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NEW YORK (AP) -- Defiant till the end, Alex Rodriguez is intent on evading baseball's most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal.

Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. He said he will appeal his suspension, which covers 211 games, by Thursday's deadline. And since arbitrator Fredric Horowitz isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest, Rodriguez was free to make his season debut Monday night and play the rest of this year.

Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees five hours after the suspension in a series opener at the Chicago White Sox, playing third base and batting fourth.

"The last seven months has been a nightmare, has been probably the worst time of my life for sure," Rodriguez said before the game.

Booed loudly each time he walked to the plate, Rodriguez went 1 for 4 in New York's 8-1 loss. He blooped a single to left field in the second inning, flied out in the fourth and sixth, then struck out in the eighth. He acknowledged he felt rusty in the field, though he made all his plays.

"It was fun to go out there and play the game again," Rodriguez said. "I love the fans here."

The other 12 players agreed to their 50-game penalties, giving them a chance to return for the playoffs.

Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous penalties bring to 18 the total number of players sanctioned for their connection with Biogenesis.

At the center of it all was Rodriguez, once the greatest player of his time, reduced Monday night to saying that he was humbled, at 38, just to "have the opportunity to put on this uniform again" and adding if he didn't fight for his career, no one else would.

A-Rod's drug penalty was for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years," MLB said.

His punishment under the labor contract was "for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."

In Chicago, Rodriguez wouldn't deny using PEDs, saying "when the time is right, there will be an opportunity to do all of that. I don't think that time is right now."

He added: "It's been the toughest fight of my life. By any means, am I out of the woods? This is probably just phase two just starting. It's not going to get easier. It's probably going to get harder."

Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since. His penalty was more than double the previous high for a PED suspension, a 100-game ban given last year to San Francisco pitcher Guillermo Mota for a second offense.

"At some point we'll sit in front of an arbiter and give our case," Rodriguez said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, minutes after losing captain Derek Jeter for the third time this year, was ready to welcome A-Rod back. "I'm not here to judge people. That's not my job," Girardi said. "He's a player as long as he's in our clubhouse."

Girardi called the suspensions "another black eye for us, but we're trying to clean this game up."

The suspensions are thought to be the most at once for off-field conduct since 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight White Sox players for life for throwing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles "Swede" Risberg, Buck Weaver and Claude "Lefty" Williams. They had been suspended by the team the previous year and were penalized by baseball even though they had been acquitted of criminal charges.

As for the modern-day All-Stars, Cruz, an outfielder, leads Texas in RBIs and Peralta has been a top hitter and shortstop for Detroit, a pair of teams in the midst of pennant races. They will be eligible to return for the postseason.

Others agreeing to 50-game bans included Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez; Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Seattle catcher Jesus Montero; New York Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello; Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona; and free agent pitchers Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

While the players' association has fought many drug penalties in the past three decades, attitudes of its membership have shifted sharply in recent years and union staff encouraged settlements in the Biogenesis probe.

"The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives," union head Michael Weiner said. "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the commissioner has not acted appropriately ... The union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."

Fighting a brain tumor diagnosed a year ago, Weiner spoke in a raspy voice during a conference call and said the union's executive board will consider stiffer drug penalties when players meet in December.

But the union will fight Rodriguez's discipline.

"We've never had a 200-plus (game) penalty for a player who may have used drugs," he said. "And among other things, I just think that's way out of line."

A-Rod intimated Friday that New York did not want him to return. The Yankees answered Monday with a statement:

"We are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter," the team said. "The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."

Rodriguez is making $28 million this year, and his salary drops to $25 million next year and $21 million in 2015. If the 211-game penalty is upheld, his lost pay could range from $30.6 million to $32.7 million, depending on when exactly the suspension is served.

Players have often succeeded at persuading arbitrators to overturn or shorten drug suspensions. In the era before the drug agreement, LaMarr Hoyt, Ferguson Jenkins, Pascual Perez and Willie Wilson were among those who had success in hearings, and Steve Howe's lifetime ban for a seventh suspension related to drugs or alcohol was cut to 119 days.

