Magic Johnson's Dodgers open with a win

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Magic Johnson's Dodgers open with a win

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- It was a Magic start to the season for everyone with the Los Angeles Dodgers except for reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who was too sick to go longer than three innings on opening day. With incoming and outgoing owners Magic Johnson and Frank McCourt watching from next to the dugout, the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 Thursday. Johnson, the former Lakers great who is part of a group buying the Dodgers from McCourt for 2.15 billion, had a big smile after Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer in the eighth, giving him three RBIs. "It was kind of cool -- right when I came back from hitting the home run, he stuck his head in the dugout and said, Nice job, kid,'" Kemp said. "I was like, Hey, it's Magic Johnson right there, man.' It's good to have him around and good to see him. That was a little motivation right there. I was pretty pumped up for that. It was a good day all around. Good W." Johnson and McCourt sat next to each other and chatted throughout the game. Johnson didn't comment as he was quickly whisked out of the ballpark in an SUV. Kershaw left with the stomach flu after limiting the Padres to two hits through three innings. He struck out three, walked one and singled off newcomer Edinson Volquez in the third for the Dodgers' first hit of the season. Manager Don Mattingly said he saw Kershaw lying down in the tunnel behind the dugout after the third. "It's not a real good sign when your starting pitcher was laying down," Mattingly said. Mattingly said he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt discussed holding out Kershaw. "He wanted to go," the manager said. "He wasn't dizzy or didn't have a fever or any of that kind of stuff, so it was one of those situations where he wanted to go. "I'm sure (the Padres) were looking for a lot more out there on opening day," Mattingly added. "His fastball probably looked more like some type of a changeup or something. Basically he was trying to get quick innings, get through them, get off the field, try to survive inning by inning. Pretty impressive, really, that he gets that far." Said Padres manager Bud Black: "It's nice to get him out of the game, thinking the Cy Young Award winner is out and you have six innings to go score runs." Josh Lindblom (1-0) pitched two perfect innings in relief of Kershaw. Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for the save. It was a poor start for the Padres. Volquez walked in L.A's first two runs in the fourth inning and the Padres committed three errors, two of which led to the Dodgers' third run. Volquez (0-1), Cincinnati's opening-day starter a year ago, struck out five through three scoreless innings and singled off Kershaw in the third for the Padres' first hit. He then allowed two runs on four walks, including three in a row, and two singles in the fourth. Volquez loaded the bases with one out before walking James Loney. Andre Ethier was called out trying to score on a wild pitch, but replays showed he touched the plate just before Volquez tagged him. Volquez again loaded the bases, and then walked A.J. Ellis. "I lost my control a little bit in the fourth," Volquez said. "I got lucky to get out of there with two runs. I thought I made some good pitches for strikes and they were called balls." A half-inning earlier, the Padres loaded the bases with two outs against Kershaw before Chase Headley took a called third strike. Volquez went five, allowing three runs, two earned, and three hits. He struck out seven and walked four. Dee Gordon led off the Dodgers' fifth with a fly ball to center that glanced off Cameron Maybin's glove for a three-base error. With one out, Gordon scored when shortstop Jason Bartlett booted Kemp's grounder. Kemp hit a drive to right off Brad Brach in the eighth, making it 5-1. Brach was recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A. San Diego's Jesus Guzman hit an RBI double off Mike MacDougal in the sixth and Maybin had a two-run homer to left off Kenley Jansen in the eighth that was estimated at 445 feet. NOTES: The Padres placed RHP Tim Stauffer on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a strained pitching elbow. Stauffer had been expected to start the season opener before he experienced soreness in his arm. To take Stauffer's roster spot, Brach was recalled from Tucson. ... The four-game series continues Friday night, when the scheduled starters are Chad Billingsley for the Dodgers and Cory Luebke for the Padres. ... Jerry Coleman, celebrating his 70th year in baseball and his 40th with the Padres, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The longtime broadcaster played second base for the New York Yankees for nine seasons and managed the Padres in 1980.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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USATSI

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told NBCSportsBayArea.com late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.