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Tanner Roark’s steadiness opens up possibilities for Blue Jays – Sportsnet.ca

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Tanner Roark’s steadiness opens up possibilities for Blue Jays – Sportsnet.ca


TORONTO – Tanner Roark played on five different minor-league teams across two different organizations, along with an independent and a winter ball club, before debuting with the Washington Nationals on Aug. 7, 2013. Five years of reliability for the Nationals followed before a two-stop year with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics set him up for free agency.

Able to pick his next destination for the first time, the 33-year-old right-hander from Wilmington, Ill., wanted some stability and some good catchers to work with, finding both with the Toronto Blue Jays, who formally announced his $24-million, two-year deal Wednesday.

The way they pursued him helped tip the scales, he said during a conference call with media.

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“They were the first ones to initiate contact with me. Right off the bat, they were really interested. So I knew that they wanted me and I talked to the pitching coach, Pete (Walker), and the bullpen coach, Matt Buschmann, we had a great conversation. Talked to Walker for like 25 minutes, that’s the first time I’ve ever talked to him,” said Roark. “They knew what they wanted and they wanted me and it’s exciting to have someone want you like that.”

Roark joins trade acquisition Chase Anderson as a stability post in a Blue Jays rotation that, at minimum, will feature legitimate major-league pitching after a miserable 2019 season best encapsulated by Charlie Montoyo’s memorable description of an opener and a guy ahead of one of many TBA days.

Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi, who agreed to a two-year deal worth slightly more than six million with the potential for up in excess of a million more per season in incentives, is another possibility to start, although he could potentially be used as an opener, bulk-pitcher or leverage reliever, too.

Along with incumbent rotation candidates Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki, the Blue Jays should now be able to give their young core of position players a chance in most games.

They continue to seek higher-end impact for the rotation – the bidding for Hyun-Jin Ryu, believed to be pushing past $80 million over four years, may end up outside their comfort level – and an internal debate now is whether to bite the bullet now, or wait for a shot at Trevor Bauer or James Paxton in free agency next fall.

David Price is one possibility on the trade market right now, while underperforming teams looking to escape big contracts may present a fresh set of options ahead of the next July 31 trade deadline, too.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Roark’s steadiness opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Blue Jays, who in addition to wanting to present a more watchable product on the field, also sought to protect their young arms from overexposure. He’s made at least 30 starts and logged a minimum of 165.1 innings in five of the past six years, and having him take the ball every five days should make Montoyo’s life easier.

The dependability that has become his calling card is no accident.

“I think what keeps me on the field is I work hard,” said Roark. “It can be a long, arduous season, repetitive, travel-wise, all that stuff, and the mental part of it can just crush you. 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 the actual enjoyment of it all, of what all the work that you put in those previous four days rewards you with, the start to go out there and hopefully kick some butt.”

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Doing it in the American League East will present a new challenge, one Roark both embraced and played down, saying, “keep the ball out of the air I guess is the big thing – because often they go out for a home run.”

“Just make your pitches.”

That’s a pretty sound mantra for any division and his experience and path to the majors should serve both him and his young teammates well. Roark joked about being one of the oldest players on the roster now, but he’s eager to share his knowledge when called for.

“I was a late bloomer of some excitement, some five and a half years in the minor-leagues, and the biggest thing was the mental part,” he said. “I knew I could always make it to the big leagues and be a big-leaguer and having the underdog mentality I’ve had my whole entire career – underrated, not getting the most respect – has made me mentally tougher and stronger. Going through tough times is what got me to armour my mind to get through big situations and not let the name on the back of the jersey or the front of the jersey bother me or get in my head. …

“Especially with the young core group of guys coming up and what we have at the big-league level, give them some knowledge, teach them some things, answer any questions that they want to know,” Roark added later. “I’m here for them.”

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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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 swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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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