GROBBER’S 2011 MLB PICKS
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL:
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST:
3.L.A.Angels of Anahiem
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST:
2.New York Yankees (A.L.WILD CARD)
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL:
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST:
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST:
2.Atlanta (NL WILD CARD)
NL WINNER: Phillies
AL: WINNER: Rangers
WORLD SERIES WINNER: RANGERS
CHAMPAIGN—Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber said Thursday he’s received calls about other coaching jobs but doesn’t plan to leave Illinois. The eighth-year head coach had been linked this week with the vacant Oklahoma position.
“I received a few interest calls regarding other positions, but nothing beyond that,” he said in a statement released by the school. “I remain committed to the University of Illinois.”
The Transcriptin Norman, Okla., reported Wednesday that Weber was a candidate for the Sooners job, open after Oklahoma fired Jeff Capel earlier this month. Weber was also reportedly considered by Tennessee. Some Illinois fans have called for Weber to be fired after Illinois’ 20-14 finish. The Illini opened the season in the Top 25 with talk about a potential Big Ten title but finished unranked and in fourth place.Athletics director Ron Guenther told reporters in February that Weber’s not in danger of being fired. Guenther, 65, has a contract that expires this summer and he hasn’t ruled out retiring. Guenther and Weber have had only preliminary discussions about this season’s results, the interest of other schools and whether Weber will receive a raise or contract extension, sports information director Kent Brown said. Weber is paid $1.5 million a year under a contract that expires in 2015.
“They’ll sit down after the [Final Four] and talk about the whole program, including compensation,” Brown said.
Weber said Thursday that his team started working out this week for the first time since its exit from the NCAA tournament. The Illini lost to Kansas after winning their opener over UNLV.
“I am fortunate to have one of the elite jobs in all of college basketball and am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our program,” he said in the statement. “We will work tirelessly to ensure that Illinois is competing at a championship level both in the Big Ten and nationally.”
CINCINNATI — The Brewers got off to a powerful start, and the defending NL Central champions had the big finish.One game in, the Reds are at it again.Ramon Hernandez hit a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday, rallying Cincinnati to a 7-6 victory over Milwaukee in an opening-day flashback to its championship season.The Brewers became the first team in 42 years to open the season with back-to-back homers when Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez connected off Edinson Volquez. Ryan Braun also had a solo shot, helping Milwaukee take a 6-3 lead to the ninth.That’s when the Reds reverted to their winning ways of 2010. Their first six wins last season came in their final at-bat, tying the major league record. Appropriately, they clinched the division title at home on Jay Bruce’s game-ending homer.They began the new season with only the second game-ending homer in Reds opening-day history — Joe Randa beat the Mets with one in 2005.The Brewers were leading by three before John Axford (0-1) let it get away. He blew only three save chances last season, when he set a Milwaukee rookie record with 24 saves.Hernandez hit an opposite-field line drive that set off a familiar Reds scrum at home plate.The next sound he heard was a collective scream from what remained of the crowd of 42,398 — many had left on a cold, raw afternoon. Hernandez’s homer was the last of six in the game, the only one that wasn’t a solo shot.The Brewers have designs on overtaking the NL Central champions after changing managers — Ron Roenicke took over for Ken Macha — and adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to their rotation. They let a chance to take first place get away.The 41-degree first pitch made for the second-coldest opener in Great American Ball Park’s nine-year history, prompting fans to bundle in coats and blankets. Volquez warmed up wearing a red hooded sweatshirt.Then, the Brewers got off to the majors’ most sizzling start in decades.Weeks extended his spring tear with his 22nd career leadoff homer. He led the Brewers with a .442 average and one homer during spring training. Fast starts are no surprise for him — Weeks hit a club-record eight leadoff homers last season.When Gomez homered into the upper deck two pitches later, the Brewers became the first team in the majors to start a season with a pair of homers since Cincinnati’s Pete Rose — who watched from a seat behind home plate on Thursday — and Bobby Tolan connected off Don Drysdale in 1969. Drysdale didn’t allow another run in that one, winning 3-2.
