Jets' locker room split on Sanchez

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Jets' locker room split on Sanchez

From Comcast SportsNet

NEW YORK (AP)The fallout from the New York Jets failing to make the NFL playoffs is in full swing, with members of coach Rex Ryans staff leaving, players taking shots at quarterback Mark Sanchez and other players defending him.

In less than 24 hours, the coaching staff was shaken up with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer walking away, former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano replacing him, and a few assistants saying they wont be back.

Now the latest controversy involves the shaky status of Sanchez.

Some of his teammates say he lacks the work ethic and leadership skills to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl. And with a new offensive coordinator in charge, the window for Sanchez to do so might have gotten a lot smaller.

Mark is heading in the right direction, left guard Matt Slauson said during a telephone interview Wednesday. He is going to be a great quarterback and I really believe he can lead us to a championship. His rookie year, we went to the AFC championship and again last year. The guy can do it. He can get it done. The rest of the team has to do their part, too.

The Daily News quoted one player, who was not identified, as saying Sanchez was lazy and content. Another player suggested the Jets should do all they can to try to bring in Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, if hes healthy, because Sanchez isnt improving.

Whoever said all that, theyre out of their minds and just trippin, defensive lineman Marcus Dixon said. You cant blame a season on one guy. I mean, come on. Its all unfair. We have Mark Sanchez. Hes our quarterback. Hes our guy. And thats how just about everyone in that locker room feels.

Sanchezs older brother Nick, who is also one of his agents, told The Associated Press in an email that the quarterback was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Center Nick Mangold defended Sanchez on Twitter and then during a radio interview, saying he very much so, 100 percent believes in Sanchez.

I would say definitely the majority of the team feels the same way about Mark, Slauson added. I dont know who said those things, but I would definitely say its a small, small portion of the team that doesnt have confidence in Mark.

Dixon pointed out that Sanchez has gathered the teams running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and other quarterbacks in Southern California at his old high school the past few offseasons to work on team chemistry and camaraderie much of it on his own dime.

If thats someone who doesnt know how to be a leader or have a good work ethic, then I dont know, man, Dixon said.

There were whispers in the locker room that Sanchez lost the ability to lead late in the season because of his struggles reading defenses and being accurate. Not so, says Slauson.

I thought he took tremendous strides this year as a leader, Slauson said. The problem was the situation we were in made it tough for everyone. I mean, it was such a strange and bizarre year for us, but he was one of the only ones who was there stepping up and taking charge, telling us, Look guys, we can do this. Follow me.

Retired Jets right tackle Damien Woody, now an analyst for ESPN, said he thinks the team does baby Sanchez to an extent and 41-year-old backup Mark Brunell never provided a true threat to Sanchez.

They definitely need to bring in a viable backup, a viable backup to really provide that competition, because with competition, you are going to rise or you are just going to crumble, Woody said while at the Giants training facility. So I think you bring in a viable backup and let it play out. Well see which Mark Sanchez shows up after that.

As for Manning coming to the Jets, its certainly intriguing, but highly unlikely. For one, hes coming off a neck injury that sidelined him the entire season.

The Jets could gamble on bringing him in and hoping he stays healthy, of course. But theres also little chance New York could keep both Manning and Sanchez because of the financial ramifications. Another consideration: what it would do to Sanchezs confidence.

Its also unlikely the team would give up so soon on a player it had such high hopes for when he was drafted fifth overall in 2009.

While his numberspassing accuracy, quarterback rating, yards per pass have been mediocre, the argument could be made that Ryan needs to share some of the blame for it. And it didnt help that he guaranteed a Super Bowl win this season.

Ryan raved about the amount of talent on the team, and was excited about having the potential to have Sanchez throw the ball more often with Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason joining Holmes during training camp. After two years of a run-first mentality, Ryan envisioned Sanchez airing it out.

But it didnt work.

The offensive line was shaky, Sanchez was sacked 39 times for the season, and the wide receivers never truly were in sync with the quarterback as Ryan insisted the Jets go back to the Ground-and-Pound. The offense finished the season 25th overall.

Next came finger-pointing and whispers that the team would be better off without Sanchez.

It is definitely really disheartening that some players are coming out and want their names protected and all that, and theyre talking bad about our team and organization, Slauson said. That isnt how its supposed to be done. All I hope for them is that they stay anonymous because things wont end well for them if that ever comes out. Bad mouthing the team and the organization, that could be grounds for losing their jobs. Im not saying anything will be done, but it would be bad to know exactly who it was because I wouldnt be able to look that guy in the eye the same way again.

Mark is the hardest-working quarterback Ive ever worked with, Slauson said. I mean, he is there all day long. He doesnt have an outside life, Im telling you. His whole life is about winning and improving the team. He cares so much and you can see it every day. I really do think he is a great player.

He should get a boost from working with Sparano, who loves to run the ball. That type of system could suit Sanchez perfectly, as it did his first two years.

We all believe in him, Slauson said. We really do. We just need to do a better job of executing on earlier downs so we can help make Mark look like the stud he really is.

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

Manaea felt 'little sharp pain', but status of shoulder not immediately known

ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.

