Sports briefs: March 26

March 26, 2014 

Baseball

Dodgers leapfrog Yankees in payroll list at $235 million

Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers have knocked Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees off baseball's payroll perch, part of an off-season spending spree that has the average salary approaching $4 million for the first time.

The Dodgers are ending the Yankees' 15-year streak as baseball's biggest spenders and as of Tuesday had a projected payroll of $235 million, according to study of all major-league contracts by The Associated Press.

New York, which last failed to top the payroll rankings in 1998, was a distant second at $204 million. After that, it was another huge gap to Philadelphia at $180 million, followed by Boston at $163 million and Detroit at $162 million.

Houston is last at $45 million, up from $27 million at the start of last year, and Miami at $48 million remains 29th.

Some large-market teams are among the smaller spenders, with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs projected at $89 million, ranked 22nd and 23rd. The Reds rank 13th at $106 million.

  Yu Darvish will miss his scheduled start in Monday's season opener, leaving the already injury-riddled Texas Rangers without their ace. The announcement came a day after Darvish stopped throwing while playing catch because of neck stiffness.

It was the third day in the row the Rangers got bad injury news. On Sunday, the team found out prized prospect and expected everyday second baseman Jurickson Profar will miss 10 to 12 weeks with a muscle tear in his right shoulder. Then it was announced Monday that catcher Geovany Soto is expected out about the same span of time with a muscle tear in his right knee.

  Left-hander Robbie Ross, a former Lexington Christian star, all but clinched a spot in the Rangers starting rotation with seven shutout innings Tuesday to cap off a brilliant spring training.

Ross allowed four hits in his seven innings of work, his third consecutive start at the Goodyear, Ariz., park near his grandfather's home. For the spring, he allowed just three earned runs in 212⁄3 innings (1.25 ERA).

  Atlanta released pitcher Freddy Garcia, who was contending for a spot in the Braves' battered rotation, and agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract with right-hander Aaron Harang.

The Braves didn't want to pick up Garcia's $1.25 million guaranteed salary. Garcia, 37, started Game 4 of last year's NL division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

NFL

Bills owner Ralph Wilson dies at 95

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who helped found the American Football League in 1960, died at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., on Tuesday. He was 95.

Mr. Wilson was the founder and sole owner of the Bills after establishing the team with the upstart AFL in 1960. He played a key role in the league's merger with the NFL. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

When Mr. Wilson, a Michigan businessman, applied for an AFL franchise, he wanted to put a team in Miami but could not reach a deal for use of the Orange Bowl. He settled on Buffalo and revived the name of the team that played there in the All-America Conference of the 1940s.

Mr. Wilson established a reputation as being the "conscience" of the NFL for his loyalty to fans and the several stands he took against franchise relocation.

Mr. Wilson is best known in the Thoroughbred world for breeding 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Arazi.

   The NFL officiating department will help referees rule on instant replay reviews starting next season.

League owners passed a rule Tuesday allowing referees to consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned. NFL officials said the change should speed up the process.

Blandino and other staff will be monitoring the games from league offices in New York, and they will immediately begin reviewing challenges before the referee even gets to his monitor. They can make recommendations on what replays to look at, but the referee still will make the final decision.

  Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is expected to have surgery again, possibly Thursday or April 1, following the recurrence of cancer that his wife described as aggressive and "starting to spread." Jill Kelly has been providing updates on social media. In a March 21 blog post she described the hospital rooms "where we 'huddle-up' as a family to call the next play and plan the next move now that the cancer's back."

  The brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams turned himself in to police in Tampa, Fla., late Monday.

Eric Baylor, 23, faces a charge of aggravated battery domestic violence after an incident in which he allegedly stabbed Williams in the thigh Sunday at the receiver's Tampa home.

ETC.

All of Ryder Cup to be on TV for first time

For the first time, every match of this year's Ryder Cup in Europe will be shown live in the United States.

NBC Sports Group announced Tuesday that Golf Channel will broadcast Friday matches and NBC will broadcast the Saturday and Sunday matches from Gleneagles in Scotland. The Ryder Cup will be held on Sept. 26-28. The NBC Sports Group will provide 26½ hours of live coverage, the most ever for a European-based event.

  Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will drive the pace car in the 98th running of the Indy 500 in May.

Franchitti was forced to retire in November from injuries suffered in an October IndyCar race at Houston. The four-time series champion won the Indy 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

  Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith receives a bonus every time Ohio State wins a national title in sports. He could make six weeks extra salary for a team title in football or men's basketball. He could make two weeks extra salary for other team sports titles. What is now grinding fans and commentators is that he also gets a week of bonus pay for an individual national title by an athlete. That's more than $18,000. So when Logan Stieber won his third NCAA wrestling title on Sunday, Smith's bonus kicked in. As one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the nation, Smith has a base salary of $940,484.

Sports in the courts

Pistorius expected to testify in defense Friday

Oscar Pistorius is expected to testify in his murder trial Friday. Pistorius will take the stand to open the defense's case, said defense lawyer Brian Webber. "I don't think we have a choice; it's a question of when," Webber said of Pistorius' testimony, which legal experts describe as critical because the judge will have a chance to assess whether he is a credible witness. There is no jury system in South Africa.

Earlier Tuesday, defense attorney Barry Roux sought to show that Pistorius had a loving relationship with Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he shot through the closed door of a toilet cubicle at his home last year. Roux referred to telephone messages in which they exchanged warm compliments and said they missed each other. The testimony contrasted with several messages read in court a day earlier in which Pistorius and Steenkamp argued in the weeks before he shot her. Pistorius, 27, has said he killed the 29-year-old model by accident.

The last word

Michigan sophomore center Mitch McGary, a pre-season All-American, was sidelined with a back injury eight games into the season. Now he's the team's biggest cheerleader.

"I'm still on this team, still part of this team. Just not playing. Underneath my suit and tie, I still got my imaginary jersey on."

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