Friday, March 30, 2012

Tampa Rays rookie Moore solid in start against Pirates

Matt Moore turned in a strong performance for the Tampa Rays Friday in the team's last visit to McKechnie Field.

The rookie lefty allowed three hits and one running in six innings striking out three and issuing one walk. They only run came on a fourth inning homer by Casey McGehee. He three 88 pitches with 56 going for strikes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tampa Rays Upton says he will start season on DL

Tampa Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton said he will be placed on the DL to start the season as he recovers from an outfield collision he had March 14th with Desmond Jennings that has left him with a sore back.

The Rays announced they were sending catcher Chris Gimenez to minor league camp and optioning pitcher Brandon Gomes to Triple A.

The moves mean Jose Labaton will probably be the backup catcher and Burke Badenhop has a spot in the bullpen. In other news, the Rays said right-handed pitchers Ryan Reid and Marquis Fleming are going to be re-assigned.

Shortstop Reid Brignac, still fighting plantar fascia in his right foot, went 1 for 4 with a homer in a Triple A game on Wednesday and jumped around with no negative impact on his foot.
“I still think there is plenty of opportunity here. Just because it’s not at the onset doesn’t mean it can’t happen at any point in the season,” Gimenez said. “You just have to take that attitude into it. You can handle it two ways. You can go down and be Bitter Bob about it or be your normal self. I don’t plan on being Bitter Bob.

“I would’ve liked to have caught a little more this spring. But being able to play those other positions was a benefit and I got a ton of at-bats and that was awesome. I feel like the last two weeks I feel like I was making good strides. I still feel like this is a good spot to be.”

Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Pirates Gimenez was hitting .209 with nine hits in 43 at-bats. He had one double and one home run.

Joe Maddon names Tampa Rays' starting rotation

The Tampa Rays revealed their starting rotation Wednesday naming James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson as the starters (in that order) for the first three regular season games beginning Friday, April 6th at home against the Yankees.

Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann, the last two in the rotation, will make their season debuts at Detroit in the Rays second series.

In naming the starters, Rays manager Joe Maddon said he and his staff took into consideration the entire month of April and not just the opening day.

The difference from last year is that Moore, who was brought up last September, replaces last year's starter Wade Davis, who has been relegated to the bullpen. Davis has expressed disappointment about not being part of the rotation, but has vowed to pitch strong.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USF releases 2012 football schedule

The University of South Florida’s 2012 football schedule will have a new wrinkle that makes you wonder if it might have been influenced by the presence of new Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.

For the first time since 2007 USF will play a Big East Conference game in September and it will be at home against Rutgers, the team Schiano coached for 11 years before accepting the Bucs job.

In fact September will be a big month for the Bulls. Besides Rutgers they play Florida State on September 29th at Raymond James Stadium in their second meeting and first since USF beat Seminoles in Tallahassee 17-7 three years ago.

USF opens its season Saturday September 1st at home against FCS Tennessee-Chattanooga. The following week it travels west to Reno to face the University of Nevada. The Rutgers game is scheduled for September 15th though it could change slightly and on the 22nd USF will be on the road at Ball State.

The Bulls will be in Philadelphia on Oct 6th to face Big East Conference newcomer Temple. After a bye, USF has three straight conference games beginning at Louisville and then home against Syracuse and Connecticut.

Following another bye, the Bulls travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes November 17th and then head to Cincinnati the next Friday game on ESPN on November 23d. They finish up their season at home December 1st against Pittsburgh in nationally televised game.

Complete 2012 Schedule
Sat., Sept. 1 UT-Chattanooga
Sat., Sept. 8 at Nevada
Sat., Sept. 15 Rutgers* (Date subject to change)
Sat., Sept. 22 at Ball St.
Sat., Sept. 29 Florida St. (ABC/ESPN or ESPN2)
Sat., Oct. 6 at Temple*
Sat., Oct. 13 BYE
Sat., Oct. 20 at Louisville*
Sat., Oct. 27 Syracuse*
Sat., Nov. 3 UConn*
Sat., Nov. 10 BYE
Sat., Nov. 17 at Miami
Fri., Nov. 23 at Cincinnati* (ESPN/ESPN2)
Sat., Dec. 1 Pittsburgh* (ABC/ESPN or ESPN2)

* - BIG EAST Conference games

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rosters set for PAL Manatee-Sarasota County Senior Basketball Showcase

