Thursday, January 25, 2007

Red Sox Save Donnelly by Arbitration

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with right-hander Brendan Donnelly on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year, $1.4 million contract.
The deal also calls for bonuses of $25,000 each if finishes 25 games or 30 games.
Donnelly, who made $950,000 last season, sought $1.65 million and the Red Sox offered $1.15 million. The 35-year-old reliever was acquired last month from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for rookie left-hander Phil Seibel.
Donnelly was 6-0 with a 3.94 ERA in 62 games last season, going 5-0 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 games after the All-Star break and holding opponents scoreless in 19 of his last 21 appearances.
His best year was 2003, when he allowed only two earned runs in his first 50 innings and was the winning pitcher in the AL's 7-6 victory over the NL in the All-Star game. He finished the season with a 1.58 ERA and a career-high three saves.

2007 Red Sox Outfield Full of Power

BOSTON -- For the seventh consecutive season, Manny Ramirez will man the Green Monster and serve as a meaty anchor in the middle of the Boston batting order. The rest of the outfield won't be quite as familiar to Red Sox fans.
Sure, center fielder Coco Crisp is entering his second season with the team. But he fractured his left index finger in the fifth game of the 2006 season and from that point on, the real Crisp -- the one who had become an emerging player for the Indians in recent years -- never really surfaced. After a winter of rest and rehab, the Sox are confident that Crisp's bat will be revived.
For so long, it was second-nature for the Red Sox to look out to right field and see the mud-stained No. 7 jersey and pine-tar covered hat of Trot Nixon. But the Red Sox parted ways with free agent Nixon, their starting right fielder of the last eight seasons.
Nixon caught on with the Indians and he'll be replaced at Fenway by J.D. Drew, a productive left-handed hitter with a good eye and a solid glove in right field.
Though agent Scott Boras announced on Dec. 5 that the Red Sox and Drew had agreed to a five-year contract worth $70 million, the deal still hasn't been signed. Not to worry though, only technicalities stand in the way of Drew's official arrival in Boston.
After Drew's physical, the Red Sox offered some concerns about his surgically repaired right shoulder and have spent the ensuing weeks trying to get additional protection in the contract in case of re-injury. Both the Red Sox and Boras have indicated that the hurdles to get the deal done are hardly major. Drew is all but certain to be with the Red Sox when position players report on Feb. 20.
Outfield depth doesn't figure to be a problem as the Red Sox will have the big bat of Wily Mo Pena coming off the bench. Expect Pena to start against all lefties and play his share of games against righties. Pena's ability to play all three outfield spots will enable manager Terry Francona to keep the right-handed hitter rust-free.
If Boston's outfielders stay healthy, it is, without a doubt, an area of strength for the team. Start with Ramirez, who remains one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Back in December, rumors were swirling that Ramirez was going to get traded. But when hasn't that been the case? Per usual, Ramirez looks destined to be back in the cleanup spot, combining with David Ortiz to form the most dangerous 3-4 combo in the game.

Boston Red Sox
• Catchers: Backstops aim to rebound• Corner IF: Duo brings professionalism• Middle IF: Pair of newcomers• Outfielders: Manny is still Manny• Starters: January 31• Bullpen: February 7• DH/Bench: February 14
Though a few issues always seem to come up with Ramirez during a long season, Francona has developed a comfort level with the slugger.
"Manny's got great production," Francona said at the Winter Meetings. "I mean, I think it was pretty obvious when we didn't have him on the field, what, the last six weeks, we weren't close to being the same team. See, I also see a different side of Manny, too. I see the guy that shows up at 10:00 in the morning and is lifting every day, you know. So there's a side of him that I do get to see that probably other people don't."
Defensively, Ramirez is better than people think, particularly at Fenway Park, where he is adept at playing the Green Monster. His arm is accurate and his release is quick. Does Ramirez have lapses at times in the outfield? Sure. But the Red Sox have generally been pleased with his glove.
As for Crisp, he came to Boston a year ago to be the leadoff hitter, and countless Johnny Damon comparisons ensued. But Crisp won't have to hear about that any more this year, as shortstop Julio Lugo will take over the leadoff spot. Crisp will probably hit eighth, where he'll be given more freedom to run.
It should become apparent early in the season if Crisp has regained his stroke at the plate. When he is at his best, he crushes early-count fastballs. Defensively, Crisp's strength is speed and his weakness is his arm.
One of the reasons the Sox were most excited about bringing Drew on board is because they feel he has the range of a center fielder but is playing the difficult right field at Fenway.
At the plate, he has sometimes been described as passive. But it's hard to believe Drew could be all that passive and still drive in the 100 runs that he produced for Grady Little's Dodgers last year. Drew should give the Red Sox the productive No. 5 hitter they lacked in 2006.
With Pena, his raw power is beyond question. He also made strides last year with his plate discipline and ability to go to the opposite field. But the jury is still out on whether he can take his game to the next level. The Red Sox would like Pena to pay closer attention to detail on defense, as he was prone to miss a cutoff man or have an attention lapse last year.

