Jays, Indians play longest opener in MLB history

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Jays, Indians play longest opener in MLB history

From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- The Toronto Blue Jays are determined to have a special season. They opened it by making history. J.P. Arencibia hit a three-run homer in the 16th inning to send the Blue Jays, who rallied to force extras with a three-run ninth, to a 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday in the longest opening-day game ever in the major leagues. A game that seemed so routine for several hours wound up extraordinary. "I guess it's pretty cool now," said Arencibia, who wasn't thrilled at catching all 16 innings. "I'm glad to be on the winning end." Arencibia was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts before he connected off Indians reliever Jairo Asencio. The marathon eclipsed the previous longest openers -- 15 innings between Cleveland and Detroit on April 19, 1960, and 15 innings between Philadelphia and Washington on April 13, 1926. According to STATS LLC, the Indians-Blue Jays opener was the longest of 1,360 opening-day games played since 1901. "If you're going to break records you might as well do it on opening day," said Indians All-Star closer Chris Perez, who was able to show some humor after allowing the Blue Jays to come back from a 4-1 deficit in the ninth. "No position player wants to be out there for 16 innings on opening day. I feel terrible. "Everybody did their job today except me." Luis Perez, Toronto's seventh pitcher, worked four scoreless innings for the win and Sergio Santos got two outs to end the 5-hour, 14-minute game. Jose Bautista homered and hit a sacrifice fly for Toronto, which did next to nothing for eight innings against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson before storming back in the ninth. Jack Hannahan hit a three-run homer in the second to give Cleveland a 4-0 lead against Ricky Romero. But the Indians didn't score again, blanked for 14 innings by Toronto's pitchers to disappoint a sellout crowd of 43,190 that thinned to just a few thousand die-hards by the end. An opener that began in clear skies and bright sunshine ended just after twilight as the sun disappeared over the Lake Erie horizon. This one had a little of everything: strong pitching, bad pitching, blown chances, emptied benches and bullpens, a soon-to-be 45-year-old infielder playing the outfield and, of course, a spot in baseball annals. "I guess we got in the record books," said Masterson. "That's something. Who started it? That's a trivia question." Masterson allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings. But the Blue Jays, who believe they can hang with Boston, New York and Tampa Bay in the brutal AL East, rallied in the ninth off Perez and gave manager John Farrell reason to think this season could be wild. "If tonight is any kind of insight into this season, strap in," Farrell said. "We're in for a long ride." In the 16th, moments after the team's had rewritten the history books, Asencio walked Brett Lawrie and Omar Vizquel reached on a fielder's choice before Arencibia, who hit 23 homers as a rookie last season, drove a pitch onto the pedestrian plaza in left. He was lucky it ever got there. After taking a ball, Arencibia thought third-base coach Brian Butterfield had given him the bunt sign and he popped his attempt foul. "For some reason, I thought I got the bunt sign," Arencibia said. "That got me in two strikes. Then I was just trying to hit the ball. I happened to hit it hard and got it out of the park." Arencibia was unaware of his gaffe until he got back into the dugout, where Farrell told him what he had done. "He high-fived me and said, Great job, you missed a sign,'" Arencibia said, laughing. The Indians squandered a potential game-winning situation in the 12th. They loaded the bases on two walks and a single before Farrell brought 44-year-old shortstop Vizquel off the bench as a fifth infielder. The strategy worked when Asdrubal Cabrera swung at Perez's first pitch and bounced into an inning-ending double play. Toronto trailed 4-1 going into the ninth after being stopped by Masterson. But the Blue Jays rallied for three runs off Perez, who missed most of spring training with a strained side muscle and looked awful. He gave up two singles to start the inning before Bautista's sacrifice fly made it 4-2. Kelly Johnson took second on the play, and after Adam Lind walked, Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double to tie it at 4. Perez got an out, but walked Eric Thames and was pulled by manager Manny Acta before hanging his head as he walked dejectedly to the dugout amid loud boos. "I don't think I was too pumped up," Perez said. "I was rushing, definitely, especially when stuff started getting sticky." Perez's meltdown cost Masterson a win he deserved. The right-hander won 12 games last season, but pitched better than his record. Acta chose him to open the season, picking him in spring training over Ubaldo Jimenez, who may be the staff's ace but hasn't lived up to expectations since he was acquired in a July trade form Colorado. Masterson set an early tone, striking out the side in the first. He retired the side in order four times, and except for giving up Bautista's homer, was never in serious trouble. Hannahan's third career opening-day homer gave the Indians a 4-0 lead. Hours later, Hannahan didn't know the game had reached historic proportions. "It felt really long," he said, "and a little chilly, too." NOTES: Arencibia has a thing for debuts. He hit two homers on opening-day last season and connected for two in his first major league game in 2010. ... The Indians have had six home openers go to into extras since Progressive Field opened in 1994. ... Cleveland has lost four straight openers and eight of 10. ... Cleveland pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts. ... Toronto's Colby Rasmus made a diving catch to rob Hannahan of extra bases in the fifth. ... Farrell began his playing career with Cleveland and pitched five seasons for the Indians, often taking the mound in less-than-ideal-conditions in old Cleveland Stadium. "I pitched in the snow before," he said. "Opening day on the Great Lakes is a risky proposition."