Some of the top seniors from Manatee and Sarasota County will go against each other Saturday in the annual PAL Senior Basketball Showcase at Bayshore High.
The girls game tips off at 4:30 p.m. and the boys are scheduled to begin play at 6 p.m. Bayshore High's Jamaal Sanders will coach the Manatee County girls squad and Bruins head coach Shawn Campbell will coach the boys team.
Sarasota High girls coach Rob Jutras will coach the Sarasota County girls and Sarasota Christian head coach Phil Helmuth will coach the Sarasota County boys.
The Manatee County girls will feature Palmetto High's Blair Thomas and Lakewood Ranch's Gabriella Diaz-Granados two of the area's top scorers. Out-Of-Door-Academy's 1,000 point career scorer Mara Falahee will play for Sarasota County.
The Manatee County boys roster includes a trio from Braden River, which had the county's best record, in sharp shooting guard Tre' Bryant, Jeff Casseus and Tommy Bernhardt. The roster also includes Bradenton Christian leader scorer Joey Carolla. Out-Of-Door Academy 1,000 point scorer Maura Falahee will play for Sarasota County.
Here are the rosters:
MANATEE COUNTY:
Boys:
Bayshore: David Cruz, Vincent Scanes, Navjot Gill, Tyderian Jenkins, David Scavella, Jesus Ayvar
Bradeton Christian: Joey Carolla, Cameron Van Buren,
Braden River: Tre' Bryant, Tommy Bernhardt, Jeff Casseus, Eric Foster, Austin Lee
Lakewood Ranch: Brian Cobb, Zach Ainge, Winston Bridges
Manatee: Austin Gordon, Zach Haughy, Ryan Schroeder, Osiris Shabazz-Stephenson
Palmetto: Terreance Mann
Southeast: Cy'kobe Johnson
Girls:
Bayshore: Elissa Alvarez, Quinnia Streeter-Thurman
Lakewood Ranch: Gabriella Diaz-Granados
Palmetto: Blair Thomas, Kayla Moore
Southeast- Tiffany West
SARASOTA COUNTY:
Boys:
Booker: Jamal Gaines
Cardinal Mooney: Danny Stokes, Dylan Blakely, Nick Stallings, Cole Collins
North Port: Larry Taylor, Joe Wilber, Jeff Dormil
Out-Of-Door-Academy: Fred Porter
Riverview: Vince Cherry, Jeremy Jones, Eric Traver
Sarasota: Fernando Rivera, Jacob Carter, Alonzo Boezem, Tanner Weigand
Sarasota Christian: Logan Mayer
Venice: David Voigt, Nate Curtner, Zach Flerlage
Girls:
Booker: Breanna Browning
North Port: Keosha Harris, Ashley Mashaw
Out-Of-Door-Academy: Mara Falahee
Riverview: Brittany Mobley, Heather Horne, Lauren Wilson
Sarasota: Juliana Calvallaro, Kelly Jutras, Tarayn Burns, Mariah Williams
Venice: Laura Hackett, Hannaah Revels, Brooke Shipps,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wade Davis has rough outing against Marlins

Tampa Rays veteran pitcher Wade Davis had a rough outing Sunday against the Miami Marlins in his fight to gain the last spot in the starting rotation.

In 4 2/3 innings, the right hander was tagged for two homers, gave up seven hits and three walks while allowing four runs (all earned) with three walks and a wild pitch. He threw 91 pitches with 52 going for strikes.

"I fell behind way too much and that is what caused me to throw balls over the plate," Davis said. "But I took some positives from it. I threw some good sliders and couple of good change-ups and good fastballs early. I felt really good about my approach in the first. I was real aggressive and was making good pitches. After that I got a little sluggish and had to battle up hill."

Davis said he realized he could be destined for the bullpen, but was prepared to deal with that and promised he would still pitch tough and give it his best if that turns out to be his fate.

"I would've loved to have done a lot better, but it's one of those things where it's tough to analyze," Davis said. "I have definitely excelled more this year (in spring) than I have in the past, but at the same time you want to do better. I have added more weapons to my repertoire, but ultimately it is not up to me."

Braden River football trio take JUCO route

Three Braden River football players recently signed letters of intent to play junior college next season.

Offensive lineman Jeff Casseus and wide receiver Troy Gatling have signed with New Mexico Military Academy and quarterback Steven Ross has accepted a scholarship to play at Hutchinson Community College (Kansas), according to Braden River head coach Don Purvis.

The 6-7, 270 pound Casseus, who was also a standout with the Pirates basketball team, is expected to play tackle and the 6-3, 185 pound Gatling will continue to work at receiver, Purvis said.