Weiner said a settlement prior to Horowitz's decision is possible but not likely. David Cornwell, an attorney for one of Rodriguez's three law firms, called the penalty an "unprecedented action."

Rodriguez's suspension might dampen his future chances for election to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire all compiled big numbers, too, but voters blocked them from Cooperstown because of the drug cloud.

Though they lose part of their salaries, the stats and awards are safe for baseball players penalized in drug cases. Nothing is stripped from any record book or trophy case.

That's not always the case in other sports. Doping cost Lance Armstrong his seven Tour de France cycling titles and stripped away Olympic gold medals from sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.

Cruz attributed his action to a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, and said he had lost 40 pounds following the 2011 season.

"I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error," he said in a statement. "I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse."

Peralta can rejoin Detroit for a season-ending three-game series at Miami - not far from the former office of Biogenesis.

In a statement released by the Tigers, Peralta said in "spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret." Peralta apologized to his teammates and "the great fans in Detroit," saying he knows he let "many good people down."

MLB's investigation began last year after San Francisco outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera tested positive for elevated testosterone, as did Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. The probe escalated in January when the Miami New Times published documents obtained from former Biogenesis associate Porter Fisher that linked several players to Biogenesis.

MLB said Melky Cabrera, Colon and Grandal will not receive additional discipline and it found no violations for Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore infielder Danny Valencia, both linked to Biogenesis in media reports.

In June, baseball struck a deal for Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch to cooperate. After holding investigatory interviews with the players, MLB presented evidence to the players' union along with its intended penalties, starting the final round of negotiations.

"Those players who have violated the program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We continue to attack this issue on every front - from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills."

Picked first in the 1993 amateur draft, Rodriguez reached the majors at age 18 with Seattle and was an All-Star by 20. He seemed destined to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and appeared in line to break the all-time home run record - he ranks fifth with 647.

Yet for all his accomplishments, Rodriguez has been reviled by fans as much as celebrated, especially later in his career. His off-field antics, enormous paycheck and playoff failures have often overshadowed his feats at the plate.

The Yankees are now saddled with an aging star slowed by two hip operations. They still owe him around $94 million, raising questions about whether his dwindling production is worth that price.

Monday, 05 August 2013 23:45
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   BALTIMORE (AP) - Art Donovan, the Hall of Fame defensive lineman who spent much of his 12-year career with the Baltimore Colts, has died. He was 89.

   Donovan died Sunday at Stella Maris Hospice in Baltimore, according to Kevin Byrne, senior vice president of the Baltimore Ravens.

   Back in the day when NFL players made little money, the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Donovan played for the love of the game and the thrill of winning. He helped the Colts win championships in 1958 and 1959.

   Donovan broke into professional football in 1950 with the Colts, who folded after his rookie season. He played with the New York Yanks in 1951 and the Dallas Texans in 1952 before the Dallas franchise moved to Baltimore and became the second version of the Colts. He spent the remainder of his career with Baltimore before retiring after the 1961 season.

 
Monday, 05 August 2013 03:37
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CINCINNATI (AP) — Even when things go horribly wrong on the road, the St. Louis Cardinals can always count on one soothing stop. No matter how deep their slump, it'll end in Cincinnati.

 

Matt Carpenter broke his 0-for-23 slump with a bases-loaded double during the decisive rally, and the Cardinals ended a tough trip on the upswing by beating the Reds 15-2 on Sunday.

 

The Cardinals went 3-8 on a trip that included seven straight losses — four of them in Pittsburgh, allowing the Pirates to overtake them for the NL Central lead. On their final stop, an offense that couldn't do much of anything found a little bit of everything.

 

"Offensively, we did a terrific job," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had a little bit of everything — some power, some good situational hitting, made the (defensive) plays."

 

It's been like that against the Reds lately.

 

St. Louis took two of three at Great American Ball Park and has won its last six series against Cincinnati, its best such stretch against the Reds since 2003-04. The Cardinals lead the season series 8-4.

