Giants

Saints GM returns from bounty suspension

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Saints GM returns from bounty suspension

From Comcast SportsNetMETAIRIE, La. (AP) -- Now that New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis has returned to work, the Saints need his crisis-management skills to be sharp.The organization continues to be rife with unsettled issues, some of which have made its fan base uneasy.So there was no time for Loomis to ease back into a routine Tuesday after serving his eight-game suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints.His immediate tasks include clearing up the status of Sean Payton's contract extension through 2015, which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has so far refused to approve since the coach signed it in 2011.Recent revelations that Payton is still not officially under contract beyond this season have only pushed anxiety-ridden Saints fans closer to panic. New Orleans has struggled while Payton has served his season-long bounty suspension, which, in the minds of many, has only strengthened the fiery and innovative coach's value.Loomis also will have to oversee contingency plans in the event that defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma have to serve their own bounty suspensions, which so far have been delayed by legal moves.The GM kept a low profile on his first day back.The Saints did not make him available to reporters and he did not immediately respond to requests for comments about his return to his Saints duties.Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said even he did not have much time to chat with Loomis when they met Tuesday morning, but Vitt stressed that people throughout the organization were comforted by knowledge that the GM was back for the last half of what has already been an extraordinarily eventful season."Listen, Mickey and Sean are the leaders of this building. It's not only great for Mickey to be back for our players and our coaching staff, but every person in our building," Vitt said. "Slowly but surely we're starting to get people back. Everybody knows here what Mickey means to me, but he also means just as much to everybody else in our building and our football team."Vitt also sounded skeptical of the idea that Payton would leave."Our football team loves Sean Payton. Sean Payton loves this football team," Vitt said. "Sean Payton loves this city. And this city loves Sean Payton. That goes a long way. That's what I know."At 3-5, the Saints are playoff longshots as they head into next Sunday's showdown in the Superdome with undefeated NFC South Division leaders Atlanta (8-0). Yet a sense of hope permeated team headquarters after a 28-13 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night that marked New Orleans' third victory in four games."I love this football team. I love the resolve. I love the togetherness. I love their work habits," Vitt said. "All that being said, we've got to get better this week."If the Saints are to get better, such strides will have to be made in an environment of uncertainty.Two people familiar with Payton's contract situation told The Associated Press that the Saints and Payton still see nothing wrong with a provision in the coach's extension that would allow Payton to opt out of his contract if Loomis -- who hired Payton in 2006 -- were to leave the club. The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL and Saints have declined public comment on the matter, say the Saints and Payton believe the provision is similar to one that allowed Bill Parcells to leave his post as executive vice president with Miami if ownership changed.Goodell has not publicly specified his problem with Payton's extension, which pays more than 6 million a year. The NFL has said the commissioner has not made a final determination about Payton's contract status for next season. Goodell has said, however, that he has discussed his concerns with the Saints and asked the club to rework part of the deal.Although Payton is suspended, he and the Saints currently may address Goodell's concerns with the extension, providing some hope of resolving the matter before the coach effectively becomes a free agent.Another major area of uncertainty involves ongoing challenges to players' bounty suspensions.Although Goodell has recused himself as arbitrator for four current or former Saints players' appeals of their bounty suspensions, the players -- Smith, Vilma, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove -- objected to Goodell's decision to appoint former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to handle the matter. The players say Tagliabue has a conflict because he works for the law firm that has represented the NFL in bounty-related matters. Tagliabue has given no indication he intends to step down, leaving the matter for a federal judge in New Orleans to decide.In the meantime, Smith and Vilma keep playing, and Saints coaches make weekly game plans on the assumption they'll have the two defenders in the lineup."You have to have a little bit of foresight should something happen. We've kind of just been under that thing all year long," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "Once we know the week is set the way the week is, we just move on and worry about the opponent we're playing."The Saints won't want to lose Smith and Vilma, given their leadership roles on a unit that needs help. The Saints are last in the NFL in yards allowed (471.3 per game) but did come through with clutch plays against the Eagles, including Patrick Robinson's interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and seven sacks. Smith had two sacks and Vilma had two tackles for losses.If the suspensions are upheld, Smith will have to serve four games and Vilma the rest of the season.Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said he hopes that won't happen, but added that the Saints know worrying about it won't do any good."We're at the point now where it seems like every week there's something new to distract us, so people are like, The hell with it. We'll wait to figure it out when the time comes,'" Shanle said. "We're trying to fight our way back into something and with all the distractions we've had week in and week out, I think guys just kind of put blinders on."