"New Mexico Military has sent a lot of guys on to Division I schools (FBS) and that is what those two want to do," Purvis said. "Ross' dad played at Hutchinson and they want to use at quarterback, which is the position he wants to play. Those were factors on why he wanted to go there."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Namath calls Tebow trade a publicity stunt: Who should know better better!

Joe Namath called the Jets trade for Tim Tebow nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Maybe we should take his statement to heart because when it came to garnering publicity no one was better than Namath, who at times stood on the sidelines in a fur coat with white shoes and did some things that were considered bizarre before bizarre became the norm for NFL players.

He was known as “Broadway Joe” and cynics might say he doesn’t want to give that tag up to guy who might someday be called “Broadway Tim”

There seems to be an endless list of nicknames to describe Tim Tebow: Shall we start with
“Timsanity” __”Times Square Timmy”__”Wildcat Tim”___”TimRannosaurus RexRyan”___or maybe the standard “Leap of Faith Tim”

But getting back to Joe “Willie” Namath.

Among his most notable publicity stunts, Namath posed for a panty hose commercial and then there was his infamous “guarantee” that his Jets would win Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts.

The Jets say they are serious and are going to put in some special packages for Tebow to take advantage of his special skills (whatever they are) such as running the Wildcat.

When Namath was winding up his career with the Jets there was no such thing as a Wildcat, but then Jets head coach Lou Holtz put in a package that had the famed quarterback heading to the sidelines when New York got inside the 10 or thereabouts.

Holtz, the father of current USF head coach Skip Holtz, felt the Jets needed a more mobile quarterback for those redzone opportunities and Namath’s knees were starting to crackle.

Namath obviously didn’t like it and reportedly got his message across to Holtz, who resigned one game before the season ended in his only year as an NFL coach.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lakewood Ranch product Austin Reiter front runner for starting center job at USF

Austin Reiter heads into spring practice as the front runner to take over the starting center position for the University of South Florida football team.

The Lakewood Ranch High product will be trying to replace Chaz Hine, who started there for the Bulls last season.

The 6-3, 278 pound Reiter will be a redshirt sophomore next season. He graduated Lakewood Ranch early and joined the Bulls in midyear of 2010 and sat out the season, but gained valuable experience.

Reiter appeared in 10 games last year as a backup and was on special teams. When he decided to join the Bulls after high school he was told he would have a legitimate chance at earning the starting nod at center his redshirt sophomore year and is right on schedule.

How much will Sean Payton's suspension help the Tampa Bay Bucs

A question floating around these parts is how much Sean Payton’s one year suspension will help the Tampa Bay Bucs.

When you look at head to head competition it appears the affect will be minimal. But it’s the overall success Payton has had as the New Orleans Saints head football coach that will affect the Bucs the most next season.

Payton is 6-6 against the Bucs, though a couple of those losses were games some believe he just threw away because they were at the end of the season and he was resting players for the playoffs.

From the Bucs standpoint the most impressive thing about Payton is that he is 13-5 in the NFC South Division the last three years wining two division titles. During that span, which included the Saints 2010 Super Bowl championship, Payton is 3-3 against the Bucs.

The thing is when Payton beat the Bucs in two of the three times since 2009 he beat them bad, 31-6 in 2010 and 27-16 last year in a game that was a lot more one-sided then the final score indicates.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Victor Rudd should stay at USF

USF sophomore forward Victor Rudd announced he is looking into the draft. He should reconsider.

He doesn’t have an agent and that is good because it means he can return if he changes his mind. The transfer from Arizona State has until April 10th to change his mind before losing his eligibility.

March madness must have gotten into Rudd’s head. The 6-7 wing man’s resume shows five post season games where he averaged 14.7 points and 7 rebounds. He was previously in single digits.

It’s not enough to get him drafted and only first rounders get guaranteed contracts. Rudd has not been mentioned among those figured to be selected in the first two rounds. He is a long shot at best and it makes no sense for him to go.

He is unproven and NBA teams are going to be skeptical of him for leaving Arizona State and getting suspended from his high school team.

The NBA draft has had more than its share of talented kids like him who came out early or out of high school under the old rules and wound up in the basketball graveyard.

Here is some advice Victor: Stay in school, build up your resume. It makes no "cents" to come out now.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wade Davis finishes 3d spring appearance with question marks

Wade Davis finished his most extensive outing for the Rays this spring in their game against the Phillies and one might say the jury is still out on his performance.