 

"Some teams you play better than others, but they've got our number for sure," said Reds starter Mike Leake (10-5), who gave up a season-high seven runs. "They play us tough. It's on us to try to figure them out because they've got us figured out for the most part."

 

The Cardinals scored their most runs against Cincinnati since 1993. They've scored at least 10 runs against the Reds in four games this season, the first time they've done that since 1980.

 

Carpenter's two-run double off the wall completed a five-run rally in the sixth against Leake and two relievers, setting up another blowout.

 

"It's a great feeling," Carpenter said. "It's even better that we come back and win the series in a convincing fashion. It was fun to join in on the action."

 

Matt Adams, David Freese and Tony Cruz homered for the Cardinals, who have scored 13, 13, 3 and 15 runs in their last four games.

 

St. Louis finished with 19 hits and a season high in runs. Every starter except Lance Lynn drove in at least one run.

 

Lynn (13-5) allowed four hits in eight innings, including Zack Cozart's two-run homer. Lynn struck out a season-high 11 and joined Adam Wainwright as 13-game winners in a rotation that has the NL's third-best ERA.

 

"I had pretty good command of all four pitches, and I was able to use all of them on both sides of the plate," Lynn said. "That makes it a lot easier to pitch. Between my last three starts, I've had the best stuff I've had all year. "

 

The Reds have dropped seven of nine, leaving the defending NL Central champions marooned in third place.

 

The Cardinals scored in the first inning of all three games of the series. They scored four off Bronson Arroyo on Friday night, one on Saturday and four more on Sunday off Leake, who had allowed a total of four runs in his last three starts combined.

 

Matt Holliday and Freese had RBI doubles, and Adams hit a two-run homer — his first since July 6 — for the 4-0 lead only 19 pitches into the game. Holliday improved to 9 for 20 career off Leake.

 

The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate for five runs in the sixth, aided by a pair of errors. They opened the inning with five consecutive hits, and Carpenter's two-run double off Logan Ondrusek made it 9-2 and gave the second baseman relief from his personal slump.

 

"At that point, I was so relieved to just put the barrel of the bat on the ball that I didn't care what happened," Carpenter said.

 

The Cardinals hit only nine homers in July, including one after the All-Star break. They had six in three days at Great American Ball Park.

 

Reds third baseman Todd Frazier went without a hit for his ninth straight game, leaving him in an 0-for-28 slump. It's the longest by a Reds player since Drew Stubbs went 0 for 32 midway through last season.

 

Notes: The Cardinals play 17 of their next 24 games at Busch Stadium. They open a 10-game homestand on Monday against the Dodgers, with Wainwright trying for his 14th victory. ... The Reds are off on Monday before resuming their homestand with a pair of games against the Athletics. ... Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran got a day of rest. ... Reds LH reliever Sean Marshall and RH starter Johnny Cueto still haven't resumed throwing. Marshall, on the DL since May 24 with a sore left shoulder, had a setback before the All-Star break. Cueto has been sidelined since June 5 with a strained muscle in the back of his shoulder.

Sunday, 04 August 2013 19:04
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Moving practice indoors along with a fan festival gave the St. Louis Rams a chance to build some enthusiasm. Gave the rookies a feel for the stadium, too.

Safety T.J. McDonald was a bit overwhelmed at first walking into the Edward Jones Dome in front of a crowd estimated at 15,000 before settling down to business Saturday for what essentially was another full-pad practice with little tackling.

"I kind of had to just step back for a little bit and like 'Wow!'" McDonald said. "It's a good feeling to see the Ram in the middle of the field."

The top attendance at the team facility so far is about 2,300, so the cheers were a lot louder even in a facility that holds about 67,000.

"Definitely more adrenaline going," McDonald said. "You want to hear the oohs and aahs in your favor, not because you gave something up."

McDonald never played indoors at USC, and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey's only dome experience at West Virginia was at Syracuse.