NOTES—Hernandez is the fifth Reds player since 1900 to have four hits on opening day, joining C Bubbles Hargrave (1924), OF Babe Herman (1936), OF Jim Greengrass (1954) and OF Paul O’Neill (1989)….Logan Ondrusek got the victory with one inning in relief….Reds 1B Joey Votto received his NL MVP award before the game. He homered and drove in a pair of runs….The Reds are 65-69-1 on opening day, the Brewers 23-19-1….The Reds played a tribute to former manager Sparky Anderson on the videoboard before the game. Anderson died in November. The Reds are wearing a “Sparky” patch on their right sleeves. His No. 10 was marked on the back of the mound.
ST. LOUIS—doing the little things paid off for the San Diego Padres. One big swing, too.Cameron Maybin tied it with a two-out homer in the ninth inning, then grounded a single that led to the go-ahead run in the 11th Thursday in a 5-3 opening win over the St. Louis Cardinals.The Padres managed just two hits the first seven innings but scored two runs, and finally capitalized on shortstop Ryan Theriot‘s fielding error.Cardinals star Albert Pujols shared a big hug with manager Tony La Russa during player introductions, then endured an awful start to what could be his 11th and final season in St. Louis.Pujols grounded into a career-worst three double plays while going 0 for 5 while five men on base. The three-time NL MVP cut off contract negotiations at the start of spring training and could be a free agent this fall.Matt Holliday homered in the eighth and had three hits for St. Louis. The Cardinals played extra innings on opening day for the first time since a 4-2, 10-inning home loss to the Mets in 1992. The last Padres’ opener that went extras was in 1996 during a 5-4 loss at Wrigley Field.It was 3-all when Chase Headley singled off Bryan Augustein (0-1) with two outs in the 11th. Maybin followed with a single through the right side and Theriot bobbled right fielder Jon Jay’s bounced relay back to the infield.Headley kept running and made a headfirst slide to beat the throw home. Nick Hundley added an RBI single for the Padres.Pat Neshek (1-0) worked around two walks in the 10th and Heath Bell needed only 10 pitches for the save.After paying tribute to six Hall of Famers including Stan Musial, the Cardinals let the game get away from them.Maybin’s solo home run came off a curveball from Ryan Franklin, who went 27 for 29 in save situations last season.Holliday hit a low liner that skimmed over the wall in right-center in the eighth, a solo homer that put St. Louis ahead 3-2.Chris Carpenter made his fifth opening day start for St. Louis and worked seven stingy innings, allowing two runs on only two hits. Tim Stauffer, standing in for injured Mat Latos, allowed two runs on nine hits in six innings for San Diego.The Cardinals outhit San Diego 10-2 the first six innings but hit into three double plays, two by Pujols, and were 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Three times they put the first two men on, but totaled one run.The Padres erased their second one-run deficit on Hundley’s two-out, RBI double in the fifth. The Cardinals almost made it out of the inning the previous at-bat when Maybin struck out with Ryan Ludwick running on a full count.Ludwick looked like an easy out at second, but he rattled the ball out of second baseman Skip Schumaker’s glove, what Schumaker called a “perfect knockdown,” for a stolen base.New Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman, a regular outfielder for the first time since 2004, had two hits and didn’t touch the ball in eight innings in the field.
NOTES—Jim Edmonds, who ditched a comeback bid in February after signing a minor league contract with the Cardinals, threw out the first pitch…..Latos, who’s on the 15-day DL, threw a bullpen session as scheduled prior to the game…..Cardinals INF Nick Punto was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 22 with a sports hernia. He’s with the team and could play by May.
