New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman sent a clear message during the draft.

He’s all-in on quarterback Eli Manning going into his age-37 season, and there’s an urgency to win now. How do we know?

At No. 2, the Giants went with a running back, which indicates a need to build around Manning. Gettleman also acquired Will Hernandez to strengthen the interior of the offensive line. The UTEP product should help keep defensive tackles away from Manning and clear lanes for Saquon Barkley.

Barkley immediately elevates the Giants backfield that currently rosters 31-year-old Jonathan Stewart, 2017 fourth-rounder Wayne Gallman, third-year ball-carrier Jalen Simmons and undrafted rookie Robert Martin. 

Secondly, it would serve the Jets well to give Bridgewater time on the field to showcase him as a trade asset. Once Darnold starts, there’s no turning back, but it’s not going to happen until midway through the year at the earliest. McCown has never started a full 16-game season, and he’s not going to start at age 39.

The Browns need a lead cornerback after trading Jason McCourty to the New England Patriots. The front office acquired slot cornerback T.J. Carrie and E.J. Gaines. The latter put together a solid year with the Bills, but injuries have cost him several games in the past three seasons. 

It helped that their rookie class was one of the best in league history. They became the first team in half a century to possess both the Offensive (Alvin Kamara) and Defensive (Marshon Lattimore) Rookies of the Year, but it didn’t stop there. First-round offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and second-round safety Marcus Williams also became tremendous assets as regular starters. 

There’s no reason to believe those four won’t continue to improve coming off their first full offseasons in the league. And if that happens, a team that was a Super Bowl contender in 2017 might actually become a favorite in 2018.  bucks_238

Yawkey Way name change gets green light from Boston

Boston officials Thursday approved changing the name of Yawkey Way, the street outside Fenway Park, because of allegations that former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was a racist who resisted hiring black ballplayers in the 1940s and ’50s.

The Red Sox filed a petition with the commission in February and said that restoring the Jersey Street name is intended to reinforce that Fenway Park is “inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Principal owner John Henry told the Boston Herald last year that “I am still haunted by what went on here a long time before we arrived.”

Yawkey owned the Red Sox from 1933 until 1976. The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball franchise to field a black player, when infielder Pumpsie Green was called up in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson debuted for the Dodgers.

Prior to that, the team chose not to sign several prominent black players, including Robinson and Willie Mays.

The Yawkey Foundations acknowledged that in its statement but said the good it has done far outweighs the negative, including the more than $300 million the foundation has provided to organizations throughout the city.

Snell enters the game against the Red Sox riding a most unusual streak for him: He has posted back-to-back starts without a walk, representing the first time he has done so during his professional career since way back when he was a rookie baller in 2011 — and he faced just seven batters in each of those games back then, compared to 23 and 25 during his active streak.

Remarkably, Snell has done this despite having yet to improve upon the one aspect of his game that might result in a significant breakthrough — getting strike one. Through five starts, he has a mere 54 percent first-pitch strike rate, and in both of his walkless outings, his rate was just 52 percent. In fact, since his major league debut on April 23, 2016, Snell’s 55.1 percent first-pitch strike rate is fourth worst among pitchers who have faced at least 1,000 batters.

In other words, Snell is going to need to show some sort of improvement getting ahead in counts before I’d fully buy into the idea that he’s at the level of a top-40 fantasy starting pitcher. Considering some of his other improvements, however, I am more than willing to buy in at anything even slightly beneath that price point, because I think it’s an area in which he’ll improve.

For one, Snell has shown a noticeable increase in fastball velocity since a mid-2017 demotion to Triple-A Durham so he could refocus and polish his mechanics. As a rookie in 2016, he averaged 93.5 mph with the pitch, and in his first eight starts of 2017 (pre-demotion) he averaged 93.6 mph. In his 21 starts since then, he has seen that speed increase to 94.8 mph. As a result, Snell has allowed a .307 wOBA with his fastball during that span, down from .412 in his career before the demotion.

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Story’s power, Freeland’s arm help Rockies beat Padres 8-0

Kyle Freeland’s left heel throbbed after being hit by a liner.

The pain actually helped him bear down and make some of his best pitches.