"It felt good walking down that tunnel for the first time," Austin said. "Even though it was a scrimmage I approach everything like it's a game and I made a couple plays, so it felt good."

It felt good afterward, too.

"I'm just glad that anybody wants my autograph right now," Austin said.

Quarterback Sam Bradford thought the kids handled the newness pretty well and came away believing the offense was even faster on the artificial surface.

"It was exciting to get down here and just change it up a little bit," Bradford said. "It's always fun to get out here in front of this many fans."

The biggest impact addition on offense could be rangy tight end Jared Cook, who made several nice catches. Like Austin, Cook also can line up in the backfield.

"I think you saw today my trust with Jared," Bradford. "I've got all the trust in the world that if I put the ball up there he's going to go get it."

At first blush, coach Jeff Fisher was pleased with everything in an injury-free workout capped by a scrimmage involving players down the depth chart to end "phase one" of training camp. Players have a day off Sunday before starting preparations for the preseason opener Thursday night at Cleveland.

"I think the goal for us is to just go out and execute," Bradford said. "It'll be our base stuff and it's important that we go out and execute the way we know we can."

Fisher was appreciative of the fan reception, while noting it also means they're anxious for the franchise to field their first winning team in a decade.

"I would make an assumption that the expectation level is much higher than it was," Fisher said. "That's a fair assumption. That's where we are, too."

Before the practice, the Rams held fan forums involving vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff and general manager Les Snead.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein had the distance on a pair of line-drive 64-yard field goal attempts with no rush that were wide left. He set a franchise record with a 60-yarder as a rookie last October.

Sunday, 04 August 2013 18:51
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CINCINNATI (AP) — Jake Westbrook's sinker took too much of a dive.

The right-hander had trouble with walks on Saturday night, helping the Cincinnati Reds break out of their week-long offensive funk with an 8-3 victory that evened their series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Devin Mesoraco drove in three runs with a pair of homers, and the Reds got only their fourth win in 11 games against their NL Central rival. Cincinnati had scored fewer than four runs in each of their last nine games head-to-head.

Westbrook (7-6) and the bullpen couldn't keep it going.

"I couldn't finish off innings," Westbrook said. "I'd get a couple of quick outs and I couldn't put them away. That was a subpar performance for me. I felt like I pitched better today than in my last start. I was making decent pitches."

Just not enough of them, especially with two outs. Westbrook gave up five runs in five innings, all with two outs. He walked five batters and three of them scored.

"He had one of the best sinkers he's had this year," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was really diving. Walks seemed to hurt him, especially after two outs, but overall, his stuff was better than his line showed.

"A lot of times, the ball was moving too much. He had a good one today."

The loss knocked second-place St. Louis back to 1½ games behind Pittsburgh. Cincinnati remained 5½ out.

It was a significant win for Cincinnati, which has lost six of its last eight games overall to stay mired in third place.

"It's pretty big," left-hander Tony Cingrani said. "We've been on a pretty rough stretch."

And not just against St. Louis. The defending NL Central champions are mired in third place because their offense has gone missing. Jack Hannahan singled home a pair of runs in the first inning, and the Reds were back in the swing.

Mesoraco hit a solo shot in the eighth off Michael Blazek for the first multihomer game of his career. Shin-Soo Choo followed with a two-run homer off Blazek.

Cingrani (5-1) and four relievers contained an offense that had scored 26 runs in the last two games, allowing four hits.

The Cardinals ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Pirates 13-0 on Thursday, then came to Cincinnati and drubbed the Reds 13-3 on Friday night. It was the first time since 2003 that they scored 13 runs in back-to-back games.

They got off to a fast start against Cingrani, making his first career appearance against the Cardinals. Jon Jay opened the game with a walk and came around on Carlos Beltran's double. Cingrani bounced his next pitch, letting Beltran move to third, but that's all the Cardinals would manage as the left-hander escaped the 30-pitch inning down only 1-0.

Cingrani left after the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Grounders by Rob Johnson and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter drove in runs that cut it to 5-3.

