Sports briefs: Feb. 26

February 26, 2013 

Major League Baseball

Votto ends homer drought in Reds' 1st win of spring training

Joey Votto relished his long-awaited chance to circle the bases.

Votto hit a two-run homer, an encouraging sign that he's progressing in his recovery from knee surgery that robbed him of his power last season, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the split-squad Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 on Monday at Goodyear, Ariz.

Cincinnati had lost three straight exhibition games to the Indians.

Votto didn't homer after June 24 last season because of the injury. He missed 48 games after tearing cartilage in his knee, and was reduced to hitting mostly singles when he returned because the knee wasn't fully healed. When the 2010 NL MVP reported to spring training, he said the knee felt good but wasn't entirely back to normal.

He knew the significance when he connected in the third inning off Robert Wooten. "What's it been, eight months?" a smiling Votto said after leaving the field. "My swing is getting there. I have a ways to go but my knee feels fine."

Votto also had an RBI groundout off Tyler Thornburg, a third-round draft pick in 2010 who is trying to win a spot in a Brewers rotation that's in flux because of trades and injuries.

Right fielder Jay Bruce was scratched from the Reds' lineup after batting practice because of a sore right heel. "I felt some tightness running sprints," Bruce said. "I'm all right. It's February."

Armando Galarraga, Sean Marshal and Jonathan Broxton blanked the Brewers on three hits through the first five innings. It was Galarraga's first appearance since he signed a minor-league deal with the Reds earlier this month. The 31-year-old right-hander was 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts last year with the Houston Astros.

"Galarraga looked very good," Manager Dusty Baker said. "He was keeping the ball down and looks healthy."

Dontrelle Willis left because of a shoulder injury just seven pitches into his latest comeback try, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the mistake-prone Chicago Cubs 7-6. The 2003 NL Rookie of the Year signed a minor league contract with the Cubs in January. He walked Nick Evans on six pitches to open the eighth inning and then threw one pitch to the next batter before trainers went out to the mound. "It's a mild setback," Willis said. "Hopefully, it's not serious. It's probably just fatigue."

Cubs Manager Dale Sveum said the team didn't have any lofty expectations for Willis. "We don't have any plans," he said. "He's here to be a backup. He's a minor-league player."

Allen Craig has been prevented from playing first by a sore shoulder. The injury doesn't appear to have affected his swing, though. Craig and Matt Holliday each hit their first homers of spring training, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 10-2 victory over the Houston Astros. Craig was starting as the designated hitter. He reached base in all three at-bats, adding a walk and an RBI single.

Mike Trout singled in his first at-bat this spring and scored twice for the Los Angeles Angels in a 9-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners. The 20-year-old Trout, the AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up in the MVP voting last season, also walked.


NFL

Te'o's 40-yard dash time a 'concern'

Manti Te'o's first appearance on a football field since the BCS championship game didn't go as well as planned Monday.

The Notre Dame star and Heisman Trophy runner-up was clocked at 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had said Sunday anything faster than 4.7 would be "phenomenal." Anything 4.8 or over would be a "concern."

The workout came more than a month after Te'o's highly-publicized online romance with a girlfriend was exposed as a hoax and that Te'o was a victim of the hoax.

Since then, he's done a handful of one-on-one interviews and took questions Saturday in one of the craziest scenes in NFL scouting combine history.

Some wonder whether the story has become a distraction, and Te'o's sub-par performance Monday didn't help.

■ Top draft prospect Star Lotulelei will undergo more extensive heart tests when he returns to Utah. Doctors at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis found the star defensive tackle and likely high pick has a heart condition, Lotulelei's agent, Bruce Tollner, confirmed in a series of emails with The Associated Press.

Tollner said Lotulelei would not take questions regarding the diagnosis yet. But the 6-foot-2, 311-pound defensive tackle still plans to do a full workout in front of scouts at his regularly scheduled Pro Day on March 20.

ESPN first reported Lotulelei has a left ventricle that is not operating at maximum capacity. Lotulelei's professional future could depend heavily on what doctors find.

The Utah standout is considered one of the best prospects in this year's draft. He is trying to join Alex Smith as the only players from the University of Utah to go No. 1 overall; San Francisco took Smith with the top pick in 2005.

Tom Brady will be a Patriot until he is 40 years old. Brady agreed to a three-year contract extension with New England, a source told The Associated Press. The extension is worth about $27 million and will free up nearly $15 million in salary cap room for the team. The 35-year-old two-time league MVP was signed through 2014, and has said he wants to play at least five more years.


NBA

Wizards earn their third straight

Bradley Beal scored 20 points, Nene had 11 points and nine rebounds, and the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 90-84 on Monday night for their third straight victory.

The third overall pick in last June's draft, and the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in December and January, Beal has scored 20 points or more in four of the past six games.

John Wall had 10 points and seven assists for the Wizards, who won for just the fifth time in 27 road games this season. Washington's road record is the worst in the NBA.

Al Horford had 23 points and 22 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Detroit Pistons 114-103 at Auburn Hills, Mich.

The Pistons have lost three straight, all without guard Brandon Knight, who has a hyperextended right knee.

■ The Oklahoma City Thunder signed veteran Derek Fisher, filling an opening for a third point guard that was created when Eric Maynor was traded to Portland. Fisher joins Oklahoma City for the stretch run for the second straight season. He played in 20 regular-season games and then all 20 playoff games last season. Fisher won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.


College football

Graham leaves Vols' coaching staff

Tennessee Coach Butch Jones announced on Twitter on Monday that Jay Graham "has informed us of his decision to accept a position at another institution." The running backs coach had been the lone holdover from former Tennessee coach Derek Dooley's staff.

Graham, who is headed to Florida State, rushed for 2,609 yards at Tennessee from 1993-96. He ran for at least 100 yards in 11 games in 1995, setting a school record for 100-yard performances in a single season.

In his lone season as Tennessee's running backs coach, the Volunteers averaged 160.3 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry after gaining 90.1 rushing yards per game and 2.8 yards per carry the year before his arrival. He worked as an assistant at South Carolina from 2009-11.


The last word

Entertainer and budding boxing promoter 50 Cent was caught trying to kiss Fox Sports' Erin Andrews on the lips on live television before Sunday's Daytona 500. He ended up landing one on her left check and then followed her down the starting grid. Andrews appeared caught off guard. 50 Cent later posted on Twitter:

"Hey I wanted to kiss her, so I did."

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