As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.

“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”

Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.

“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”

Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”

The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.

Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.

“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”

Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

SAN FRANCISCO — This spring, Hunter Pence briefly tried to cut back on his coffee intake. The experiment did not last long for a player who is pure caffeine on and off the field, but even Pence is occasionally in need of more than a large cold brew. 

Pence tried to stay upbeat throughout a sluggish start to the season, but around him was a clubhouse in need of energy. Christian Arroyo walked through the door on Monday. Two days later, Michael Morse arrived.

“That’s quite an energy jolt,” Pence said of Arroyo. “Morse, it’s been an energy jolt as well.”

The two recent River Cats sent a pair of jolts through a stadium that was sold out for the 499th consecutive time. Arroyo hit a two-run homer in the seventh, his first in the big leagues. Morse went deep in the eighth for his first big league hit in two years and first homer as a Giant since the 2014 NLCS. 

Pence is close friends with Morse and and admirer of Arroyo, the 21-year-old who has taken a locker a few feet away. He made sure neither jolt went to waste, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to give the Giants a thrilling 4-3 win they hope they can build on.

“That was a shot in the arm,” Morse said.

The big slugger was just that earlier Wednesday. Morse agreed to terms on a minor league deal at Pence’s wedding last winter and he was on track for opening day before a hamstring injury. He was so excited by Wednesday’s call back to San Francisco that he beat Bruce Bochy to the park. The manager tried to lower expectations before the game, telling reporters that Morse would not be a regular starter, especially in left, where the Giants have watched a black hole open. 

Morse was here for the late innings, for the moment when Bochy looks at him and says simply, “Get ready, Mo.” For most of Wednesday’s game, it looked like that big moment wouldn’t come. Alex Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth but he was pulled in the seventh by a Dodgers staff trying to protect his arm. Sergio Romo entered and soon faced a kid who was 19 the first time he walked into Romo’s clubhouse. 

“He’s been doing the same thing in the big leagues with good results for a long time,” Arroyo said. 

Arroyo got the slider that’s always coming, low and away, and he drilled it deep to left-center. He hit only three homers last year but Giants management felt the 36 doubles at Richmond showed a developing power bat. The strength has come quickly, and the ball carried into the first row of seats. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’” Arroyo said, smiling. “I tried to slow down and take it all in.”

As Arroyo crossed the plate and looked to the sky, his family shared hugs — without spilling a nacho — in a section overlooking the home dugout. The ballpark roared. A 3-0 deficit had been nearly erased. 

“Now it’s a one-run game,” Bochy said. “Anything can happen.”

Even by that standard, Morse’s blast was improbable. This is a player who didn’t have a hit last season before being sent home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A player who, at 35, was having a poor spring before he announced to a reporter one day that he was going to hit a homer -- and then promptly did. On a rehab assignment over the past week, Morse had a .250 average and no homers, but he insisted to general manager Bobby Evans that his swing was ready. 

Evans believed, and Morse rewarded him with a moment that had everyone in the park throwing it back to 2014. Just as in the deciding game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Morse was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Sidewinding Pat Neshek was replaced by fire-balling Pedro Baez, but the approach was the same. 

“Swing hard,” Morse said. “Just in case you hit it.”

Baez kept pumping fastballs and Morse turned on one at 97 mph. He raised his arm the same way he did three years ago, an inning before Travis Ishikawa’s heroics. 

“I’m not going to lie,” Bochy said. “I was thinking about that game against St. Louis.”

All the Giants were. 

“You kind of just sit there and shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to his last homer here,” Posey said. “Even his excitement out of the box was similar.”

Morse said he didn’t intend to strike the same pose. 

“I was like, ‘I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases,’” he said, laughing. “It was cool, man. Not only for me, but for the team.”

For four innings, the surging bullpen made sure the homers would not be a fun footnote to another loss. Gorkys Hernandez kicked off the winning rally in the 10th with a single. He was pushed along by a stolen base, walk and bunt. Pence stepped in with no outs and engaged in one of the strangest battles of a career full of them. 

Ross Stripling, a starter with a deep repertoire, kept pumping 94 mph fastballs up near Pence’s eyes. Pence swung through one, fouled off five, and took three more for balls. Only one of the pitches he saw was in the strike zone. In the dugout, Posey shook his head in amusement. 

“It was kind of hard not to laugh,” Posey said. “He’s probably the only guy who can do that.”

Some Giants couldn’t hold the laughter in, even in a tense spot.

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat,” Bochy said. “He probably expanded as much as I’ve ever seen. If he would have walked it would have gone down as one of the more amazing walks with all the balls he swung at.”

On a night full of so much energy, a walk would have been an anticlimactic ending. Pence, who had been expecting a curveball the whole at-bat, lofted a 10th fastball deep enough to left to score Arroyo and send the Giants streaming out of the dugout. 

Arroyo, the youngest of them all, went sprinting across the infield. Morse followed, and soon he had Pence wrapped in a hug. Hours earlier, he had promised that at the very least, he would bring energy to the clubhouse. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined.

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season,” Pence said. “It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.”