Red Sox Pen Loaded

The Red Sox now have nine relievers under contract after avoiding arbitration with Brendan Donnelly, who agreed to a one-year, $1.4 million deal Tuesday. Under terms of the contract, Donnelly is to receive an additional $25,000 for 25 games finished and $25,000 for 30 games finished.
Donnelly, who was paid $950,000 by the Angels last season, had asked for $1.65 million in arbitration. The Sox had submitted a figure of $1.115 million.
The Sox' investment in the bullpen stands at $15.7 million, and that doesn't include nine additional pitchers on the 40-man roster who could be competing for a spot in the mix, if you count last year's closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Lefthander Jon Lester could be another, depending on how cautiously the Sox proceed after Lester responded positively to treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The others include lefthanders Lenny DiNardo, Javier Lopez, and Kason Gabbard, and righthanders Manny Delcarmen, Devern Hansack, Edgar Martinez, David Pauley, and Nick DeBarr, the Rule 5 pickup from Tampa Bay who is a full season removed from Tommy John elbow surgery. None of the nine have enough big league service time to qualify for salary arbitration. Gabbard and Pauley figure to be in Pawtucket's rotation, while Martinez could close for the PawSox.
With the Sox having signed free agent lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero and Japanese lefty Hideki Okajima, DiNardo also figures to be in the Pawtucket rotation, with Lopez left to try to beat out the two newcomers. Hansack, who threw a five-inning no-hitter in the last game of the 2006 season, has been mentioned as a dark-horse candidate for closer, while DeBarr, who last season pitched in the Single A California League, must win a spot on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Devil Rays.
The highest-paid member of the Sox bullpen as presently constituted is Joel Pineiro, who started in 148 of his 185 games in the big leagues for Seattle before being signed as a free agent for $4 million this season. Pineiro could become a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation if the Sox change their minds about making Papelbon a starter.
The other Sox relievers under contract for 2007: Julian Tavarez ($3.1 million), Mike Timlin ($2.8 million), Romero ($1.6 million), Donnelly ($1.4 million), Okajima ($1.2 million), Craig Hansen ($700,000), Kyle Snyder ($535,000), and Craig Breslow (split contract, $400,000 in the big leagues, $130,000 in the minors).
Timlin, Tavarez, and Donnelly figure to be the top setup men, and Okajima and Romero (possibly Lopez) are the lefties. The dollars say Pineiro will be on the staff, possibly as the closer or fifth starter. That's six positions in the pen. With five starters (Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, and Papelbon), that would appear to leave one position open, assuming manager Terry Francona carries 12 pitchers. Hansack, Hansen, and Delcarmen stand to be the leading contenders for that final spot. The competition should be intense.
One to be done Outfielder Wily Mo Peña is the lone Sox arbitration case left, and it looks like some time will pass before a resolution. Peña has asked for $2.2 million; the Sox countered with $1.725 million.