On a good note, the righthander threw a spring high 68 pitches and 44 went for strikes. It was an improvement over his last appearance when he threw 58 pitches (27 for strikes).

The problem was Davis was tagged for eight hits, threw a wild pitch and hit a batter in four innings where he allowed four runs (3 earned).

Coming into the game, Davis had worked 4.2 innings with a 3.86 ERA. He had given up four hits and struck out three while holding hitters to a collective .222 batting average.

Maddon sheds his red locks for a good cause

There will be no more questions about when Joe Maddon will take the dye out of his red hair__At least for the time being.

The Rays manager had his dome shaved today at the Charlotte Sports Park kicking off a parade of about 30 players, coaches and organization employees who followed suit.

The ceremonies were done under the watchful eye of six year old Palmetto resident Matthew Desantis (see photo), a Lakewood Ranch Little League player and avid Rays fan who is battling leukemia. He is a big fan of Rays ace pitcher James Shields, who he met a few months ago.

The shaved heads were part of a fundraiser that hopes to raise $10,000 for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital.

The event took place on the boardwalk at Charlotte Sports Park before today’s game with the Phillies. In addition, the first 15 fans making a $100 donation were given the option of getting their heads shaved with the stars and received a "Fortune Favors the Bald" T-shirt

"Fortune Favors the bald," Maddon announced before shedding the red locks that brought him so much attention this spring.

Among those shedding their locks was rookie pitcher Matt Moore, hero of last year's post season and third baseman Evan Longoria along with Shields.







Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shed Haynes ends college hoops career with 22 points in overtime defeat

Shedrick Haynes scored a game high 22 points in his final collegiate basketball contest but it wasn't enough as Tarleton State saw its season end with a heartbreaking 64-63 overtime loss to Arkansas Tech last Sunday in the NCAA Division II South Central Region semifinal.

Haynes, the former Palmetto High football and basketball standout, did all he could do keep his Texans in the game. The senior guard hit a shot with 4 seconds left to end regulation that tied the game at 56 and sent it into overtime.

Haynes converted two free throw attempts with 7 seconds remaining in overtime to cut Tarleton's deficit to 64-63. The Texans got the ball back after two missed free throws by Arkansas Tech, but couldn't hit a shot as the clock ran out.

Tarleton ended its season at 27-6. Haynes connected on 7 of 12 field goal attempts and converted 4 of 6 from beyond the arc in the game.

Haynes transferred to Tarleton for his senior year after playing with USF last season. He began his career at State College of Florida and played one season at Lackawanna College before signing with USF.

Haynes was the Texans third leading scorer averaging 10.9 points per game. He led Tarleton with 111 assists and was third with 37 steals. For the season he shot 36 percent on treys draining 54 of 151 attempts.

Bucs spending frenzy ignites fan base


The Tampa Bay Bucs are on a signing frenzy and their long time suffering fans couldn’t be happier.

Less than 24 hours after signing Vincent Jackson, the top free agent receiver, the Bucs followed it up with two more deals that included a blockbuster.

The Bucs came to terms with New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, who signed a reported five year deal worth $47.5 million with $31 million guaranteed.

The deal was done quickly. Nicks reportedly arrived in Tampa on Tuesday night and by morning agreed to terms. For the Bucs this is an unheard of amount of money, particularly mind boggling coming off the Jackson signing, which guaranteed him $26 million over two years.

It also means the Bucs are serious about establishing an interior running game that new head coach Greg Schiano says is his staple. As a bonus they steal a guy who played an instrumental role in Saints quarterback Drew Brees to put up those astronomical numbers.

Nicks is also durable and has consistently graded out among the top guards in the league. The 6-5, 343 pound, 27-year-old hasn’t missed a start in the last three years. He joins the Bucs Davin Joseph, another Pro Bowler (who signed a $53 million deal last summer).

The Bucs also signed cornerback Eric Wright, who played for Detroit last year and had four interceptions to give him 14 for his five year NFL career. He played four years for Cleveland until signing with the Lions last season.

The 26-year-old Wright is not considered among the top 10 free agent cornerbacks and would be a risk if the Bucs cornerback situation wasn’t so bad, particularly with the possibility Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib won’t play next season.

The 5-10, 196 pound Wright was a favorite target among league quarterbacks last year though part of it might be he covered the slot in nickel situations.

Wright was thrown at 120 times last year, only one less than the Saints Jabari Greer, and his 75 receptions allowed was the most among cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, which didn’t have him in its top 100 cornerbacks.

