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Free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed on a four-year contract, giving the All-Star a fresh start after his Biogenesis drug suspension last summer.

The Cardinals filled a need by getting a top-hitting shortstop a month after losing the World Series in six games to Boston. Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, while generally good fielders, are light hitters.

The deal was expected to be worth more than $50 million.

"We are pleased to announce that Jhonny has agreed to terms and I know he is equally excited to be joining the Cardinals," general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. "Jhonny is among the game's top offensive shortstops, he's a steady defender and he has experience playing for a contender. He gives us proven veteran experience and brings balance and versatility to our everyday lineup. "

But the move drew a different reaction from a couple other big leaguers.

"It pays to cheat... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler tweeted.

"Apparently getting suspended for PED's means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? (hashtag)weneedtomakeachange," free agent pitcher David Aardsma tweeted.

The 31-year-old Peralta was suspended 50 games last season as a result of Major League Baseball's investigation in the Biogenesis case involving performance-enhancing drugs. He returned to the Detroit Tigers in late September and played in the postseason, both in left field and at shortstop.

Shortly before Peralta was penalized, the Tigers acquired young shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade.

Peralta hit .303 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 107 games during the regular season, then batted .333 with one homer, four doubles and six RBIs in 10 playoff games.

The two-time All-Star is a career .268 hitter with 156 homers and 698 RBIs in 11 seasons with Cleveland and Detroit.

The NL champion Cardinals have been busy since the season ended. A few days ago, they sent third baseman David Freese, a hometown product and the 2011 World Series MVP, to the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos in a four-player trade.

The Cardinals cut about $45 million off last season's payroll, and wanted to plug a hole at shortstop. St. Louis lost All-Star Rafael Furcal in spring training for the whole year because of elbow surgery.

Detroit did not extend a qualifying offer to Peralta, meaning there would be no compensation draft pick involved in his move from the AL Central champions to the NL Central winners.

Earlier this offseason, the Tigers traded first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler in a swap of All-Stars with rich contracts.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 23:51
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Long brothers were part of a first-half tussle, and the St. Louis Rams pushed the Chicago Bears around most of the day.

Tavon Austin's 65-yard touchdown run - his fourth straight this season from beyond midfield - jump-started a 21-point first quarter and the defense made some big plays, too, in a 42-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Coming off their bye, the Rams (5-6) followed up a 30-point rout of Indianapolis in front of their largest crowd of the season, about half of them clad Bears orange. Late scores by rookie backup running back Benny Cunningham and defensive end Robert Quinn helped finish off the Bears (6-5), who remained tied for the NFC North lead.

Josh McCown passed for 352 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for Chicago, which had won four straight in the series. The Bears had a 62-yard punt return for touchdown by Devin Hester nullified by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.

The Longs - Chicago guard Kyle and St. Louis defensive end Chris - lined up close to each other all day and were the focal point of one skirmish in the first half. After McCown threw an incomplete pass to fullback Tony Fiammetta in the second half, Fiammetta and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson squared off, causing players from both teams to rumble.

Kyle Long raced down the field get to Rams end William Hayes, and had him down before his big brother intervened. Chris Long, who had taken the play off, raced off the sideline to corral Kyle Long and drag him from the fight to the sideline.

Cunningham's 9-yard run with 3:05 to play plus a 2-point conversion pass from Kellen Clemens to Isaiah Pead put the Rams up 35-21. Quinn stripped McCown on a sack and then scooped up the ball on a 31-yard return just before the 2-minute warning.

The Bears had first-and-goal at the 4 on their opening drive of the second half trailing 24-14 and got nothing when coach Marc Trestman decided against a field goal and Michael Bush was thrown for a 4-yard loss by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

All of the Rams' home games have been televised locally. But Sunday's attendance of 66,024 was nearly 10,000 more than the previous best.

Cunningham rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries, most of it in the second half after Stacy was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. Johnson and guard Chris Williams also left following blows to the head.

McCown's passing yardage total was the third-best of his career and most since 2005.

The Rams stunned the Bears with two big plays and two touchdowns before the first capacity crowd of the year, with about a 50-50 home-road mix and orange jerseys everywhere, could settle in.

Austin's 65-yard run gave them points on their opening possession the first time all year and Stacy's 1-yard run capitalized on a lost fumble by Matt Forte at the 7 for a 14-0 cushion with 12:36 to go in the first quarter.

Jared Cook added a 6-yard catch from Clemens late in the first for a 21-7 cushion, offsetting Martellus Bennett's 7-yard reception from McCown.

The Rams totaled 29 points in the first quarter during the first 10 games before surging against a defense that been on the upswing, allowing an average of 20 points the last three games.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 23:49
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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's state media says Damascus welcomes the international community's nuclear deal with Iran, calling it a "historic agreement."

Iran agreed with the U.S. and five other world powers to a temporary freeze of its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited and gradual sanctions relief.

Iran is a chief backer of President Bashar Assad's government.

Activists fear the deal will take international pressure off of Iran and embolden Syria's government to use an even harder hand to quash the 3-year-old uprising.

The Sunday report from SANA, a mouthpiece for the views of Assad's government, quoted an unnamed Foreign Ministry official.

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SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — An innovative training program that prepares prison inmates for jobs in the tech sector has expanded.

The rigorous, six-month course was launched at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco by a pair of successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

The program is "bootstrapping," as its organizers say, with just 12 graduates in its first two years, but a new session began this month at the Los Angeles Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

The program uses local experts as volunteer instructors, teaching carefully selected prisoners to design and launch technology firms.

The five graduates released so far have landed real jobs at real dot-coms.

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