Tigers Lose to Vandy to Halt Home Court Streak at 19

Rock bottom is still a ways off for the LSU basketball team, but it sure seems like the Tigers are headed that direction.
The 21st-ranked Tigers tumbled to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, 64-53, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a game that provided plenty of frustration at the start and more at the finish, but for different reasons.
For the fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference game, LSU was out of sync, and this time out of luck as well.
Although a late-game charge salvaged respectability, the Tigers’ glaring offensive shortcomings were too much to hurdle as the Commodores stormed to a cozy double-digit lead and held on at the end to snap LSU’s 19-game SEC home winning streak.
Besides seeing that impressive run screech to a halt, the Tigers (13-6) also dropped to 2-3 in league games and added more items to a glowing list of concerns and questions marks.
After a game-long struggle to produce anything easily on the offensive end, the Tigers clawed back within six points twice in the final few minutes. But Vandy’s Shan Foster — a Kenner native and Bonnabel High School graduate — produced three big plays in a row to slam the door on LSU’s comeback.
The Tigers chiseled an 18-point second-half deficit to 57-51 on the last of Garrett Temple’s four straight free throws with 2:17 to play.
With LSU full-court pressing, Foster got loose for a driving bank shot. After Temple’s last foul shots, Foster spotted up along the baseline for a 3-pointer that pushed the Vandy lead back to 60-51.
“The dagger shot — that’s what coach calls it,” Commodores senior Dan Cage said.
Then, with LSU desperately trying to score quickly, the 6-foot-6 Foster rejected LSU power forward Glen Davis’ shot from point-blank range in the final minute, the last of the Commodores’ six blocked shots.
Even before Foster took over, the Tigers lost a chance to creep closer when Dameon Mason — one of LSU’s bright spots in the game — couldn’t get an open layup to fall.
“Bottom line, when the opportunity is there to make the play, we’ve got to make the play,” LSU coach John Brady said. “At some point and time, a play has got to be made.”
Vandy (14-6, 4-2) won its fifth consecutive game against a ranked opponent and its second on the road in four days after staggering Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday.
The surging Commodores nearly scored a first-half knockout, racing to 26-10 lead with 6:16 left before halftime. Vanderbilt stung LSU with a 13-0 run and then a 10-4 burst before the Tigers finally settled into anything resembling an offensive groove.
“They came out with intensity and punched us in the mouth,” said LSU sophomore Tasmin Mitchell, who led the Tigers with 16 points but missed 13 of 20 field-goal attempts. “They were shooting well and had some great transition baskets. They hit us with something we weren’t ready for, obviously.”
A more simple way of putting it: Vanderbilt made shots and LSU continued to miss nearly every one it heaved up.
After the teams slugged through the first 3:07, Cage and Foster accounted for every point in the 13-0 blitz. Cage sandwiched two of his four 3-pointers around Foster’s run of seven points in a row on a driving jumper from the lane, a reverse layup in transition and a 3-pointer off the dribble.
LSU missed six straight floor shots and turned the ball over twice during Vandy’s first outburst. Davis converted a three-point play to stop the bleeding briefly and draw the Tigers within 16-6.
But those were the only points they mustered in a stretch of 7:19. By the time Mason drove for a fast-breakup layup at the 9:34 juncture, Vanderbilt was ahead 21-8.
“We didn’t really start playing until the 12- or 14-minute mark,” Brady said. “I didn’t think we played very hard early.”
Still, the biggest problem — poor shooting — was nothing new.
The Tigers hit only three of their first 23 floor shots and couldn’t piece together any momentum until they scored 12 points in the last 4:37 producing points on five of their last six possessions.
Mitchell pumped in eight points right before halftime to close the gap to 34-24. But the tone set early fueled Vandy the rest of the night.
“The game was dictated by our start,” Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said. “We got off to such a good start offensively and defensively that we were able to dictate the way the game was played. The key was not letting Glen get started. Our defense on him was really good.”
LSU’s shooting touch remained slow to come around after halftime as the Tigers fell into a 49-31 hole on Ted Skuchas’ hook shot with 12:48 left in the game. A 9-2 run got LSU within 53-45 on Ben Voogd’s 3-pointer from the left corner at the 6:20 mark.
Davis and Temple added 12 points for LSU. Derrick Byars paced Vandy with 18 points and collected 10 rebounds to match 5-11 point guard Alex Gordon’s game-high rebound total as the smaller Commodores won the backboard battle 42-36. Cage and Foster tallied 14 points apiece.

Ole Miss Rallies to BeatTennessee

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Ole Miss guard Clarence Sanders admitted he would not be opposed to playing against Tennessee more often.
Sanders scored 20 points, 18 in the second half, as Ole Miss rallied to defeat Tennessee 83-69 Wednesday.
The junior guard was the key figure in a 20-2 run midway through the second half that helped the Rebels erase a 51-44 deficit. The performance was an impressive follow-up to last season’s meeting, when Sanders scored a career-high 29 points against the Vols.
“I wouldn’t mind,” said Sanders, when asked if he would like to play against Tennessee each game. “It’s just worked out that I’ve been able to get good looks against them and make some shots.”
While Sanders was able to ignite a decisive rally for the Rebels (13-7, 2-4), the Vols went without a field goal for more than five minutes and were unable to pull closer than nine points in the final six minutes.
“We have a formula for losing games on the road – against Vanderbilt, Auburn and now Ole Miss,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “Sanders is a streaky shooter and he was able to make some big shots.”
Tennessee (14-6, 2-3) played without Chris Lofton, the SEC’s leading scorer at 21.5 points per game, who injured his ankle in the second half of last Saturday’s win over South Carolina. His status for Saturday’s game at Kentucky is undetermined.
“Chris is the leading scorer in the SEC and the leading three-point shooter,” Pearl said. “You take away an All-American from a team, any team and there are some pretty good holes in that cheese.”
The Vols shot well enough in the first half that Lofton was hardly missed. Tennessee led 38-28 at halftime, closing the half with a 25-7 run that included 6-of-7 from three-point range.
“They got us out of synch with their defense and shot lights out from three-point range,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “On our part, we just weren’t making shots. In the second half, we were able to get on a roll.”
The 20-2 run gave Ole Miss an insurmountable 64-58 lead with 7:08 left. Sanders hit five consecutive shots in the surge, accounting for 13 points and an assist, capping it with a three-point shot.
Sanders was 2-of-11 from the field before going on the hot streak, which he called, “just finally calming down and not rushing my shot. I had the same looks in the first half, but I just stopped rushing it.”
“You just shake your head when he shoots,” Kennedy said. “He does some unusual things with his shot, but when he gets going, he can do what you saw tonight.”
Dwayne Curtis had 18 points and nine rebounds, while Bam Doyne had 13 and Todd Abernethy 10 for the Rebels. Tennessee was led by JaJuan Smith with 22 points, while Ramar Smith had 16 and Josh Tabb added 11.
Ole Miss hot 30-of-63, 48 percent, from the field and outrebounded the Vols, 40-34. Tennessee was 25-of-59 from the field, including 15-of-31 from Smith and Smith.
The Vols finished 10-of-27 from three-point range, but were only 3-of-13 in the second half. Tennessee has lost four of its last five.
The game marked the second straight for the Rebels in which they reeled off a second-half run where they outscored the opposition by 18 points. On the road against top-ranked Florida Saturday, Ole Miss ran off a 29-11 run that pulled the team within seven points, but the Rebel comeback would get no closer.
Ole Miss returns to action Saturday at Vanderbilt, which won its third straight Wednesday with a 64-53 triumph at LSU. Game time is set for noon CT and will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports.

