Game 7 last weekend for the right to meet Edmonton.

“I was rooting for the Flames, no doubt about it,” she said. “I’d rather see the (Oilers) play the Flames than play Dallas any day. It will be great.”

Brennen Wowk, owner of Bo’s Bar and Grill in Red Deer, was anticipating big business for the series. A wildly entertaining Game 1 — the Flames prevailed 9-6 Wednesday night — certainly set the tone.

“We had a lot of years where the Battle of Alberta kind of fizzled because one or the other was, for lack of a better word, kind of shitty,” he said. “Now that the teams are competitive again and obviously at a high level in the league, it gets a lot more intense and a lot more fun.”

The excitement, Mayor Johnston said, is “palpable” throughout the city and province.

In Florida, of course, hockey isn’t on the same pedestal — especially in the Miami area, where the Panthers had gone decades without being a legitimate contender (a beach in warm weather might have slightly more appeal than watching a bad hockey team).

The Miami Heat also are in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals this year — and Webb said many of his bar locations, especially in the Miami area, would be dividing the TVs between basketball and hockey on game nights (the fact six Heat and Panthers games were scheduled for the same day this round, including Game 2 of both series on Thursday, has been a storyline in the Miami area).

Also, a healthy chunk of hockey fans in Florida grew up further north, so loyalties go in many different directions.

“Here’s the thing. They’re obviously smaller (hockey) markets, both of them,” said David Shepard, the president of the Junior Everblades hockey organization, located near the halfway mark of Miami and Tampa in Estero, Fla.

Shepard grew up in upstate New York.

“My kids grew up fans of hockey and enjoy hockey immensely, but none of them are either Panthers or Lightning fans. It’s one of those classic things where they follow the parents. My wife’s a Rangers fan and I’m a Bruins fan so the family is pretty much split down the middle,” said Shepard, whose family has made regular trips to Florida and Tampa games to support the Rangers or Bruins.

While hockey has certainly grown in the state (three members of the silver-medal winning U.S. under-18 team hail from Florida), it isn’t necessarily the big game in Florida. The manager of a sports bar in Cape Coral, Fla. (like Red Deer, almost equal distance between Tampa and Miami) acknowledged in an email that “we do not have a very large hockey base here, unfortunately.”

“I think everybody loves winners,” Webb said. “You’ve seen what’s gone on in Tampa with their team being pretty good the last several years. The Panthers have been pretty good (this season). Their draw has improved. I think this is only going to make it better. … Winning creates more fans.”

Win or lose, the Flames and Oilers won’t be lacking for fans — or competing with other sports for attention at this time of year.

For Red Deer and similar places throughout the province, the Oilers-Flames series can help in many ways.

“It’s been a very difficult time for hospitality, a very difficult time for restaurants, a very difficult time for any kind of social gathering,” Johnston said. “This is a perfect storm in a great way.”

Having lived in Calgary for 10 years, Johnston is a Flames fan.

Can Johnston wear Flames gear in public this week?

“I’ve weathered some more difficult political storms in my career. I think I’ll be OK,” laughed Johnston, who predicted an Oilers series victory before the Flames’ win on Wednesday.

“I think folks here are just so enthusiastic and anticipating a tremendous series.”

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