Hundley still not ready to discuss future; Cain to start during final weekend

Hundley still not ready to discuss future; Cain to start during final weekend

PHOENIX — A few weeks ago, Nick Hundley said he preferred not to talk about his future until the end of the season. We’re close enough, so after hitting the go-ahead homer Monday night, Hundley was again asked about his 2018 plans. He smiled.

“How many have we got left? Five?” he said. “Ask me Sunday.”

It’s not just the media and fans seeking an answer from the popular backup who has nine homers. The Giants hope to get some feel from Hundley as they finalize offseason plans, and manager Bruce Bochy said he would talk to the veteran this week. Bochy left no doubt about what he hopes will happen.

“I think he knows what we think of him,” he said. 

Hundley, a 34-year-old who came over in the offseason, has been one of the few overachievers this season. He has 32 extra-base hits in 274 at-bats, taking advantage of increased time with Brandon Belt done for the year and Buster Posey sliding over to first base. Hundley is one of the lineup’s more potent right-handed options, and he has earned praise from the starting staff. Johnny Cueto said Hundley helped him navigate a post-clinch Diamondbacks lineup that was essentially pulled straight out of Triple-A. 

Cueto did so with ease, striking out eight in six innings. He evened his record at 8-8, and he’ll have a chance to clinch a winning season on Sunday. Bochy said Cueto will start the final game of the season, and he confirmed that Matt Cain will start either Friday or Saturday. Asked for more details, the manager kept it just as mysterious as his catcher. 

“I’ll let you know tomorrow,” he said.

Mariners club four home runs, end A's seven-game winning streak

Mariners club four home runs, end A's seven-game winning streak

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- Mitch Haniger homered twice and Felix Hernandez won for the first time in more than two months as the Seattle Mariners defeated the Oakland Athletics 7-1 on Monday night.

A day after being eliminated from playoff contention, the slumping Mariners snapped Oakland's season-high seven-game winning streak and its eight-game run at home - the team's second-longest in 11 years.

The Mariners had lost eight of nine.

Hernandez (6-5) gave up one run in six innings of two-hit ball. King Felix hadn't won since July 15, a stretch that included a stint on the disabled list from Aug. 2 to Sept. 13 with right shoulder bursitis. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his previous five starts.

Haniger hit his 15th and 16th home runs off starter Daniel Gossett (4-10). The 24-year-old Oakland rookie gave up seven runs on a career-high four homers allowed.

Mike Zunino hit a three-run shot, his 24th, that broke a scoreless tie in the second. Yonder Alonso added his 26th homer, connecting against his former team.

Marcus Semien hit a solo homer off Hernandez in the sixth.

Andrew Albers pitched three shutout innings for his first save.

MAXWELL IN THE LINEUP:
A's catcher Bruce Maxwell played his first game since becoming the first player in the majors to kneel during the national anthem Saturday, part of a national protest movement against discrimination and harsh treatment of blacks by police. He was greeted with a loud ovation along with some boos sprinkled in from the Oakland crowd of 9,329. Maxwell cleared the concussion protocol on Monday. He hadn't played since Sept. 20.

SHOW OF SUPPORT:
In an apparent show of support for Maxwell, most of the Oakland Unified School District band members took a knee as they performed the national anthem before the game.

2,500 CLUB:
The 31-year-old Hernandez became the fifth active pitcher to log more than 2,500 career innings.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Mariners: INF Jean Segura (sprained right middle finger) will likely miss the remainder of the series, manager Scott Servais said. "He wants to get in there before the season's over. It's important to him, but he's not going to be available for a couple of days," Servais said.

Athletics: 1B Matt Olson was scheduled to have an MRI to determine the severity of a hamstring injury he sustained Sunday. The 23-year-old rookie will miss the rest of the series, manager Bob Melvin said. Olson has 25 home runs in 189 at-bats. "We're hoping we can get him back in Texas, but I'm not so sure about that," Melvin said. ... LHP Sean Manaea, who missed his last scheduled start on Saturday with upper back tightness, threw a bullpen and is on track to make his next start Thursday, Melvin said.

UP NEXT:
Mariners: LHP James Paxton (12-5, 3.03 ERA) is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts since coming off the DL on Sept. 14. He had been sidelined with a strained left pectoral muscle. Paxton is 3-0 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against Oakland.

Athletics: RHP Daniel Mengden (2-1, 3.30) is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. Mengden took the loss in his only career start against Seattle last season. He struck out six and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.