Westbrook threw a five-hitter for a 10-0 win over Cincinnati on April 10. He lost his shutout right away this time. Westbrook gave up a hit and a pair of walks in the first, including an intentional walk to Jay Bruce that brought up Hannahan with the bases loaded and two outs. Hannahan, who was 0 for 4 career against Westbrook, lined a 2-2 pitch to center for a 2-1 lead.

It was the second game in a row that Westbrook had trouble in the opening inning. He gave up four runs in the first inning of a 9-2 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Mesoraco's homer was only the fifth that Westbrook has allowed in his 16 starts this season.

Notes: Carpenter (0 for 20) and Reds 3B Todd Frazier (0 for 25) were out of the starting lineups. Carpenter got into the game as a pinch hitter. Frazier got in as part of a double switch. Neither got a hit. ... The Reds optioned RH reliever Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville a day after he struggled in the series opener. RH Pedro Villarreal was called up for the third time. ... RH Jonathan Broxton (elbow) threw 14 pitches in the bullpen without problem. He'll throw again on Sunday and could be activated off the DL next week. ... Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick threw a ceremonial pitch.

Saturday, 03 August 2013 22:05
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CINCINNATI (AP) — Before the opening game of their series against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker had an inkling how it would go.

"We were struggling on the road trip and they were struggling too, so something has to break here," Baker said.

It was the Cardinals who broke out on Friday night.

David Freese set the tone with a bases-loaded double in the first inning, and Daniel Descalso hit two of the Cardinals' three homers as St. Louis pulled away to a 13-3 victory that left the Reds stalled in the NL Central race.

The Cardinals have emerged from a deep hitting slump by scoring 13 runs in each of their last two games. It's the first time this season they've had double-digit run totals in consecutive games.

"These guys were cold coming in here and all of a sudden — Boom! — everybody looks hot," Baker said afterward.

The Reds? Still in their scoring rut.

Shelby Miller (11-7) limited Cincinnati's slumping offense to two singles over the first five innings before Joey Votto hit a three-run homer in the sixth. The Reds managed only six hits, five of them singles. They've been held to three or fewer runs in six of their last seven games.

In every respect, it was a night the Reds wanted to forget.

"This is a game that depends upon how short a memory you have," outfielder Jay Bruce said.

Bronson Arroyo (9-9) matched his season high by giving up seven runs in only 3 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

Freese also had a bases-loaded walk, giving him four RBIs. Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran each had three hits as St. Louis piled up 14 in all. The 13 runs were the most allowed by Cincinnati this season.

"It's usually feast or famine with these guys," Arroyo said. "With a lineup like that to give up four runs in the first inning, it's very difficult. They get momentum going and start to turn it up."

The Cardinals improved to 7-3 against the Reds this season, keeping the defending NL Central champions at arm's length. They moved to a half-game behind first-place Pittsburgh. Cincinnati stayed 5½ games back.

Both teams were coming off tough weeks set up by a lack of offense.

The Cardinals lost four of five in Pittsburgh and seven straight overall, allowing the Pirates to take over the top spot. St. Louis managed a total of only 10 runs during the seven-game losing streak, which ended with a 13-0 victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

The Reds had trouble scoring runs on the West Coast while dropping five of their last six games there.

Which one would break out first in the weekend series?

The Cardinals. Emphatically.

They quickly got to Arroyo, who had trouble getting his pitches to go where he wanted. The Cardinals loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk with one out in the first, and Freese doubled off the wall in center for a 3-0 lead. Jon Jay followed with an RBI single on Arroyo's 24th pitch.

It never got much better for Arroyo, who has faced the Cardinals more than any other opponent in his career and had far more bad times than good. He fell to 8-16 in 37 career starts against St. Louis.

Curtis Partch relieved Arroyo in the fourth and walked the first three batters he faced, including Matt Holliday and Freese with the bases loaded. Jay's double made it 9-0.

Descalso hit a pair of solo shots for the first multihomer game of his career, and Craig had a two-run shot as St. Louis pulled away. The Cardinals hit only nine homers in July, including one after the All-Star break.