MINNEAPOLIS—Derrick Rose had 23 points and 10 assists in three quarters and the Bulls blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-91 on Wednesday night.Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 14 rebounds and the Bulls recorded 31 assists on 41 field goals to stay 2½ games ahead of Boston and Miami in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.Kevin Love had 16 points and nine rebounds, but was limited to 27 minutes in his first game back from a strained left groin. The Timberwolves (17-58) lost their eighth straight game and have sunk to the bottom of the West.The Bulls, who were missing starting center Joakim Noah because of a sprained right ankle, bounced back in a big way after a humbling loss to Philadelphia.Two nights after the 76ers snapped Bulls 14-game home winning streak, the Bulls attacked the Wolves from the start, playing a beautifully unselfish brand of basketball that was on an entirely different level than the home team.Rose had 13 points and five assists in the first quarter — Wolves point guard Luke Ridnour had 11 points and two assists in the entire game — and the Bulls had 17 assists on 22 baskets in the first half.The ball movement created wide-open shot after wide-open shot, a cohesive unit dominating a group of individuals in every way, shape and form.The Bulls shot 50 percent for the game, pulling away in the third quarter with a 3 by Rose and a drive-and-dish from Luol Deng to Boozer that gave them an 86-62 lead.Love and Rose have played against each other for years, dating to their high school and AAU days in California and are close friends. The two worked out together, along with Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, at a Los Angeles gym over the summer and the hard work clearly paid off. All three players are having career seasons, with Love and Rose emerging as the faces of their respective franchises. Love earned his first All-Star appearance and leads the NBA in rebounding, but it is Rose who has quickly asserted himself as one of the game’s elite players.His blend of strength, quickness and pure speed has proven too much for the league to handle, and his selfless attitude has transformed the Bulls from a middling playoff team to a legitimate contender and the current No. 1 seed in the East.
“You look at what he’s done with his team, it’s tough to argue D-Rose isn’t the MVP,” Love said.
He is also exactly what the Timberwolves are missing. Love is a wonderful supporting player, but they need a leader, a superstar, a competitor like Rose if they are ever going to lift themselves from the Western Conference basement.While Rose had the Bulls humming, with the ball moving, the defense squeezing and the jumpers falling, the Timberwolves wilted into a one-on-one mess.They had just 12 assists for the game and too often settled for jumpers or wild drives to the basket.
NOTES—Technically, two of Love’s 16 points weren’t his. Bulls forward Taj Gibson knocked the ball into his own basket with just over eight minutes to play in the second quarter, and Love was credited as the nearest player to the ball. … Veteran Kurt Thomas started for Noah and hit his first three jumpers. He finished with six points and eight rebounds. … Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic missed his second straight game with a hip injury.
BOSTON—Mark Recchi has 576 goals, 956 assists and one more objective before he retire, leading the Boston Bruins to a 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Tim Thomas stopped 32 shots for his ninth shutout of the season, and Recchi had an assist to give him 1,532 points – one more than Paul Coffey. Bruins great Ray Bourque is next at 1,579; everyone ahead of Recchi who’s been retired long enough to be eligible is in the Hall of Fame.Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk scored 2:20 apart in the second period to break a scoreless tie, and Recchi assisted on the second goal. Nathan Horton made it 3-0 in the third. It was the 25th shutout of Thomas’ career, and his second in three games. He has allowed just two goals in four games to drop his league-leading goals-against average to 1.96.Corey Crawford made 31 saves for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who had won three of four but remained three points ahead of idle Calgary for eighth place in the Western Conference.The Bruins protected their seven-point lead over Montreal atop the Northeast Division and moved three points behind the Washington Capitals in the race for the No. 2 seed in the East.One night after an overtime victory in Detroit, the Blackhawks started slow and didn’t get off a shot for the first 7:44. It was still scoreless when the Bruins took a faceoff in the Hawk end with just over eight minutes left in the second. The puck came out to Chara at the left point, and he wristed it past Crawford to make it 1-0.Boychuk made it 2-0 with a knuckleball that Crawford seemed to lose track of. It stayed that way until the third, when Daniel Paille chased the puck toward the corner and backhanded it through the slot to Horton, who stickhandled to Crawford’s glove side and shot the puck past him.Bruins forward Shawn Thornton left the game with a cut after taking a skate to the head in the second period. He didn’t return.
NOTES—Boston’s minor league affiliate in Providence of the AHL signed 2009 third-round pick Ryan Button to an amateur tryout agreement. … It was the Bruins’ last game against the Western Conference. They finished the season 8-7-3. … Crawford made his 21st consecutive start and the first appearance of his career against the Bruins. … Horton reached 50 points for the fourth time in five seasons. … The Blackhawks lost to a Northeast Division team for the first time this season (4-1).