“I was thinking more about my heel than my mechanics,” Freeland said.

San Diego lefty Eric Lauer (0-1) had a rough outing in his major league debut. He allowed seven runs, six earned, over three innings.

“Like I said to him on the mound when I took the ball from him, `There’s going to be a lot of really good days ahead. You’re going to remember this because you’re going to come back from this one and have a lot of really good days,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “Definitely not the debut I know he was looking for, but humble beginnings are a good place to start from.”

One consolation: Lauer picked up his first big league hit on a bloop single.

“It kind of hurt my hand a little bit but I’ll take it,” Lauer said.

With its season at stake, Indiana played hard, aggressive and tough.

And it showed with a record-breaking victory margin.

Kevin Love hurt his left wrist on a hard fall midway through the second quarter and wound up scoring just seven points while shooting 3 of 10 from the field.

James took a shot, too, cutting the side of his left eye when he ran into Thaddeus Young’s elbow on a drive late in the first half. No foul was called and James returned with a bandage protecting his face.

But with a relaxed Oladipo figuring out how to defeat the Cavs’ double teams, he rediscovered his shooting touch. Oladipo finished with 13 rebounds, 10 assists and was 11 of 19 from the field and 6 of 8 on 3s to keep the Pacers in charge most of the game.

After the Pacers erased a 22-17 deficit with a 12-2 run, the Cavs never led again.

“We just got hot,” said Paul, who had 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the third quarter and 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the game. “Guys started making shots. We talked going into the game about being aggressive, and I think we all just tried to do that.”

Houston, which led by one point at halftime, opened the second half with an 11-0 run as Harden and Paul combined for all the scoring. The Rockets led by double digits the rest of the game, putting the Timberwolves on the brink of elimination as the series returns to Houston.

“Obviously everybody will look at the 50 points that we scored in the quarter, but it was our defense,” Paul said. “We finally started getting them to take tough shots, we were getting rebounds and we’re tough in transition. You’ve got James coming downhill, myself and the way we’ve got the court spaced with shooters is big. That really turned it up for us.”

The sharpshooter is still listed as questionable for Game 1 on Saturday.jets_029

Mo Bamba: Jump straight to NBA from high school would have ‘taken game to next level’

Top NBA draft prospect and former Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba said the opportunity to go straight from high school to the NBA would have been too good of a chance to pass up — had the means been in place — and that it would have “taken my game to the next level.”

Bamba, who last month declared for June’s draft and is a projected lottery pick, said Wednesday in an interview on ESPN’s The Jump that his one year in college has no doubt been invaluable.

“It would have taken my game to the next level,” Bamba said of a jump to the NBA out of high school. “Because now, what’s so night and day between being a college student-athlete, is that you got to split up times for different things — all right, now I have to actually study and write this essay; I have to crank it out because it’s due tomorrow at 10 a.m.

“But now, I’m literally, the only thing I’m studying is myself. I’m really, like, fully invested in my body, and I’m really liking this professional thing.”

When asked what it would mean to be drafted by his hometown New York Knicks, the Harlem native indicated he hasn’t tempered his expectations.

Wearing an Embiid jersey, the Philadelphia-born rapper rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before tipoff of Game 5. He received a thunderous ovation from the Wells Fargo Center crowd upon introduction and was seated courtside, next to 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and comedian Kevin Hart.

Before and after the Sixers’ win, Mill met with players and team personnel in the team’s locker room.

“It was like this mass happiness, hysteria,” Rubin said after Philadelphia’s victory. “The city’s so excited to have him. The team’s so excited.”

Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, had been fighting for his release while appealing a two- to four-year sentence for a probation violation.

His controversial incarceration has drawn response from the sports community.

Rubin has been one of Mill’s biggest supporters. He tweeted Tuesday that he was on his way to pick up the rapper from prison, and hours later posted a photo on Instagram of the two heading to Game 5.jets_130

Cardinals and Bears start offseason program tomorrow

Offseason? What offseason?

While free agency has largely come and gone, and we’ve still got a few weeks before the draft, a few teams are about to get to work for the 2018 campaign.

