– Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau has been named Coach of the Year for the 2010-11 season. A nice honour for the first-year head coach. Thibodeau guided the Bulls to a league-best 62-20 record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
– In an interview with the AP, RHP Pedro Martinez virtually ruled out a return to the major leagues and said he will likely retire. He has been staying in shape in the Dominican Republic at the Pedro Youth Academy. “I keep active because I have not announced my retirement, because that is something that takes time and you have to plan it. Plus, it is something that the Dominican people expected,” Martinez said. Pedro’s last start came in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series with the Phillies. Martinez is 219-100 with a 2.93 ERA and 3,154 strikeouts in 18 major league seasons.
– Phillies’ 2B Chase Utley (knee) played in a simulated game Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Utley had some at-bats against pitching coach Rich Dubee, ran the bases and took grounders at second base. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did not rule out sending him to Florida by the end of the week to start playing in games in extended spring training. The Phillies will evaluate Utley on Monday and have him scheduled for another simulated game Tuesday if he feels up to it.
– A preliminary X-ray on Astros’ OF Carlos Lee (chest) showed no fractures. He’s scheduled to undergo a CT scan as well. Lee was carted off the field Sunday after he was injured in a collision with SS Angel Sanchez, in which both players were chasing a pop fly in the 7th inning. Sanchez’ knee connected with Lee’s abdomen as both men slid. Manager Brad Mills said, “When he gets over this, he’s going to come back and be fine. He had the two hits and the big home run, which was nice, obviously. When he’s healed, he’ll pick up right where he left off. He’ll be fine.”
– Cardinals’ 3B David Freese (left hand) suffered a broken bone in his left hand in Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Freese was hit by a pitch on the left hand by a pitch and was pulled from the game after initially staying in to run the bases. He said after the game that he may require surgery and will almost definitely be put on the DL.
– Rangers’ RHP Neftali Feliz told USA Today that he doesn’t want to start in the future. “I spent most of spring training as a starter and I enjoyed it. But I’m a closer now, and God willing I’ll remain a closer the rest of my career. I made the decision that I won’t start anymore.” Feliz attributed his current shoulder injury, in part, to being used as a starter in spring training. “The team has told me that next year I would still have the chance to start, but I don’t want to do it anymore. This year my arm didn’t feel good after they moved me from the rotation back to closing, so I don’t want to go through that again and risk the same thing happening.” Barring a setback during his rehab assignment, Feliz will be activated from the DL on Friday, the first day he’s eligible.
Feliz has since backtracked his comments. After Sunday’s game, he wavered a bit. “Right now, I’m not even worried about that. Right now, I’m just focused on being the closer. Right now, I’m trying to get back healthy. I’m not thinking about being a starter or not being a starter.” Asked if he would reconsider being a starter if the club asked him after the season, Feliz said: “We’ll see how this year goes. I’m focused on being a closer. At the end of the year, we’ll talk about it again.”
– Phillies’ RHP Brad Lidge (rotator cuff) played catch Saturday for the first time since his shoulder injury was diagnosed. “It’s a big day for me, for sure,” Lidge said. He’ll continue to play catch for a few weeks to build arm strength before progressing to long toss, bullpen sessions and eventually a rehab assignment. He hopes to be back sometime in June. “My goal all along is to be back some time in June. I think that’s reachable for sure as long as there aren’t any setbacks. But I have to be smart here when we’re building up because obviously if you set it off again, it can mean bad things.”
– Brewers’ RHP Takashi Saito (strained left oblique) is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Saito suffered the injury Thursday while pitching in a rehab game for his hamstring malady, an injury that had already cost him nearly a month. Saito received a cortisone injection Saturday.
– Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t dismiss the possibility that 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) could be moved to shortstop when he returns. “Well, just get Nishi well and we will make all the decisions on when and where. We know he can play both sides of the infield. Whatever makes our team better is what we’ll do when Nishi comes back.” The Twins have grown frustrated by the play of SS Alexi Casilla, who is batting .167 and has made numerous mistakes both on the field and on the basepaths. Moving Nishioka over to shortstop would allow Gardy to keep UTIL Michael Cuddyer at second base, while DH Jim Thome and OF Jason Kubel would be everyday players. Nishioka is expected back in mid-to-late May.
– A source tells the NY Daily News that the Jets’ 4th-round pick of RB Bilal Powell will not affect RB LaDainian Tomlinson’s roster spot. GM Mike Tannenbaum stressed in a separate story, “you can’t have enough good backs,” so it doesn’t sound like the Jets are giving any thought to releasing LT2 after his late-season fade.