Thaddeus Young scored 21 points and the Philadelphia 76ers built a 23-point lead and held on Monday night, beating the Bulls 97-85 and ending their 14-game home winning streak.The Bulls, losing for only the second time in its last 14 games overall, got 31 points from Derrick Rose, who also had 10 turnovers. The Bulls still own the best record in the East, leading by two games over the Celtics and Heat. Boston lost to Indiana on Monday night and Miami was idle.Andre Iguodala added 19 points and seven assists for the 76ers, who lost at the United Center by 45 points in December. Philly had six players in double figures.Carlos Boozer scored 15 points for the Bulls, and Joakim Noah had 10 points and 13 rebounds.After the Bulls cut into the big deficit and trailed by only five entering the final quarter, Iguodala converted a three-point play.Rose made two strong drives for baskets, once with a highlight-film crossover as the Bulls rallied within four.The lead went back to eight on a layup by Young, who moments later was shaken during a loose ball scramble with just over five minutes left. And when 7-foot-1 Spencer Hawes hit back-to-back jumpers, Philly had increased the lead back to 10 with 3:45 to go.Rose made two at the line and Noah drove for a basket to make it a six-point game before Hawes connected again and Jrue Holiday had a layup after a Bulls turnover to put it back to 10 and put it out of reach.Young scored 17 points in the first half and the Sixers led by as many as 23 before settling for a 53-37 halftime lead. Philly shot 46 percent and had a strong defensive effort against Rose, holding him to seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.But Rose responded in the third with three driving baskets and a floater and his 10 points finally brought the United Center crowd into the game. Trailing by 19 early in the quarter, the Bulls turned up the defense and got their break going. They scored the final eight points of the period to close within 69-64 on Kyle Korver’s long jumper from the corner just before the buzzer. Philly was outscored 27-16 in the third.Young had 13 points in the second quarter and the Sixers kept running, driving and beating the Bulls to rebounds, building a 48-25 point lead.Philly came out blazing at the outset, making 13 of 24 field-goal attempts in the opening quarter and taking a 27-13 lead after one when Young dunked just before the buzzer. Hawes scored eight points — one more than his season average — and showed an outside touch while shooting 4 of 6.The 76ers cut Rose off so he couldn’t penetrate in the middle as he missed three of four shots and scored only two in the first. The Bulls shot only 30 percent (6 for 20) in the first.
NOTES—The Bulls’ season low for points in the first half was 36 against the Lakers in December. Their lowest-scoring half of the season was 30 in the second against Atlanta earlier this month…..It was the Bulls’ first home loss since Jan. 18 against Charlotte…..Philly shot 45 percent for the game and Young was 10 for 16….The Bulls still lead Boston(and now idle Miami)by two games for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference since Indiana beat the Celtics.
DETROIT—Marian Hossa scored against the Detroit Red Wings for the first time since leaving them to sign with the Blackhawks.He was happier about the extra point it gave the defending champions.Hossa scored on a power play 51 seconds into overtime, lifting his team to a 3-2 road win on Monday night.The Blackhawks improved their precarious playoff positioning with their third win in four games. They began the night in eighth place, barely ahead of idle Calgary and Dallas and one point behind Anaheim, which hosted Colorado late Monday.Henrik Zetterberg was called for hooking Patrick Kane with 3.7 seconds left, putting the Hawks on the power play to begin the extra session. The Blackhawks took advantage on Hossa’s shot from the left circle off a pass from Kane.Zetterberg agreed with the call and thought it was a fitting end to Hossa’s night.The Blackhawks improved to 15-6-4 in March and February after barely being over .500 in each of the first four months of the season, giving their salary-cap depleted team a shot to defend the Stanley Cup when the playoffs start in two weeks.The Red Wings, meanwhile, are in a 1-2-2 slump that has trimmed their cushion to six points in the Central Division over Nashville with six games left for both teams.Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook scored in the first period to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead that held up until Danny Cleary was credited with a goal early in the third that was later given to Zetterberg, who scored the second tying goal of the game on a shot that went off Chris Campoli. Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom made it 1-all in the first period and became the NHL’s first 40-year-old defenseman with 60 points in a season. He surpassed the mark set by Ray Bourque, who had 59 points as a 40-year-old defenseman during the 2000-01 season — his last — with the Colorado Avalanche.Corey Crawford made 33 saves for the Blackhawks.Detroit’s Joey MacDonald stopped 38 shots while starting in place of Jimmy Howard, who might play with his injured left shoulder Wednesday at home against the St. Louis Blues.Both teams were missing one of their leading scorers.Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk was out for a fifth straight game with a lower body injury and Patrick Sharp for the third game in a row with an injured left knee that might keep him out for the rest of the regular season.The Red Wings had to play much of the night without Todd Bertuzzi, who was called for a 5-minute elbowing penalty and a game misconduct for hitting Ryan Johnson in the head 5:17 into the game.Johnson went down to his knees and gloves for a while before slowly getting up. He went off the ice and toward the dressing room, but played later in the first period.After being checked for a concussion, Johnson said he felt fine and wasn’t upset with Bertuzzi.After a scoreless second period, the Red Wings got some puck luck when Zetterberg’s shot got past Crawford 2:25 into the third…..Both teams had plenty of scoring chances the rest of the game, but Crawford and MacDonald held up for the rest of regulation.
