MVP favorite might be out for a month

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MVP favorite might be out for a month

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto will have surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, leaving the NL Central leaders without their best hitter for the next three to four weeks. The 2010 National League MVP hurt the knee while sliding into third base June 29 in San Francisco, but has continued playing. Votto started for the NL in the All-Star game last Tuesday. A medical exam Monday night detected the tear and Votto will have arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday. General manager Walt Jocketty said Votto didn't have an MRI earlier because the first baseman didn't think he needed one. "He didn't request it until then," Jocketty said. "He said it wasn't a problem until the last couple of days." Votto decided to have the surgery. Jocketty said it's a simple procedure that takes only 20 to 30 minutes. "It is in my best interest and in the best interest of the team to do it now so that I can be healthy during the last two months of the pennant race," Votto said in a statement. Votto is batting .342 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs. He leads the NL in doubles, walks, on-base percentage and extra-base hits. "We'll see what we can do internally, initially," Jocketty said. "But it's going to be difficult to replace Joey Votto." He went hitless in his first two games back from the All-Star game then had a single and an RBI double during a 4-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday night that moved the Reds into sole possession of first place in the NL Central. The Reds didn't immediately make a move to replace him on the roster. Cincinnati has been in first place for 46 days because of its pitching and the NL's top defense. The Reds have used only five starters, a modern franchise record this deep into the season, and their bullpen is the best in the league. The offense has struggled, ranking in the middle of the league, and the loss of Votto costs the team its most consistent hitter. Votto was named MVP after the Reds' run to the NL Central title in 2010, but Cincinnati got swept by Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. He received a 10-year contract extension before the start of this season that added 225 million to his deal. Now, the Reds will find out just how much he means to the franchise. They lost their first game without him, 5-3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. "He's an MVP, a Gold Glover. What more can you ask in a guy?" said Todd Frazier, who filled in at first base. "Injuries are huge in baseball. He's got that presence. Whenever he is out there, he can do damage." Reds starter Bronson Arroyo saw Votto shortly before the game and got the bad news directly. "He looked funny," said Arroyo, who lasted only three innings. "I said, Are you playing?' He said, No, I need surgery.' At this time of year, if we can keep pressure on the other teams in our division and stay in the race -- if we can weather the storm -- he could give us a lift when he comes back." Instead of having a mainstay at first base and the No. 3 spot in the order, manager Dusty Baker will have to get creative. There's no obvious replacement on the roster or in the minors. Baker's first inclination was to have Frazier, who is Scott Rolen's backup at third base, play more at first. "That's a good possibility," Baker said. "He'll play some third, some first. (Miguel Cairo) will play some first. He's an outstanding first baseman. We'll mix and match depending on offensive and defensive matchups." The challenge is to stay in contention until he gets back. "We've got the guys who can do it," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "The pressure's on, but we've got to step up. I'm confident that we have those guys on the team. "Look at the Dodgers. They lost Matt Kemp, but they weathered the storm. It's early enough that we can weather the storm."

For Vlade Divac, trading DeMarcus Cousins difficult but necessary

For Vlade Divac, trading DeMarcus Cousins difficult but necessary

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings had an epiphany. After seven years of trying things with DeMarcus Cousins, it was time to give it a go without him.

Vlade Divac stood in front of a firing squad of reporters Monday afternoon, fielding questions as to how the Kings not only moved on from their franchise player, but carefully maneuvering around why they received so little in return.

“I decided to make a decision at the best time, best offer we had,” Divac said. “Moving forward was very important for us to think about our culture and try to win. You can’t win if you don’t have a culture.”

[RATTO: The Ranadive Paradox: Every choice Kings face almost guarantees failure]

Culture was the word of the day and Divac knows a thing or two about that. The sharp move away from both Cousins and veteran Matt Barnes, who was waived to make room for the incoming Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, set the Kings on a new path.

Divac was quick to point out that Sacramento had a better offer on the table the day before they pulled the trigger to send their star big to New Orleans. But the offer was rescinded, presumably when, according to league sources, teams around the league were informed that Cousins would not sign an extension with a new team, making him a short term rental.

Sacramento went with what they deemed was the best possible offer after collecting information from teams around the league over the past few months. The Kings kept the door open to a potential long term extension with Cousins, but in the end, another six seasons with the talented, but unpredictable big left them with serious questions.

Despite his status as a three-time All-Star and gold medal Olympiad, Cousins still found the waters treacherous with regards to officiating.

According to a league source, the team grew tired of the constant issues on the court. After promising the star big that they had no intentions of moving him during a private meeting on Feb 2, he went out two days later in an overtime win against the Golden State Warriors and picked up his 14th technical foul.

[RELATED: Report: Vivek Ranadive thinks Buddy Hield has Steph Curry potential]

Following the win, Cousins was also fined $25,000 by the league for making an inappropriate statement and gesture towards a Warriors fan in the tunnel.

Two days later he added technicals 15 and 16 against the Chicago Bulls and was suspended for the Kings’ matchup with the Boston Celtics.

Sacramento would go on to beat the Celtics with a massive team effort without Cousins. While it wasn’t the deciding factor, these events helped set the stage for his exit.

The trade comes at a time when the Kings sit just a game and a half out of the playoff picture. Kings fans have waited more than a decade for their team to get into the postseason and losing Cousins will likely end most of that talk.

“We’re going to play hard, we’re going to play with a lot of fun and improve everyday and try and compete and try to make the playoffs,” Divac said when asked what the fans should know about this move. “If not, we’re setting up ourselves in a good place to move forward to make a winning culture.”

Following the scrum, CSN California had an opportunity to discuss some of the topics with Divac in more depth.

Midway through his second season running the team, Divac had made building a relationship with Cousins a high priority. The two could often be seen having conversations both on and off the court.

“It was very difficult, I like him, he’s such a talented guy,” Divac told CSN. “I was really think hard about where we are going, where we are now, what we want to achieve and I made the decision to go other way.”

According to a league source, the entire basketball operations side was part of the discussion on the situation, including head coach Dave Joerger.

The Kings have built their team around the talented big each of the last seven season with the hope of turning the franchise around. Despite being in the conversation for the eighth seed, the Kings sit nine games under .500 with 25 contest left. Even if they found postseason paydirt, the Golden State Warriors would be waiting in round one.

The franchise was ready for a change. The dramatic shift in direction is jarring for everyone involved, but the Kings are confident they made the right decision for what is best for the franchise.

“I wouldn’t do it if I don’t feel comfortable,” Divac said. “Now we have a clear direction (of) what we want to do. I wouldn’t make a deal if I don’t feel comfortable.”

Sacramento returns to the court on Thursday evening when Michael Malone and the Denver Nuggets come through town. The team hasn’t shut the door on making more moves, but nothing is pending. It could be a wild couple of days in Kingsland.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today.