Colin Kaepernick tops list of 49ers' offseason decisions

Colin Kaepernick tops list of 49ers' offseason decisions

When the 49ers’ next general manager and coach settle into their offices in Santa Clara, among their first decisions will be to determine which of the team’s pending free agents are worth keeping around.

Team’s executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe have a window to speak with Super Bowl-bound Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan beginning Friday evening and concluding Saturday night.

During that time frame, the 49ers hope to determine which of the team’s general manager candidates is the best fit with Shanahan to collaborate all of the organization’s football decisions. Shanahan is not allowed to be hired officially until after Super Bowl 51 on Feb. 5.

The 49ers have exclusive negotiating rights with all of their scheduled free agents through March 6. The window for open negotiating for all teams with all free agents runs from March 7 at 9 a.m. until March 9 at 1 p.m. The free-agent signing period begins after that.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ scheduled free agents:

QB Colin Kaepernick: He is in a different situation. Kaepernick is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract. If he does not, it would seem likely the 49ers would release him to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay. Statistically, Kaepernick had his best season since his first full season as a starter. The question is whether a new coach and a new GM, who are given the power to tear down the roster, would want to stick with the same quarterback?

QB Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert got his opportunity to start the season, but his subpar play prompted Chip Kelly to bench him after five games. Toward the end of the season, Gabbert had sunk to No. 3 on the depth chart behind Kaepernick and Christian Ponder.

QB Christian Ponder: He turns 29 next month and has not played in an NFL regular-season game since 2014, when he attempted 44 passes for the Minnesota Vikings. There is not much evidence to support the argument for a contract offer.

QB Thad Lewis: He’s already 29. And he has not attempted a pass in an NFL regular-season game since 2013, when he appeared in six games with the Buffalo Bills. His season ended after the first exhibition game with a torn ACL.

RB Shaun Draughn: He is a good special-teams player and a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield, but Draughn averaged just 2.6 yards on 74 rushing attempts as Carlos Hyde’s primary backup. The 49ers will look to upgrade this position.

WR Quinton Patton: The 49ers need more playmakers on the outside. It’s doubtful a fresh set of eyes will come to the 49ers and place a high priority on retaining Patton, who caught 37 passes for 408 yards with no touchdowns while making 14 starts.

WR Jeremy Kerley: When slot receiver Bruce Ellington sustained a season-ending hamstring injury in the exhibition season, the 49ers responded with a trade to acquire Kerley. He turned out to be the team’s only consistent pass-catching threat with 64 receptions for 667 yards and three TDs. He was also a safe option on punt returns. Kerley is definitely worth considering for the next regime.

WR Rod Streater: The veteran receiver, who the 49ers acquired in a trade just before the start of the regular season, was underutilized. The 49ers will unquestionably consider all upgrade opportunities via free agency and the draft.

TE Jim Dray: A late-season pickup due to injuries, Dray does not figure to be a priority to re-sign.

G Andrew Gardner: Gardner came to the 49ers late in the season due to injuries because he was already familiar with Kelly’s system. When he saw significant playing time in the season finale, it was his first action since appearing in three games with the Eagles in 2015.