NOTES—Hossa, in his second season with the Blackhawks after one year with the Red Wings, hadn’t scored against Detroit since his hat trick on Jan. 15, 2008, while playing for Atlanta…..The Hawks have won three of four against Detroit heading into their home-and-home series on April 8 and 10 that ends the regular season…..MacDonald was sent to the minors and recalled twice this month because Chris Osgood was unable to come back from hernia surgery…..The Blackhawks scratched Dave Bolland for the seventh straight game because of a concussion…..Detroit’s Johan Franzen returned to the lineup after missing four games with a groin injury and whiffed on two scoring chances on a sequence late in regulation.
PHOENIX—Mark Buehrle wouldn’t mind matching this outing during the regular season.Buehrle allowed just two hits in five innings and the White Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1.Most surprising to Buehrle were his seven strikeouts, five more than he had in his four starts combined entering Sunday’s game.Only three Brewers reached base against Buehrle. Erick Almonte doubled in the fourth and was safe on an error in the fifth and Jeremy Reed led off the fourth with a single. Brent Morel hit a two-run double in the second off Marco Estrada.Estrada, who came over from the minor league camp to start for the second time, allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out four.Estrada is a candidate to fill in as a spot starter with right-hander Zach Greinke opening the season on the disabled list with a broken rib even though he won’t break camp with the team.
NOTES—Before the game, the Brewers acquired Washington CF Nyjer Morgan, two days after trading Chris Dickerson to the Yankees. Roenicke said Morgan will back up Carlos Gomez and also serve as a pinch-runner. To make room for Morgan, the Brewers informed OF Brandon Boggs that he will not make the club. Since Boggs is out of options, the team is hoping he will clear waivers and be able to report to Triple-A Nashville. Milwaukee also optioned RHP Justin James to Nashville…..Jake Peavy threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on the back fields at the White Sox’s spring complex in Glendale, his first work from a mound in a week. Peavy is expected to remain in Glendale for extended spring because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. He last pitched on March 19, throwing 5 2-3 innings against Oakland……Nineteen Brewers players, along with Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Bob Uecker, signed autographs before the game and raised $4,600 for the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami earlier this month.
MESA—Ryan Dempster is ready for his first opening-day start with the Cubs.Dempster threw four shaky innings in his final spring start and the Cubs lost to a Colorado Rockies split squad 6-4 on Sunday.Tyler Colvin hit a grand slam in the eighth for the Cubs to make it close. It was Colvin’s third homer of the spring.Clay Mortensen, expected to open the season in the minors for the Rockies, worked five shutout innings and gave up three hits.Jose Morales, trying to win the backup catcher job in Colorado, had a two-run double off Dempster in the second and an RBI double in the fourth.Dempster, set to pitch Friday against Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field, allowed three runs and five hits. He walked two and struck out two, throwing 73 pitches.Dempster finished the spring 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. He said he’s looking forward to facing the Pirates at home.
NOTES—Geovany Soto had two hits. … The Cubs released veteran right-hander Carlos Silva, bringing their spring training roster to 27. Silva was let go after making critical comments Saturday about first-year pitching coach Mark Riggins. “Basically, he wasn’t good enough to make the team,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “Besides that, his comments about Mark Riggins were totally inappropriate and unacceptable. Once again, it’s a weakness for somebody that doesn’t perform well and chooses to blame somebody else on the way out.”