Teams are also allowed to have one mandatory minicamp for veterans, and teams with new head coaches get an additional voluntary minicamp prior to the draft.

The Ravens will be thinking about wide receiver and offensive line with this pick, but like the Packers, they could use some rebooting in their 3-4 with Wink Martindale taking over the scheme and Terrell Suggs turning 36 in October. Davenport can turn into a Suggs-like dynamo while learning from the veteran in a situational role at first.

The Chargers are nasty on the edges with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but they could use more explosiveness inside to round out what has the makings of an elite defense in 2018. Payne has Bosa-like short-area speed and can add to opponents’ backfield nightmares.

We posted an item earlier today regarding a report from WEEI that the Patriots will be trading tight end Rob Gronkowski in the coming weeks. The report, which was being picked up by other websites, appeared in a single tweet that had no equivocation of any kind. It was clear, it was plain, and it was getting noticed.

And it was all some sort of time-delayed April Fool’s Day gag, apparently.

Chris Curtis of WEEI called me a little while ago to explain that it was a joke. I’m still scanning the tweet for the setup, the reinforcement, and/or the payoff.

That is a humorous anecdote. I can’t wait to tell that one at parties and other social gatherings.

I told Curtis I’m not happy about any of this. Needless to say, nothing WEEI ever reports again will be taken seriously in this space. It’s hard enough to keep people up to date on everything that’s happening in the NFL without people throwing gratuitous and unfunny hurdles in our path.bills_260

Mark Rypien said he attempted suicide, suffers from depression

Mark Rypien is a former Super Bowl MVP and went 52-34 in his 11-year NFL career. The former quarterback’s life off the field has not gone as swimmingly, and Rypien wonders whether multiple concussions in football played a part.

“My story is impactful because people see me in a different light. I want them to see me in an accurate light,” Rypien said. “I’ve been down the darkest path. I’ve made some horrible, horrible mistakes. But I’ve given myself a chance to progress forward.”

Murray is doing that in passing lanes. He just appears out of nowhere, with preposterous arms, and intercepts simple side-to-side passes. Lanes appear wide open, and then, whoosh, Murray is going the other way. He averages two steals and 3.5 deflections per 36 minutes, elite marks. San Antonio’s defense is eight points per 100 possessions stingier with Murray on the floor, per NBA.com.

Oh, and he’s also just grabbing the ball from people. Excuse me, Andrew Wiggins, you seem very polite and can jump very high, but I will be taking the basketball. Thank you for your participation in this exercise.

But without a long-term contract, Anshah isn’t likely to attend the offseason program. Making it harder for Patricia to conclude that the franchise-tagged pass rusher should be part of the franchise’s future.

Ansah, a first-round pick in 2013, concluded his rookie deal in 2017. Injuries have contributed to a sense of inconsistency, which has prompted the Lions to opt for caution before committing major money to Ansah.

If Patricia likes what he sees from Ansah, it could end up being very expensive to keep him in 2019. At a tag this year of $17.143 million, Ansah would be entitled to a 20-percent raise for next year. That would be $20.57 million for a second season under the tag.bills_061

New league will go without kickoffs, and NFL will watch closely

The NFL seems to be moving toward eliminating kickoffs, and leading the way will be the new Alliance of American Football.

That upstart league, which will begin play in 10 months, will not have any kickoffs. The biggest obstacle to the NFL’s desire to eliminate kickoffs has been figuring out what to do about onside kicks, and the new league will allow teams to try to keep the ball after scoring by running one offensive play, needing 10 yards to get the ball.

In the 12th, Warren walked pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez with one out and Santander singled with two out before Gentry came up big after fouling off four two-strike pitches.

The loss left the Yanks 5-5 heading into a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox that begins Tuesday night at Fenway Park. 

Before facing Boston, the Yankees will have a day off, and they need the rest because their bullpen had to eat up 20 2/3 innings in their last three games, 7 2/3 on Sunday.

It’s a sign of solidarity as new coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman attempt to reshape the team’s culture and while Beckham still desires a new contract.

It provides the Giants a chance to look in person at the ankle he shattered last October and shows that Beckham is willing to buy into the new program. The hope is that this leads to more serious contract negotiations in the near future after the Giants left the door open for a trade two weeks ago at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Florida.