K Phil Dawson: He turned 42 on Monday, but he can still kick. With extra points moving back to 33 yards, accuracy is more important than ever. There should be a spot for Dawson in the NFL – if he chooses to continue his career.

NT Glenn Dorsey: He will turn 32 in August, and his body appears to be breaking down. He battled injuries throughout the season after returning from a severe knee injury in 2015. When healthy, he’s still a good player. But can he remain healthy for an extended period of time?

DL Tony Jerod-Eddie: He was near the bottom of the depth chart throughout the season, as the 49ers deactivated him for seven games. He does not figure to be a priority for a new personnel department.

DL Chris Jones: Claimed off waivers from Miami for the final six games of the season, Jones played very well in his brief stint with the team. He deserves a chance to show what he can do in training camp – with some team.

LB Michael Wilhoite: Through all the problems the 49ers had at inside linebacker, Wilhoite was unable to hold onto a starting job. This position will be one of the areas the organization must address with the uncertainty of NaVorro Bowman’s attempted return from a torn Achilles.

LB Gerald Hodges: The organization is trying to build a new culture. Hodges left the team short-handed for the game at Atlanta due to his violation of team rules.

LB Nick Bellore: He came to the 49ers because of his special-teams play. He ended up starting 10 games in place of Bowman, and things did not go well for the 49ers’ defense during that time.

* * *

In addition, guard Andrew Tiller, running back DuJuan Harris, and defensive backs Marcus Cromartie and Chris Davis are scheduled to be restricted free agents. The 49ers can retain contract rights to those players with minimum tenders.

Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

Cauley-Stein gets rare opportunity, delivers in Kings' win

There was a Willie Cauley-Stein sighting Monday in Detroit. It’s become a rarity this season to see the Sacramento Kings’ 2015 first-round draft pick play substantial minutes in coach Dave Joerger’s rotation. But the bench is getting lean and Cauley-Stein answered the bell.

“He’s putting in his work and had an opportunity,” Joerger told media members following the Kings’ 109-104 win over the Pistons. “He went and got balls out of his area, which is important for a guy that athletic.”

The former 6th overall selection has played in just 37 games this season, sitting out seven contests as a healthy scratch. He’s posting 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11 minutes a night, but with both Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi sidelined, Cauley-Stein is getting a look.

It’s been difficult for the former Kentucky star. He knows he’s on a short a leash. He doesn’t have time to settle into the game, it’s zero-60 in five seconds or the bench is calling.

“I just try to maintain a mentality of just going in, going really hard, making sure I’m talking to the guards on different plays,” Cauley-Stein told reporters in Detroit. “Just trying to stay mentally right on it.”

After playing in multiple variations of the “dribble-drive motion offense,” both in college and in his rookie season in Sacramento under George Karl, the 7-footer has had to relearn the game of basketball under Joerger. It’s a difficult path to minutes, but Cauley-Stein can be seen working overtime almost everyday.

“The amount of work I’ve been putting in, it’s starting to show, it’s starting to pay off,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’m starting to get the trust of my teammates and my coaches behind me and that’s everything in this game.”

Following practice, Cauley-Stein can be seen working with big man coach Bob Thornton. When he is done there, he goes to assistant Larry Lewis for more skill work and then there are the 3-on-3 games with Ben McLemore and the rookies.

He can be seen in pregame working on his handles alongside McLemore and the coaching staff and he spent plenty of time over the summer working on his shooting stroke with Peja Stojakovic.

“It’s a great feeling to know when you put it down, you’ve got complete control where it’s going,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s the same thing with your shot. The more and more you work on it, the more and more it just comes second hand. Right now it all feels good for me.”

Cauley-Stein had a breakout 12 points and five rebounds against the Pistons on Monday. He was active and even took All-Star center Andre Drummond off the dribble for a huge two-handed dunk.

A defensive specialist by nature, Cauley-Stein still has a long way to go before he is ready to be a major cog in Joerger’s high-post offense. But at 23 years old and under team control for at least another two seasons, there is still time to salvage the quirky big man.

The Kings need Cauley-Stein to develop into a tireless worker on the glass and a player that does the little things. He still has plenty of upside and tremendous length and athleticism. He’s doing the work and earned another shot at playing minutes on the frontline next to DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos.

More nights like the one in Detroit would go a long way towards earning the trust of Joerger and his staff.