– Bengals’ coach Marvin Lewis indicated that re-signing free agent RB Cedric Benson will be the clubs’ top priority once the transactions freeze is lifted. The Bengals didn’t draft a running back with any of their eight draft picks. The 28-year-old averaged a poor 3.46 YPC last year.
In addition, Lewis believes No. 35 overall pick QB Andy Dalton is plenty capable of being a Week 1 starter. “I don’t think there’s an exact need. I feel really good about the guy we were able to draft (Dalton), and if he ends up being the starter as a rookie, I think he can do that. … We chose Andy because we feel that he has less of a learning curve and will be able to do things very quickly.”
– Vikings’ coach Leslie Frazier has made it clear that QB Christian Ponder will be given every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job this summer. “That would be the ideal situation — we’ve got our Matt Ryan, we’ve got our Flacco, we’ve got our Sanchez right here. But because of the uncertainty of the offseason, it’s just hard to determine exactly how you want to approach it.” If Ponder completes training camp, he’ll almost definitely win the starting gig.
– Despite coach Mike Munchak’s comments to the contrary, Titans’ GM Mike Reinfeldt plans to add a veteran quarterback to start over QB Jake Locker this season. “We’d still like a guy that’s been a seasoned guy that could step in and play. I don’t think we want to put the pressure on Jake to have to do it. I think we want to be able to let him go at his own pace.” Reinfeldt wants a 2-year contract for a veteran to take over until Locker is ready to start. Beat writer John Glennon suggests QB Matt Hasselbeck, who also has ties to the Titans’ front office.
– The National Football Post’s Dan Pompei suggests that CB Prince Amukamara fell in the draft because “a lot of NFL people are skeptical” about football players from Nigeria. Here’s what Pompei writes: “The word on Nigerians: they are soft, not tough enough and too educated. It would be a pity if that’s what cost Amukamara.” Wow.
– 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear that he fully expects free agent QB Alex Smith to re-sign and start the season for the club. “Alex is going to definitely have the head start. He has played in the National Football League. He’s won games in the National Football League. So if I’m a betting man, I’m betting on Alex Smith.” The 49ers are highly unlikely to add another veteran QB, but Colin Kaepernick will make a run at the gig if or when Smith falters during the season.
– Redskins’ coach Mike Shanahan implied he would be comfortable with QB John Beck as his starting quarterback in 2011. Maybe he’s shooting for Andrew Luck in next year’s draft. “When (Beck) came out in 2007 … he was by far my No. 1 guy. I think the world of him.” QB Donovan McNabb won’t return to D.C. and QB Rex Grossman is a free agent, leaving Beck as the only current Skins QB. Soon to be 30, Beck has made just four career starts and looked completely incompetent in them.
In addition, Shanahan confirmed that 4th-rounder RB Roy Helu and 6th-rounder RB Evan Royster will compete with RB Ryan Torain for the Redskins’ starting tailback job. Shanahan had especially high praise for Helu’s speed and playmaking ability, comparing him to an early-career Clinton Portis. “He was that 4.45 guy coming out, very physical, and once he had that open lane, he could go the distance … I look at Helu as having that type of ability, that type of speed.” Torain will enter camp atop the depth chart, but Helu will likely have an impact this season.
– It’s being rumoured that WWE has offered Batista a contract to return to the organization.
– Michelle McCool was written off WWE programming tonight at Extreme Rules as she lost an emotionally-charged Loser Leaves WWE Match to Layla. After apologizing to the Divas locker room, Layla turned her recent streak of losses around when the Diva Search winner had to fight to stay in WWE. The No-Disqualification, No Count-out Match concluded with Layla countering McCool’s attempt at Faithbreaker with a crucifix pin.
While McCool broke down in tears alone in the ring, the wrestler formerly known as Awesome Kong emerged. Upon entering the ring, Kharma grasped McCool and delivered a implant buster butterfly suplex. Backstage, the Divas echoed concern over Kharma’s debut. Similarly to Hugh Morrus, Kharma switched between maniacal laughter and seriousness. It is unclear at this time whether McCool is leaving WWE permanently.
– Kevin Nash teased a return to TNA Wrestling last week due to it appearing that WWE will not bring him back as a performer.
“WWE going young. Your my fan base, sit on my ass or watch my buddy’s Sting ass?”