NOTES: Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter went 0 for 6, extending his slump to 0 for 18. ... Reds 3B Todd Frazier went hitless for the seventh straight game. He's in an 0-for-24 slump, the worst of his career. ... RH reliever Jonathan Broxton is scheduled to make his second appearance of a rehab stint on Saturday. He's been on the DL since June 15 with a sore elbow. ... LH Tony Cingrani makes his first career start against the Cardinals on Saturday. Jake Westbrook goes for St. Louis. ... Sixteen couples were married on the field pregame by the man who wears the Gapper mascot costume.

Saturday, 03 August 2013 07:59
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(ST. LOUIS) – St. Louis Blues Vice President and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has signed defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a five-year contract extension.

 Bouwmeester, 29, dressed in 14 games for the Blues last season tying for third on the club  in points (7) and plus/minus (+5) while he tied for first in assists (6) and ranked second in time on ice per game (23:24) during the month of April.  In addition, during the 2013 regular season Bouwmeester extended his iron man streak to 635 games.

During the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 6’4, 212-pound defenseman appeared in all six games for the Blues including his postseason debut. Overall, Bouwmeester ranked second on the team in ice time per game (25:08) while he tallied his first career playoff point (assist) in Game Four on May 6.

A former first round draft pick (3rd overall) of Florida in 2002, Bouwmeester has appeared in 11 seasons during his NHL career including stints with Florida, Calgary and St. Louis.  In 764 career games, he has recorded 307 points (72 goals, 235 assists) to go along with 469 penalty minutes.  In addition, Bouwmeester has been selected to two All-Star Games (2007, 2009) and earned first team All-Rookie Team honors in 2002-03.  Internationally, the Edmonton, Alberta native has represented Canada on nine occasions including three World Junior Championships, four World Championships and the 2006 Winter Olympics.  Bouwmeester has also been invited to Team Canada’s 2014 Olympic Orientation Camp in preparation for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.


 

Friday, 02 August 2013 13:00
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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Joe Kelly and the St. Louis Cardinals averted a five-game sweep at Pittsburgh, ending a season-worst seven-game losing streak by routing the Pirates 13-0 Thursday night in a matchup between the NL's top two teams.

St. Louis began the series with a 2½-game lead in the NL Central but left with the Pirates ahead by 1½ games. The Cardinals avoided their first sweep in a set of at least five games since 1916, when the New York Giants took all six games.

Pittsburgh had won the previous four games at PNC Park by a combined score of 36-10.

Kelly (2-3) pitched six scoreless innings and had two hits. Tony Cruz added three hits, including a two-run double during an eight-run seventh inning.

Kelly allowed three hits while walking four and striking out four. Seth Maness, Michael Blazek and Edward Mujica pitched one inning each to complete the five-hitter.

After the Cardinals failed to acquire a replacement for injured All-Star catcher Yadier Molina prior to Wednesday's non-waiver trading deadline, Cruz figures to get the majority of starts behind the plate. He had started just 11 games this season until Molina went on the disabled list Wednesday with a sprained right knee.

Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and David Freese also had two of St. Louis' 17 hits. Craig came into the game in a 1-for-27 slump, and he had a two-run double in the seventh.

Charlie Morton (3-3) struggled against the Cardinals again, giving up five runs and 10 hits in six innings. He is 2-8 in his career against St. Louis.

Morton threw a wild pitch that made it 1-0 in the second. St. Louis scored three times in the third as Jon Jay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Cruz grounded into a double play and Pete Kozma had an RBI single.

Beltran doubled in a run in the sixth before the Cardinals broke the game open an inning later.

NOTES: Starling Marte had two of Pittsburgh's five hits. He has a hit in all 12 career games against the Cardinals. ... Pittsburgh C Russell Martin sat out the game with a sore left knee. ... St. Louis opens a three-game series Friday night at Cincinnati with RHP Shelby Miller (10-7, 2.79) facing RHP Bronson Arroyo (9-8, 3.26). ... RHP Gerrit Cole (5-4, 3.56) will pitch for Pittsburgh on Friday night in the first game of the three-game series against Colorado's Jhoulys Chacin (9-5, 3.54).

