From Comcast SportsNetCARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Officials said Thursday they have found the vehicle used by armed men who abducted Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, a case that highlights a sharp rise in kidnappings in Venezuela. Police found the kidnappers' vehicle abandoned in a nearby town and were gathering evidence, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told reporters Thursday morning. He said anti-kidnapping units were dispatched to the area in central Carabobo state. The 24-year-old Venezuelan player, who had just finished his rookie season, was seized from his home by kidnappers on Wednesday night. "The abductors haven't made contact with the family or with anyone," said Domingo Alvarez, vice president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, in a telephone interview. "We're worried." Ramos was taken away in an SUV by four armed men from his home in Santa Ines, spokeswoman Katherine Vilera of his Venezuelan team, the Aragua Tigers, said on her official Twitter account. Police last year said that 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings is much higher because many cases aren't reported to authorities. The wealthy in Venezuela have taken steps to protect themselves; sales of armored cars have soared in the past several years. Bodyguards also typically shadow Major League players when they return to their homeland to play in the winter league. "Every Major League player has his own security, but we don't know if at that time he had his security there," Alvarez said. He said it's the first time a Major League Baseball player has been abducted in the country, though other players' relatives have been held for ransom in the past. A person close to Ramos' family, who asked not to be quoted by name out of safety concerns, said the catcher was at home with his father and brothers when several men "entered the house and took him away." Drew Storen, a relief pitcher for the Nationals, tweeted his concerns: "Extremely upsetting news about Ramo. Thoughts and prayers with him. Scary situation." Ramos is considered one of the key young players for the Nationals as they try to become a contender in the National League East. As a rookie in 2011, he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He also threw out 19 of 67 runners attempting to steal a base, a 28 percent success rate that ranked third among qualifying catchers in the National League. Washington acquired Ramos from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for All-Star relief pitcher Matt Capps in July 2010.
Nothing is ever a sure thing when it comes to the Sacramento Kings. After digging deep into negotiations with DeMarcus Cousins on a new five-year, $219 million contract extension, a source has confirmed to CSN California that Sacramento has had discussions with the New Orleans Pelicans on a possible trade for the All-Star big man.
No deal is imminent, but according to a person with knowledge of the situation, talks between the Kings and the Pelicans took place over the weekend and there is a 50/50 chance that something will materialize before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
The Kings went to great lengths a few weeks back to ensure Cousins that rumors of a potential trade were false, even meeting with the 26-year-old big and his agents in Sacramento to crush published reports.
Sacramento's GM Vlade Divac even went as far as to tell ESPN’s Marc Stein, “We’re not trading DeMarcus.”
Cousins spoke glowingly of Sacramento in his media sessions at All-Star weekend in New Orleans, reiterating to reporters that he would love to finish his career in a Kings uniform.
The Pelicans are a strange trade partner. Anthony Davis is the only blue chip player on the roster, but there is no way New Orleans is giving up their superstar in a deal. There are other assets that Sacramento might be interested in.
According to sources, the Kings attempted to move up in the 2016 NBA Draft to select shooting guard Buddy Hield, and point guard Jrue Holiday has admirers in the organization. The Pelicans also own all of their first-round draft picks moving forward.
Any team trading for Cousins would likely want assurances from the center/forward that he intends to sign an extension during the summer. But they would be limited to a four-year deal, not the “designated player” five-year extension Cousins has been looking to sign in Sacramento.
Cousins is having his best season in Sacramento, averaging 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists under Dave Joerger.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical was first to report the potential deal.
MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.
However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.
“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”
He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.
“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”
It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.
Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.
In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.
Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.
“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”
Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.
“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”
NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.
“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”
The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.
“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.
“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.
LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.
Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.
“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.