Other Sports

Sports briefs: Jan. 5

MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL

Cubs reportedly tradingex-ace Zambrano to Marlins

A person familiar with the negotiations says the Chicago Cubs have reached a deal to trade pitcher Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for pitcher Chris Volstad.

The person confirmed the deal to The Associated Press and said the swap is pending physicals and approval by Major League Baseball.

Zambrano wore out his welcome with the Cubs after repeated meltdowns. The former ace talked about retiring after being ejected during a loss to Atlanta on Aug. 12. He was suspended without pay and then it was decided he would sit out the rest of the season.

Zambrano went 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA last season. He signed a $91.5 million deal over five seasons through 2012, including a $17,875,000 million salary last season and $18 million in 2012.

Joe Torre resigned his executive position at Major League Baseball on Wednesday to join with Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso in bidding to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.

If the bid is successful, Torre could oversee the Dodgers' baseball operations. He would not return as manager.

"I have great confidence in Rick Caruso's unique qualifications and his ability to lead a successful bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers," Torre said in a statement. "In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured L.A. institution."

Torre, who managed the New York Yankees to four World Series championships, managed the Dodgers from 2008-10 and worked last year as an executive vice president at MLB. Caruso, who has considered running for mayor of Los Angeles, is perhaps best known for the Grove, the highly successful shopping and entertainment center in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles.

■ The Cincinnati Reds and right-hander Andrew Brackman finalized a one-year deal, uniting him with his hometown team.

Brackman was the New York Yankees' first-round pick in 2007 even though they knew he needed reconstructive elbow surgery. He had the operation nine days after signing. He went 15-29 in 58 starts and 31 relief appearances in the minors from 2009-11 with a 5.11 ERA. The Yankees called up the 6-foot-10 Brackman last September and he pitched in three games. Brackman would be paid $500,000 by the Reds if he's in the major leagues and $480,000 if he's in the minors.

AUTO RACING

Almirola to drive No. 43 for Petty

Richard Petty Motorsports hired Aric Almirola on Wednesday to drive the famed No. 43 in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, and Cole Whitt will replace him at JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.

Almirola left JRM to make another attempt at the Cup Series, this time in the car seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty made famous. He replaced AJ Allmendinger, who left the team last month to take a job at Penske Racing.

"One of the things I am most excited about is to have the chance to drive a car as iconic as the No. 43," Almirola said. "There is so much history surrounding that number and to have my name above the door will be really special for me."

Almirola has 35 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series but none since he drove the last five races of the 2010 season. He finished a career-high fourth in the 2010 season finale at Homestead.

HOCKEY

Rangers coach fined for Classic remarks

New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella was hit with a large fine by the NHL for critical comments of the league and the officials in New York's Winter Classic victory over Philadelphia.

ESPNNewYork.com and the NBC Sports Network reported that the fine was $30,000.

Tortorella questioned several calls that were made and not made by referees Ian Walsh and Dennis LaRue late in the 3-2 victory Monday, including a penalty shot that was awarded to Philadelphia with 19.6 seconds left in regulation. Henrik Lundqvist stopped Danny Briere on the attempt, and the Rangers hung on.

Tortorella suggested that NBC, which televised the game, and the NHL might have been in collusion to get the game tied. "I'm not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game," Tortorella said. "For two good refs, I thought the game was reffed horribly. I'm not sure what happened there. ... I'm not sure if they had meetings about that or what."

Said Colin Campbell, the NHL vice president of hockey operations: "There is no acceptable explanation or excuse for commentary challenging the integrity of the League, its officials or its broadcast partners. People can disagree with calls by officials on the ice, but even in instances of the utmost frustration there is no justification for speaking as .... irresponsibly as Mr. Tortorella did."

COLLEGE BASEBALL

Cards' Amlung, Ijames pre-season picks

Louisville junior right-hander Justin Amlung was selected as the Big East Preseason Pitcher of the Year and senior outfielder Stewart Ijames was named pre-season All-Big East, while the Cardinals baseball team was picked to finish second in the 2012 Big East race by the league's head coaches. The Cardinals had 110 points, including four first-place votes, to trail only St. John's, which had 118 points and eight first-place votes. Amlung was 10-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 15 starts while earning first-team All-Big East honors last season. Ijames hit .247 with 11 home runs and 45 RBI last season.

TENNIS

Serena injures ankle in Aussie warm-up

Serena Williams' Australian Open preparations took a major hit Wednesday when she injured her left ankle and withdrew from the Brisbane International. In her first tournament since losing the U.S. Open finals in September, Williams was serving for the match with a 6-2, 5-3 lead against Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia when she twisted her ankle and crashed heavily to the court.

The 13-time Grand Slam winner was helped to a courtside chair and had the ankle re-taped before resuming the second-round match and losing the next point to surrender a service break to Jovanovski. Williams limped through the next game before securing a 6-2, 6-4 win. "I'm going to take a couple of days off — not too many — and see how I feel," Williams said in a statement. "I'm still hopeful of playing the Australian Open."

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer eased into the Qatar Open quarterfinals in rare cool and windy conditions in Doha on Wednesday. Nadal routed German qualifier Denis Gremelmayr 6-2, 6-2, while Federer overwhelmed Slovenia qualifier Grega Zemlja 6-2, 6-3.

■ Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and teammate Tomas Berdych won their singles matches in straight sets Wednesday to give the Czech Republic an insurmountable 2-0 lead over the United States at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.

Kvitova opened with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Berdych beat Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-3. The teams played a mixed-doubles match later Wednesday that helped determine final placings in Group A, where the Czechs are strong favorites to qualify for Saturday's finals. The U.S. fell to 0-2 after losing to Denmark in their opening match. Earlier Wednesday, Bulgaria beat Denmark 2-1.

The last word

The last time the Houston Texans played the Bengals. CBS commentators Marv Albert and Rich Gannon made fun of the seats quarterback T.J. Yates' parents had at Paul Brown Stadium, which were near the top of the highest deck in the place. Their terrible seats seemed even worse with thousands of better empty seats throughout the stadium. Said Yates:

"Yes, they will definitely be a little closer (Saturday)."

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