Recruiting News from Dandy Don

Good morning, Tiger fans. Recruiting is the hot topic at LSU with only two more weekends for prospects to take official visits to schools they considering attending. LSU will host 10-12 prospects this weekend including four players, DeAngelo Benton, Kantravis Aubrey, Josh Jasper, and Andrew Crutchfield, who have already committed to LSU. Benton and Aubrey, in my opinion, are two of the most underrated high school prospects in the nation along with LSU commitment John Williams from Breaux Bridge. Joe McKnight, perhaps the top high school player in the nation, will be making his official visit as will highly touted safety Chad Jones and highly recruited TE/DE Jason Peters (6'2", 260) from Catholic of Baton Rouge. I have been told that Peters will receive a scholarship offer and I think he is very deserving of one. Peters is a very humble and polite young man and is a great football player. Rishaw Johnson (6'5", 300, OL) from Hammonds will also be visiting this weekend, as will Rashad Mason (6'4", WR) from Nashville. Mason's stock has really skyrocketed the last several weeks. In other recruiting news, it appear that Luther Davis and Ahmad Paige will be attending Alabama University, according to my source in Monroe. Davis committed to LSU during the US Army All-Star game in San Antonio on national TV and spent much of the week recruiting Joseph Barsdale and other players for LSU. Davis made a surprise visit to Alabama last weekend after Nick Saban made a visit to West Monroe earlier in the week. After Saban's visit to West Monroe Davis said that if Saban was still the head coach at LSU that he would not have committed to LSU. Saban returned to the area Tuesday and made a visit to Ouachita high school to watch junior Tyler Edwards workout and was accompanied by Tyler Edward's older brother, Eric, who played for Saban on the 2003 national championship team. After his visit at Ouachita high school, Saban made a stop at West Monroe and might have wrapped up the deal for Davis . After the West Monroe stop, Saban attended the SterlingtonJonesboro basketball game to take a look at Ahmad Paige. Davis and Paige have said for several months that they both want to attend the same school and it is looking like it will be Alabama. I received several emails Tuesday from readers very concerned that former LSU TE Eric Edwards accompanied Saban to Ouachita high school, and that former LSU LB Brady James accompanied Saban to Sterlington high school. Saban invited the two former LSU great players in an attempt to regain some of the credibility he lost after walking out on the Miami Dolphins after completing only two years of a five year contract and after blasting the news media for ten days about their questioning his interest in the Alabama job. Saban asking Edwards and James to accompany him had to put the two players in an awkward position because Saban was their head coach when LSU won the national title. I have no doubt in my mind that Eric Edwards and Brady James bleed purple and gold and accompanied Saban only out of respect for him.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rumor-Miles under consideration for Dallas Job and Recruiting News

The first thing I want to write about is the rumor that the Dallas Cowboys are looking at Les Miles to replace Bill Parcells who resigned Monday night as the head coach of the Cowboys. Les Miles once coached the offensive line for the Cowboys and is a good friend of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but Coach Miles is very happy as the head coach at LSU and is not ready to coach in the NFL. I hope that the rumor goes away in a hurry because the rumor could affect the remainder of the recruiting class. Coach Les Miles and his staff are busy trying to wrap up the final four or five remaining slots for this year's recruiting class. The top five remaining prospects, in no particular order, are Joe McKnight, Terrance Tolliver, Chad Jones, Christian Scott, and Steffon Francois, in my opinion. McKnight, who I believe is the top high school player in the nation, is a lean to LSU according to all reports I am receiving because going to LSU would allow him to play in front of family and friends and because he is from Louisiana. Tolliver is said to be a slight lean to LSU over the national champion Florida Gators. I have been told that Tolliver really likes LSU's new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, but he also likes the spread offense that Florida runs. I believe that Tolliver will sign with LSU because both programs are about the same in terms of talent, both schools use the wide open offense, and LSU is closer to home. Christian Scott is a highly recruited CB from Dallas Skyline who is reported to be down to LSU and Texas. Coach Miles and three members of the LSU coaching staff made an in-home visit last night with Scott and his family. Texas is the home state school and will get the last in-home visit and I believe Scott will probably sign with the Longhorns. Chad Jones will decide between LSU, Florida and USC and I believe he will sign with the Tigers because his brother attends LSU and his family lives in Baton Rouge. Jones is also a super baseball prospect that Coach Maineri would love to have playing center field. As for Steffon Francois, LSU wide receiver Ricky Dixon is his best friend and he is also friends with Ryan Perrilloux, so I believe Francois will be a Tiger when it is all said and done.

