Athletics

Kevin Love might be out until Thanksgiving

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Kevin Love might be out until Thanksgiving

From Comcast SportsNetMINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Love returned from the London Olympics determined to do what every veteran U.S. teammate of his had already done -- lead his team to the playoffs.The Minnesota Timberwolves will likely have tobeginthe first month of that pursuit without him.The two-time All-Star broke his right hand in a morning workout Wednesday and will miss six to eight weeks.Love broke the third and fourth metacarpals on his shooting hand in a workout before practice. It's a crushing blow to the Timberwolves, who already will be without star point guard Ricky Rubio for what is expected to be at least the first six weeks of the regular season while he recovers from a torn ACL in his left knee.The Timberwolves open the regular season athomeagainst Sacramento on Nov. 2.Team owner Glen Taylor, speaking to reporters at halftime of the WNBA finals game, acknowledged his initial "why us?" feeling when he first heard the news in the morning. But he tried to keep a positive attitude about the situation, expressing hope that Love will only miss a month of the regular season and confidence that Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham will take advantage of the extra playing time to help the Wolves for the future."I think all of our fans anticipated this season with great enthusiasm. We knew we were going to have to wait for Ricky, and now we have two guys to wait for," Taylor said, adding: "But again, I'm going to be positive about it and say we've got some young guys and let's see themstepup."All the work David Kahn and the rest of the front office did to add veteran depth this summer is about to be tested more than they ever could have imagined.Love averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds last season, leading the team in both categories and emerging as the best power forward in the game. He signed a four-year contract in January worth more than 60 million, then played a key role in the United States' march to the gold medal in London.As the only NBA veteran on Team USA who had yet to appear in the playoffs, Love came back brimming with confidence that this was the year the Wolves would break through for the first time since 2004. That already was going to be a challenge in the powerful Western Conference without Rubio, the dynamic point guard who quickly became the glue that held this young team together before injuring his knee in a game against the Lakers on March 9.But with veteran additions Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Greg Stiemsma and Cunningham, Love was convinced they would be able to weather playing without Rubio better than last season, when they lost 20 of their last 25 games after he went down."We have a great training camp and we can get off to a good start and guys stay healthy, there's really no telling what we can do," Love said just before training camp opened. "I know a lot of teams in the Western Conference have loaded up, but I still feel we can knock those teams off and have a really good year."Two weeks before the season has even started, the wishes for goodhealthare already out the window. Love, who scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a preseason win over Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday night, was scheduled to fly to New York for an examination by Dr. Andy Weiland on Thursday.He had a similar injury to his left hand in mid-October of 2009 and wound upmissingthe first 18 games of the regular season.The injury likely means more playing time for Williams, last year's second overall pick. With Love at power forward, Williams worked diligently to lose some weight, reshape his body and work on his ball-handling to try to earn more minutes at small forward.Williams has always been more comfortable at power forward, so this could be the opportunity for him to make a consistent impact that coach Rick Adelman has been waiting to see from him. Williams impressed coaches with his physical conditioning and aggressive approach to practice when training camp began, but the playing time has still been sporadic.He played just seven minutes Tuesday night against Haifa while Adelman took longer looks at the starting unit and Cunningham off the bench at power forward. Cunningham and Lou Amundson have both impressed Adelman with their tenacity and aggressiveness both in games and during practice."I think he's really an energy guy," Adelman has said about Cunningham. "Very good defender. Does all the little things. Him and Lou are very similar. The things that maybe we didn't do so well last year, running down loose balls, getting to the offensive boards, keeping the boards alive."Adelman also has the versatile Kirilenko, who can play both forward positions, to lean on. He could choose to slide Kirilenko to power forward and use Chase Budinger at the small forward in another starting lineup.Love's absence will also put more pressure on veteran shooting guard Brandon Roy's knees to hold up. Roy was signed in the offseason after missing last year with chronic knee issues. He has held up very well so far in the preseason, and his scoring now becomes even more crucial to fill Love's void.Taylor said he didn't know any more specifics about how Love was hurt. He said "all options are open" for adding another player to the roster to fill in for now.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.