Offseason workouts are voluntary under the collective bargaining agreement. Beckham and Olivier Vernon weren’t around for much of the team’s offseason workout program last year. Vernon is also expected to attend this year with the team learning new offensive and defensive schemes under a new coaching staff.

Shurmur said last month he expected Beckham to be in attendance for the team’s offseason program, which starts Monday and officially ends with a mandatory minicamp in mid-June. Beckham has been working out vigorously in Los Angeles most of this offseason.bills_044

Broncos Hosting Wyoming QB Josh Allen For Pre-Draft Visit

Mike Klis of 9 News reports that the Browns are hosting Wyoming QB Josh Allen for a pre-draft visit on Monday.

The Broncos have been doing work on all of the top quarterback prospects, so this shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

Denver is sitting at No. 5 overall and while three quarterbacks could be taken in the first four picks, it’s possible one of the top-four quarterback prospects could still be on the board by the time the Broncos are on the clock.

Our NHL experts, including John Buccigross, Linda Cohn, Emily Kaplan, Steve Levy, Barry Melrose and Greg Wyshynski, forecast the first-round playoff series and predict who will lift Lord Stanley’s Cup this year. (Hint: It won’t be the Penguins.)

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel were the most obvious choices from the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, so if you liked the Penguins to repeat, they would have been no-brainer selections for your squad. Like clockwork, they finished one, two and three in scoring, and that was that.

The Broncos have continued to drop subtle hints that this may well be the case with the various workouts and visits scheduled with a few of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. According to JJ Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago, the Broncos appear to be zoned in on taking former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Having a great overall athletic profile is a great start, but even if a player doesn’t measure well overall, pass rushers have a more specific drill that’s valued above all others. Derek Barnett (4.89 RAS) was selected in the first round by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles last year despite an underwhelming overall profile, but his 6.96-second 3-cone was more than enough to supplement his exceptional tape.

The success rate for edge rushers with a sub-7.0 second 3-cone is incredibly high. Fourteen of the 39 players who posted times in that range have gone on to produce double-digit sacks in a season.rams_086

Cowboys release CB Orlando Scandrick, per his request

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick has been granted his request to be released by the Cowboys, ESPN.com reports.

The move will free up about $3 million in salary cap space for Dallas this season, to be applied June 1, although Scandrick will count $1.6 million against the team’s cap in 2019, according to the report.

Stephen Curry, dressed and with backpack on, hopped up and down a few times on his tender left knee in the locker room with a big grin alongside athletic trainer Chelsea Lane. They’re going on the quick road trip to Phoenix.

Curry did some light work on the court then iced his injured left knee before the game while munching popcorn at his locker.

He’s still a week from having his sprained knee re-evaluated and Kerr ruled him out for the first round of the playoffs.

“We’ll talk a week from today,” Kerr said. “There’s nothing to report.”

The Warriors waived forward Omri Casspi after the game. Casspi has been sidelined by an ankle injury and Golden State needed to clear a roster spot in order to make room for Cook to be on the playoff roster.

Neither club took batting practice, and players on both teams were bundled up when they came on the field. Several wore hoods under their caps to try to stay warm and combat the frigid conditions, which have been fairly common throughout Major League Baseball in the season’s first two weeks.

The Royals have already had two games postponed due to weather.

Saturday’s temperature was 34 at first pitch, and the game’s only run came on Lucas Duda’s seventh-inning homer off Trevor Bauer. The teams combined for nine hits, and Royals starter Ian Kennedy said the ball felt like an ice cube before he rubbed it up.

According to records kept by the Indians dating to 1970, the lowest game-time temperature at Municipal Stadium, the club’s home on Lake Erie until 1993, was 32 degrees on April 7, 1979. Cleveland’s Rick Waits pitched a one-hit shutout that day against Boston, with Jerry Remy getting the only Red Sox hit.

Tigers: Cabrera was back at first base and batting third two days after he jammed his hip when he tripped and fell rounding first on a single in the first inning. Cabrera played the field in the bottom half on Thursday before being replaced by Niko Goodrum.buccaneers_007