Reverend Lawrence Durwood Fleming Dead at 92

Reverend Doctor Lawrence Durwood Fleming

THE REVEREND DOCTOR LAWRENCE DURWOOD FLEMING passed to eternal rest on January 22, 2007. He was born in Sulphur Springs, Texas on August 9, 1914. He was the oldest of six children of the Reverend and Mrs. (Lucile Rash) John Payne Fleming. Durwood graduated from Southern Methodist University (Bachelor of Arts) and The Perkins School of Theology SMU (Master of Theology). He pursued his doctoral studies at Columbia University's Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was the founding pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Houston serving that congregation from 1945 to 1961. In 1961, he was elected the twelfth President of Southwestern University, then Chancellor then President Emeritus. His accomplishments in leading these two great institutions are stuff of Texas and Methodist lore. Throughout his adult life, he maintained a vital relationship with Southern Methodist University being named Distinguished Alumnus in 1965. For many years after his retirement, he was an enthusiastic participant in the affairs of Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas where he began his active ministry in 1936 as a student associate minister. Dr. Fleming was participant in over thirty boards and agencies during his active ministry and university presidency and chancellorship. These foci spanned an amazing expression of human compassion and service throughout the purview of the Church, Higher Education and Healthcare. At one time or another, he sat on the executive committee(s) or chaired nearly all of them. He was President of The Philosophical Society of Texas founded by Sam Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar and a member of the Kappa Alpha Order. He held Doctorates - honoris causa - in Divinity, Law, Letters and Humanities from McMurry College, Texas Wesleyan University, Southwestern University and Oklahoma City University. Believing in the essential nature of organization and varying viewpoints to nurture great causes, he was many times a delegate to the Jurisdictional and General Conferences of the United Methodist Church. He was a delegate to the World Methodist Council five times. His participation in conferences and councils began as a young Delegate to the Conference on Faith and Order held at Oxford, England in the summer of 1937 and continued throughout his active professional lifetime. He is predeceased by his parents, his brothers John Edwin and Douglas, his sister Martha Ann and his niece, Becky Boone Stephens. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Lurlyn January Fleming and their three children, Dr. Jon Hugh Fleming and Cheryl Lindberg Fleming of North Zulch, Pamela Fleming Shamblin and the Reverend J. Kenneth Shamblin, Jr. of Dallas and Martha Ann Fleming Curtis and Dr. Richard Steven Curtis of Dallas. He is survived as well by his sisters and brothers in law Mrs. Alice Stultz and Mr. C. Rex Stultz of Dallas and Mrs. Nell Boone and Dr. Ted Boone of Dallas and sisters in law, Mrs. Mary Fleming and Mrs. Levina Fleming. Daddy Dur leaves his grandchildren: Jon Mark Fleming, Marcus Justin Fleming, Phillip Andrew Fleming, Mallory Fleming Hammer, Elaine Fleming Perusquia, Jonathan Robinson Fleming, Kara Lyn Shamblin Churchill, Cynthia Marr Shamblin, Collin Curtis and Allison Curtis Stuckey His life was further blessed with fourteen great grandchildren, thirteen nieces and nephews and a host of grand nieces and nephews. Of the myriad accolades and "titles" Durwood, Dad and Daddy Dur received and held, his most cherished were those of Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather. His greatness will be remembered and continually revealed through his institutional and familial legacy spanning six decades of vital life and work in the name and causes of our Lord Jesus Christ, the State, the Nation and his eternally proud and profoundly grateful family. A memorial service will be held in Dallas at Highland Park United Methodist Church on Saturday, January 27th at 11:00 AM with the Rev. William B. Smith, Dr. James W. Moore and Bishop John Wesley Hardt officiating. A memorial service will be held in Houston at St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Monday, January 29th at 10:45 AM. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, Bishop John Wesley Hardt, Dr. Thomas J. Pace, Dr. James W. Moore, Dr. Mark Lewis and Dr. Guy E. Pry will officiate. Services in President Fleming's honor will be held at Southwestern University - Georgetown to be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be proudly made to any cause or institution the purpose of which is to challenge and minister to the human spirit; to inform the minds of children and youth and to alleviate human suffering wherever it is found. Certainly St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Southwestern University, The Perkins School of Theology - Southern Methodist University and The Methodist Hospital of Houston would find appropriate inclusion in such a list. Sparkman/Hillcrest 7405 West NW Hwy Dallas, TX 75225 Published in the Houston Chronicle on 1/24/2007.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Anthony Fein to Visit Oxford this Weekend

Scottsdale C.C. four-star linebacker Anthony Fein has narrowed his list of schools down to Ole Miss and Michigan State and has moved his official visit to Oxford up to this weekend. With an official visit to Michigan State already behind him, a decision by the star linebacker could be coming soon.