Wright gave up 842 reception yards, which was the sixth highest among cornerbacks in yardage allowed, his 11.2 yards per catch was the eighth highest and his 14 missed tackles was fifth highest among cornerbacks.

But he is an improvement anyway you look at it for the Bucs considering many factors. Among those E.J. Biggers gave the seventh highest passer rating for quarterbacks throwing into a cornerback’s coverage area (119.2).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two SCF basketball players named All Conference first tream

State College of Florida sophomore big man Odi Onyekachakwu and freshman guard Denzel Myers were named to the All Suncoast Conference first team.

Selected to the second team were sophomores Elias Gutierrez from Sarasota High and forward Giannis Stavriandis from Greece.

Myers led the Manatees in scoring and assists averaging 12.4 points and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 54.4 percent from the field. "Odi" topped SCF on the boards (6 rpg), averaged 10.9 ppg and shot a team high 55.4 percent from the field.

Gutierrez and Stavrianidis were the top 3 point shooters. Guitierrez shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc and Stavriandis connected on 41.5 percent of his shots from bonus land.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

USF gets NCAA Tournament bid for first time in 20 years

After a 20 year drought, the USF mens' basketball team is finally going to the NCAA Tournament.

One of the last four of the 68 teams invited, USF will play California Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio in a 9 p.m. tipoff. The winner takes on fifth seed Temple on Friday in Nashville, Tennessee in a Midwest Bracket game.

USF (20-13) had to sweat it out. The Midwest was the last region announced and it was uncertain whether the Bulls would get in after losing their Big East Conference Tournament game last week to Notre Dame.

Working in USF's favor had to be that it beat Louisville and Cincinnati, which played in the Big East tournament championship game and the Bulls 12 conference wins. All 69 previous Big East teams with 12 league victories were invited to the NCAA.

Finnegan, Rogers and Carr provide best options for Tampa Bucs at cornerback

Free agency begins Tuesday and with more cap space than any other team and perhaps more needs, it will be interesting to watch the Tampa Bay Bucs.

The Bucs need help in the their back seven, particularly the secondary and could also use some size and speed at receiver. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get some veteran leadership into the linebacking corps.

But the Bucs biggest need is at cornerback. There is a severe lack of talent and uncertainty, which is exacerbated by the division it plays in that forces them to face New Orleans Drew Brees, Atlanta's Matt Ryan and now Carolina's Cam Newton twice a year.

Ronde Barber has been a staple at CB, but turns 37 next month and his 22 missed tackles last season have to be a concern along with allowing nearly 65 percent of the passes thrown in his area. Aqib Talib could be in jail or suspended by the NFL when his trial in Texas concludes and his performance last season took a nose dive.

There are plenty of top notch free agent cornerbacks available, including San Francisco 49ers Carlos Rogers who was passed over last year by the Bucs when he was on the market from Washington. He had perhaps the best year of his career last season and could provide instant relief for Tampa's wounded secondary.

Rogers is 30 years old. His age might preclude teams from signing him to a long term deal, which should make him more appealing to Tampa, especially if Barber does not return. His six interceptions tied for third highest among CBs.

The name being tossed around a lot is Tennessee Titan Cortland Finnegan (see photo) who has also been promoting himself to the Bucs.

Finnegan proved very efficient at covering the slot, was tagged for just eight missed tackles all season and allowed just 8.8 yards per reception compared to Barber's 12.7 average.

He is a physical corner/safety though his over-aggressiveness has gotten him into hot water with the NFL. At 5-10 with 4.54 speed, he lacks the height and quickness you would like in a CB, but he could move to safety and provides a nastiness the Bucs secondary desperately needs.

At one time Finnegan said he aspired to be the dirtiest player in the league and went all out to reach that goal. Joining a secondary that had the most missed tackles last season, he does fill a need.

If the Bucs do pursue Finnegan they could likely get into a battle for his services with new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher and that would raise his price and could chase them away. There is also talk Dallas' maligned secondary will sway owner Jerry Jones to join the Finnegan pursuit.

Kansas City's Brandon Carr is the best available free agent CB in many eyes and perhaps will be the most sought after defensive back. It will cost some bucks to get him, which should give Bucs fans an inkling into how serious the front office is in pursuing the top flight free agents.

Younger at 25 and taller at six-feet, Carr (207 pounds) might be a better option for the Bucs than Finnegan. He had a career high four interceptions last year and is a solid cover corner with good size. He allowed less than 50 percent of the passes thrown into his area to be completed.