Friday, 02 August 2013 08:03
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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington spent the hours leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline searching for a way to upgrade the team with the best record in baseball.

The typically buttoned down Huntington even considered taking leave of his senses to do it.

"We talk a lot about, we don't want to do something stupid," Huntington said Wednesday after the deadline passed. "We were willing to do something stupid. We just didn't want to do anything insane."

At the moment, insanity might be defined as breaking up the chemistry the Pirates have spent the last four months cultivating.

Russell Martin drove home Neal Walker with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Pirates rallied past the St. Louis Cardinals 5-4 to extend their lead in the NL Central to 2½ games.

Martin's sharp grounder off Trevor Rosenthal (1-2) rolled into left field, giving Walker time to score from second and propel Pittsburgh to its 25th comeback win in an increasingly special season. Pittsburgh is 23 games over .500 for the first time since 1992.

"We can win just about every way possible," manager Clint Hurdle said.

The Cardinals appeared in firm control of the division race two weeks ago but now find themselves staring up at the Pirates, who have taken the first four games of a five-game series.

St. Louis broke out of a slump to put together 13 hits, but the Cardinals left 11 runners on base and dropped their seventh straight. The Cardinals led 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 but couldn't hold on.

"You always at some point during the season, every year, no matter what, go through a rough patch," St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said after failing to earn his 14th victory. "The good teams find a way to get out of that rough patch and find a way to get back to playing good quality baseball, and that's what we're going to do."

Tony Watson (3-1) worked two shutout innings in relief of starter Jeff Locke. Mark Melancon pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save. Melancon is 3 for 3 in save opportunities since All-Star closer Jason Grilli went down with a right forearm injury last week.

Matt Holliday had three hits and drove in two runs but St. Louis failed to score over the final five innings against Pittsburgh's bullpen.

"There's something we're not doing, and we know we're not doing it and fixing it," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Walker hit his seventh homer of the season off Wainwright in the first inning, starting a pattern that repeated itself throughout the night. The Cardinals found ways to score off starter Jeff Locke, but Pittsburgh kept chipping away.

"It's things we've done throughout the course of the season," Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "If we're down early, we just keep working."

The teams with the two best records in the National League were mostly spectators before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline, though the Pirates acquired minor leaguer Robert Andino from Seattle.

The past two seasons, the Pirates made somewhat aggressive moves meant to bolster their playoff chances, but instead contributed in part to a second-half swoon.

This time, Huntington is keeping the group he called "one of the tightest" he's been around intact. When the 4 p.m. deadline passed, the Pirates were huddled around a TV in the clubhouse. They weren't anxiously waiting for news. Instead, they were watching Martin and first baseman Garrett Jones play video games.

"The trade deadline is like a gossip magazine," Watson said. "You take it for what it's worth but it's in one ear and out the other."

Pittsburgh needed to find a way after a rare off-night by Locke, whose rapid ascension from fifth starter to All-Star has fueled Pittsburgh's relentless pursuit of the Cardinals. But St. Louis spent four innings pecking away at the left-hander's usually deft mix of breaking balls.

The Cardinals came in hitting just .155 (30-194) during their late-July swoon but peppered Locke for 10 hits, the most he has given up in 31 career starts.

They came in various ways, from a hard-hit double by Beltran in the fourth to a swinging bunt by David Descalso that traveled 20 feet. Locke tied a season high by giving up four runs. He struck out six and walked one as his ERA rose from 2.15 to 2.36.

"He was fighting uphill all night," Hurdle said.

Wainwright, however, couldn't take advantage of the first signs of life by the St. Louis offense in a week. Every time the Cardinals would push in front, the Pirates would respond, eventually tying it on a sacrifice fly by McCutchen in the fifth. Wainwright left after seven innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, striking out six and walking one.