SEC Names 29 Tigers to Academic all-SEC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A total of 29 LSU student-athletes were named to the 2006 Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced Tuesday.
The Tiger football team topped the list of teams with members on the Honor Roll, placing 17 members on the list, including senior offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski, who was a member of's All-Bowl Team for his performance against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. The Canadian played out his final year of eligibility after earning his bachelor's degree in history in the spring of 2006.
In addition, eight members of the women's soccer team made the list, including second-team All-SEC selection Rosalyn Jones, who finished the year ranked seventh in the SEC in goals and points. Four members of the Tiger volleyball team, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2006 for the second-straight year, also made the Honor Roll, led by first-team All-SEC selection Marina Skender and SEC All-Freshman team selection Lauren DeGirolamo.
A total of 454 student-athletes were named to the 2006 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. Kentucky and South Carolina, which also field men’s soccer teams in the fall, topped the list with 51 student-athletes each on the fall academic roster.
The 2006 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll is based on grades from the 2006 Spring, Summer and Fall terms.

Cozart Pre-season All-American

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss’ Zack Cozart continued to rake in the honors in the preseason as the Rebel shortstop was tabbed by Baseball America as a member of its All-America team. It is the third time this preseason that Cozart has been selected as a First Team All-American by an organization or publication.

Cozart has also been named First Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association. The junior has also been named to the preseason watch list for the Brooks Wallace Award, honoring the nation’s top baseball player.

The Collierville, Tenn., native earned First Team All-SEC honors last season as he helped lead Ole Miss to a 44-22 record and the 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship. He also played a pivotal role in the Rebels hosting a third-straight NCAA Regional and second consecutive NCAA Super Regional. The Rebels claimed the 2006 NCAA Regional before hosting Miami in the NCAA Super Regional.

Cozart finished the year with a .975 fielding percentage as he only committed eight errors on the season. The sophomore drove in 64 runs, the second highest on the team for the season, as he tallied 10 home runs one triple and 16 doubles. He also posted multiple game-winning hits this season, including a three-run walk-off homer against Memphis and a solo home run to beat Mississippi State 1-0 in the Mayor's Trophy game. He also was a big part of the Rebels turning 69 double plays on the year.

Over the summer, the shortstop competed in Cuba with the USA Baseball National Team as he helped the National Team to the FISU World Championship.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Red Sox Team Report

The Red Sox think that the move of 1B Kevin Youkilis to the No. 2 spot in the batting order will create some much-needed balance in front of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Youkilis has a terrific eye and the ability to move runners. Expect plenty of hit-and-runs with Youkilis and speedy leadoff man Julio Lugo. . . .
Don't be surprised if 3B Mike Lowell is even more productive than in his rebound season of a year ago. Lowell feels a lot more confident this year simply because he has become acclimated to life in the American League and knows what to expect from opposing pitchers. . . .
If CF Coco Crisp bounces back like the team expects him to, he could become one of the most productive No. 8 hitters in baseball. Crisp has pop in his bat that Red Sox fans never saw, thanks to his ongoing hand woes.
CATCHERS: Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli
ANALYSIS:Varitek is a leader behind the plate, backed by his thorough preparation and rugged style of play. Injuries limited his effectiveness at the plate last year, but a bounce-back should be in order. Mirabelli is a solid defender but not much of a hitting threat.

Willy Mo Pena Working his way out of Winter Slump

Outfielder Wily Mo Pena, who battled injuries during his first season with the Red Sox, is battling through a slump in the Dominican Winter League playoffs for the the Aguilas Cibaenas.
The Major Leaguer is 2-for-6 in his last three games, but is batting .091 (4-for-44) overall with four RBIs and one run scored in 14 postseason games.
Pena was limited to 84 games with Boston in 2006 due to a left wrist injury that required surgery. He was productive when healthy, hitting .301 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs and 36 runs scored.
Here is how the rest of the Red Sox fared in various winter league playoffs:
Venezuela Winter League
RHP Edgar Martinez -- The 25-year-old reliever went 0-3 with a 2.19 ERA in 21 regular-season games for the Pastora de los Llanos, who did not qualify for the playoffs.
LHP Jose Alvarez -- The 17-year-old southpaw did not pitch for the Caribes de Oriente after Nov. 24. He ended the season 0-1 with a 14.09 ERA in nine games, with opponents batting .395 against him.
SS Tony Granadillo -- Granadillo went 1-for-2 with an RBI in four regular-season games with the Tigres de Aragua. He has not appeared in the postseason.
1B Luis Antonio Jimenez -- After a slow start to the playoffs, Jimenez is 5-for-16 with three runs scored and two RBIs in his last five games. Overall, he is batting .256 with one homer, 10 runs scored and five RBIs in 12 postseason games with the Cardenales de Lara.

High Ranking Recruiting Efforts

Based upon current committments, has LSU's current recruiting class ranked # 3, behind only Texas and Tennessee. Filling out the Top Five is Florida and USC. Ole Miss is ranked 17th, ahead of such luminary schools as Ohio State, Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Penn St., Florida St. and Arkansas.

Arkansas Upsets LSU in Fayetteville

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Steven Hill scored a career-high 16 points - many of them on crowd-pleasing dunks - and Arkansas rolled to an easy 72-52 victory over No. 16 LSU on Saturday.
The Razorbacks (13-6, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) had lost three straight since an 88-61 win over then-No. 8 Alabama earlier this month. They ended the skid with a resounding performance against another ranked team.
Hill, whose previous career high was 15 points in a 67-64 loss to Georgia on Wednesday night, went 8-of-10 from the field. The 7-footer is 20-of-22 in his last four games.
LSU (13-5, 2-2) had won seven of eight against Arkansas, but couldn't overcome 35 percent shooting in this one. Glen Davis led the Tigers with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting, and added eight rebounds.
Hill, a junior, more than held his own against the LSU star. Hill has been known more as a shot blocker than a scorer at Arkansas, but he's made teams pay lately for losing track of him.
The Razorbacks were already ahead comfortably in the second half when Hill brought the crowd to life with a trio of dunks. The first two finished alley-oops and the last, a putback of a missed shot, made it 59-44.
Hill added seven rebounds, and left to a standing ovation with 1:08 to play.
Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin, who has struggled with turnovers lately, was pulled from the starting lineup in favor of freshman Stefan Welsh. But when Ervin played, he was effective. He finished with 11 points, seven assists and three turnovers.
Sonny Weems added 13 points for the Razorbacks, and Charles Thomas had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Darian Townes scored 10 points.
Arkansas lost to Georgia on Steve Newman's long 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the Razorbacks bounced back emphatically against LSU. The Tigers' Magnum Rolle missed a dunk on an alley-oop, and freshman Patrick Beverley made a 3-pointer at the other end to give Arkansas an 18-10 lead. The Razorbacks later went on a 9-0 run to make it 36-21.
Arkansas led 39-26 after a first half in which it shot 59 percent, then Hill started the second with an alley-oop dunk. Beverley's 3-pointer in transition made it 46-28.
LSU coach John Brady was clearly exasperated on the sideline, drawing chants of "Sit Down, Brady!" late in the game. Brady raised his hand to acknowledge the Arkansas fans, then sat.
Terry Martin scored 10 points for the Tigers. Tasmin Mitchell finished with as many turnovers (six) as points.
The previous four meetings between the teams were decided by five points or less.

Jimbo Fisher Still Recruiting McKnight

BATON ROUGE — That former LSU football coach keeps recruiting Louisiana football players.Guess who talked to John Curtis High tailback Joe McKnight at Curtis on Thursday? Why, former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, who now has that title at Florida State.
McKnight, who is widely considered the best high school tailback in the nation, also spoke with former LSU head coach Nick Saban on Thursday. McKnight (6-foot-1, 193) may or may not visit Saban's new work place at Alabama, depending on whom you believe.Curtis coach J.T. Curtis is saying McKnight has not lined up a visit to Alabama or Florida State, but McKnight told an Alabama Web site that he plans to visit Alabama some time before signing day on Feb. 7.Curtis and Saban have had a good relationship since Saban was an assistant at Michigan State in the 1980s. Saban also has known McKnight since he was in eighth grade.McKnight is at USC this weekend and is scheduled to visit LSU next weekend. He visited Ole Miss last weekend. Curtis said Fisher and Saban are in the running for McKnight's final two visits as are Arkansas and Miami."He had a nice visit with Nick, but I expected him to have a nice visit with him," Curtis said. "Joe also had a nice visith with Jimbo."Fisher, who just took the FSU job on Jan. 8, also got a commitment on Jan. 12 from wide receiver Ahmad Paige of Sterlington, La. Helping Fisher get Paige (6-3, 175) to commit was new FSU receiver coach Lawrence Dawsey, who was a former graduate assistant at LSU under Fisher and Saban in 2003.Fisher last Monday also had a face-to-face visit with Pearl River Community College wide receiver Demetrius Byrd, who has been at LSU this weekend on an official visit. Visiting Byrd (6-2, 195) along with Fisher was Dawsey, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden and Florida State assistant Mickey Andrews. Byrd will be at Florida State next weekend.Byrd caught 45 passes for 730 yards last season and is considered one of the top junior college prospects in the nation. Also recruiting Byrd are Arkansas, Iowa State and Ole Miss.AT LSU NOW: Visiting LSU this weekend along with Byrd is safety Damien Berry of Glades Central High in Belle Glade, Fla. LSU is still recruiting Berry (5-11, 197) even though he is committed to Miami and visits Miami next weekend. Berry is considered the No. 11 safety in the country by is from the same high school as LSU commitment Ernest McCoy, a 6-5, 330-pound offensive lineman. Also recruiting Berry are UCLA, Florida, South Carolina, West Virginia and Rutgers.Other scheduled visitors to LSU this weekend have all already committed to the Tigers. Those are tight end Mitch Joseph and offensive tackle Josh Dworaczyk of Catholic High in New Iberia, quarterback Jarrett Lee of Brenham High in Brenham, Texas, wide receiver Ron Brooks of MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, offensive tackle Jarvis Jones of Lamar Cons High in Rosenberg, Texas, and tight end Alex Russian of Round Rock High in Round Rock, Texas.Jones (6-6, 250) is an LSU commitment, but LSU needs to do well with him this weekend as his mother would prefer he stay closer to home, according to Mike Scarborough of Texas A&M is among the other schools recruiting Jones.MILES VS. SABAN: In addition to visiting Curtis star Joe McKnight, Alabama coach Nick Saban created a stir while visiting LSU commitments Phelon Jones, a cornerback from McGill-Toolen High in Mobile, Ala., and Luther Davis, a defensive end from West Monroe, last week.According to both prospects, Saban took credit for LSU's recent success as he signed most of the players involved in the Tigers' 22-4 run since he left.Neither player agreed to take a visit to Alabama, though, and refused to de-commit from LSU."Great guy, but he is a little bit overconfident," Jones' father Tony said in also got a no from Davis in West Monroe."He (Saban) was kind of mad that we turned down the visit and turned down the scholarship," Davis told "He said that there is no way that the coaching staff at LSU can compare to the coaching staff we have at Alabama right now. He gave no credit to anyone."Miles is apparently wary of Saban, however. He dispatched assistant coaches Bo Pelini, Doug Mallory and Josh Henson to Mobile and to West Monroe to follow up both Saban visits."I don't think the LSU coaches are upset with Saban," Scarborough said. "It probably just makes them very motivated to out-recruit him. I think they also think it's unbelievable some of the things he is saying about LSU."