"(They) gave me the lead three times and I blew the save three times," Wainwright said. "I can be better than that, I will be better than that."

NOTES: The Pirates placed reserve C Mike McKenry on the 15-day disabled after he underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Rookie Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh's top pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the primary backup to Martin for the rest of the season ... The series concludes Thursday with Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton (3-2, 3.59 ERA) facing Joe Kelly (1-3 3.44). The Pirates are 5-1 in Morton's last six starts.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 23:21
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NEW YORK (AP) - Major League Baseball is threatening to kick Alex Rodriguez out of the game for life unless the New York Yankees star agrees not to fight a lengthy suspension for his role in the sport's latest drug scandal, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

Whether Commissioner Bud Selig would actually issue a lifetime suspension was unclear and a permanent ban could be shortened by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz to about 200 games, the person said.

The number of players likely to be disciplined stood at 14 Wednesday.

Front and center is Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player and the most prominent one linked in media reports over the past seven months to Biogenesis of America, a closed Florida anti-aging clinic that allegedly distributed banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The Yankees expected Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation, and not being truthful with MLB in the past. Baseball has considered suspending him for violations of its labor contract and drug agreement.

Even if he is banned from baseball, there is precedent for a shortened penalty: When pitcher Steve Howe was given a lifetime ban in 1992 in his seventh suspension for drug or alcohol use, an arbitrator reduced the penalty to 119 days.

A three-time MVP, Rodriguez acknowledged four years ago that he used performance-enhancing substances while with Texas from 2001-03 but repeatedly has denied using them since.

He's been sidelined all season since hip surgery in January and then a quadriceps strain during a minor league rehabilitation assignment in July. The Yankees say he'll start another rehab Friday - Double-A Trenton appeared to be the likely destination.

"Hopefully Alex will be back shortly thereafter," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Rodriguez didn't stop to talk with reporters after his workout Wednesday at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.

At first, MLB and the union thought talks on the Biogenesis probe could be completed by Friday, but negotiations to avoid grievances are likely to push back announcements until at least Saturday or Sunday.

Others accused in media reports of receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis include a trio of 2013 All-Stars: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera and Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

Most of the players face 50-game bans as first offenders. Both sides felt urgency to complete the process because by the middle of next week, teams will have fewer than 50 games left. And that would force players to complete suspensions during the playoffs or at the start of next season.

Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski protected against a possible suspension of Peralta by acquiring slick-fielding infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade Tuesday night.

"If it were a 15-day thing, like a typical injury, I think we could have comfortably dealt with it with the players we already have," Dombrowski said Wednesday. "But when you start to talk about 50 days and a possible playoff run, we feel better going ahead with Jose."

While MLB told the union which players it intends to suspend, it hasn't issued formal notices of discipline. Because of that, the countdown hasn't started under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, which says the suspensions are effective on the third business day after the notice is issued.

The sides also haven't decided whether suspensions for first-time offenders who challenge the penalty can be announced before an arbitration decision.

If some stars knew their seasons were about to be cut short, they weren't letting on Wednesday, at least publicly.

"I can't talk about nothing right now. Just wait for the news," Cabrera said Wednesday before playing against Cincinnati.

Peralta thinks he shouldn't be on the list of players linked to Biogenesis.

"It's wrong," he said. "But whatever happens, I need to fight and try to move on."

Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal were all suspended for 50 games last year for positive tests for elevated testosterone. MLB informed the union they won't receive additional discipline for that violation, two people familiar with the probe said. They also spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Nothing's been told to me," Melky Cabrera said. "I served my suspension last year, but MLB has never told me that it's OK now. I'm seeing it in the press, but I don't know."

Texas was unable to find a replacement bat to fill a void a suspension of Cruz would create.

"I don't think anybody's comfortable losing a significant part of your club, but it's out of our control," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We explored some deal like that. They just didn't come to a head. It wasn't for lack of interest or lack of effort. It was more lack of supply and lack of fit, really."

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 23:17
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