JUCO WR Demetrius Boyd Commits to LSU

Junior college All-American wide receiver Demetrius Byrd opted for loyalty over another week on the recruiting trail.
That trail officially came to an end for Byrd, who committed to LSU while on his official visit this weekend.
“I started thinking and looking at all the pros and cons,” Byrd said. “I looked at what was best for me and in my mind LSU came out on top. They recruited me the longest and the hardest from the beginning and (LSU assistant) coach (Todd) Monken is someone I wanted to play for. I thought why not go with somebody who showed they wanted me from the start.”
The addition of the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Byrd, a native of Miami with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, increased LSU’s commitment total to 24 with two weekends remaining in the recruiting process. He also gave an added boost to the Tigers wide receivers corps that already features commitments from DeAngelo Benton of Bastrop, Toddrick Bajoie of Catholic-Pointe Coupee and Ron Brooks of Irving, Texas.
“I just felt it was a great opportunity to go in and play,” said Byrd, noting the graduation of LSU standouts Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. “It’s a great opportunity for me to go and play with a great player like (returning senior) Early Doucet and also a great defense that’s coming back.”
Byrd chose LSU after making an official visit to Houston. He plans to cancel a remaining trip to Florida State. He also drew scholarship offers from Arkansas, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Iowa State.
“I’m not going to go to Florida State now,” Byrd said. “There’s no need to do that if I’ve already made my decision. I’m going to keep my word.”
Byrd played just one year at the high school level — his senior season at Miami-Central. He signed with Florida International, but opted to enroll in Pearl River (Miss.) Community College instead.
Byrd started for two years at Pearl River, helping that school to back-to-back Mississippi state junior college championships. He combined to catch 87 balls for 1,433 yards and 12 touchdowns during his career, earning first team All-American junior college honors this past season.
Pearl River finished 10-2 and ranked second nationally after advancing to the national junior college championship game where it fell to Blinn (Texas) Community College.
Byrd — ranked No. 48 nationally among’s Top 100 junior college prospects — is scheduled to graduate from Pearl River in May.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Original Dirt Dog Gone to Cleveland

The news that Trot Nixon had signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday took be aback. I know I’m an old timer and the way I enjoy sports like my whiskey is particularly old fashioned. It seems to me these days that team personnel is always in flux. There is little continuity from year to year. The free agency system has caused this and the escalating salaries that players make these days (did I mention Trot signed for $3 million to be a part time right fielder). But it has always grieved me to see one of my favorite players in the uniform of another team. It seems like in the past thatnot all players, but the great ones always had a career with one team. Can you see Stan Musial playing for anyone other than the Cardinals, or Teddy Ballgame anything but a Red Sox? Joe Montana will always be a 49’er and Larry Bird always a Celtic. It brought tears to my eyes seeing Bobby Orr skating in a Black Hawks jersey.
Trot Nixon never was a great player, but there was something about him over his 13-year career in Boston that seemed to cry out Red Sox. He was not a great fielder as right fielders go. He could never climb the walls as Jimmy Piersal did in his day. But he always made the great play when it counted most. He was not a great power hitter like Dwight Evans, but he got the big hit just when the Sox needed it, Like the walk off homer against Oakland in 2004 to keep Boston alive in the playoffs.
Nixon was there at the beginning of the current Red Sox renaissance. And he was in the forefront of the Red Sox mystique. When they were the Dirt Dogs, Trot was the Dirtiest. When Kevin Millar titled them the cowboys, Trot was always the first to Cowboy –up and when Johnny Damon labeled the team, the idiots. Trot’s clubhouse antics fit right in.
Granted, it was time for him to go. Nixon could no long play a whole season without significant loss of playing time due to injury. But it makes this Red Sox fan sad to see him go.