Unhappy WR returns to Vikings

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Unhappy WR returns to Vikings

From Comcast SportsNet
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The sun was bright, the breeze was blowing and smiles were abundant as the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their offseason program. Percy Harvin was back on the field Thursday morning, laughing with teammates and participating fully in the last practice of minicamp. That frustration with the organization he described sternly but vaguely earlier in the week was not apparent by his demeanor. Harvin's request to be traded, followed by his absence Wednesday afternoon from the mandatory session, was shelved for a while even if it's unresolved. "It's a new day today," head coach Leslie Frazier said, ever eager to try to avoid talking about his star wide receiver's still-unexplained discontent. "The fact that he was engaged and working to help us win, that's where my focus is. Just glad that he was participating in what we're doing. You move forward." Harvin declined to be interviewed as he jogged to the locker room -- "talk later," he said -- but tweeted an hour later to say, "I'm really clueless on the crazy reports." Harvin went on to declare Thursday's practice "great" and told his fans he'd see them in Mankato, where the Vikings report to training camp July 26. He wasn't specific about his promised arrival, but he sure made that sound like he's not planning to hold out. "I just assume that he'll be here," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "It's not my job to handle it. The front office will handle it, and they're going to do a great job. We know that Percy is a heck of a player, and we like being around him, and he's been out here practicing like nothing's wrong, and that's what we like to see. He still cares about being here." Ponder said he and Harvin spoke about getting together in Florida over the next couple of weeks, joking to reporters he'll do whatever he can to keep Harvin happy, including dinner, a movie or bowling. "Everything seemed normal. This kind of came out of nowhere, so I'm not really sure what the issues are. But I'm sure they'll get worked out," Ponder said. Frazier said he spoke briefly with Harvin but again declined to explain exactly why the hard-nosed, multi-skilled, fourth-year player is unhappy. General manager Rick Spielman said Wednesday the Vikings have no interest in dealing Harvin, who has two seasons left on his rookie contract. Harvin said on Twitter Wednesday that his situation is not about money. But the way Spielman, Frazier and Harvin's teammates have spoken about addressing and resolving this made it sound like at least some of it is. Harvin is recovering from supposedly minor shoulder surgery, and Frazier also said the team kept him off limits from contact so he didn't fall and aggravate the joint. "He leaves going home feeling confident that things are moving in the right direction. We feel confident things are moving in the right direction," Frazier said. "So that was really good to see." Just what the "right direction" means is open to interpretation. "He wants the same thing that we want. We all want to bring a championship to Minnesota. He wants that in the worst way, and that's one of the most important things, that we all want the same thing," Frazier said. Frazier also said he expects "100 percent" participation from his team when training camp starts and that he still has a solid relationship with Harvin. "There will always be things you have to work though. I think that will always be the case with players and coaches," Frazier said. The rest of the receiver group is largely unsettled or at least unproven, which made Harvin's complaints this week more jarring. Michael Jenkins has a reliable track record as a complementary player, but he's coming off a season-ending knee injury. Greg Childs and Jarius Wright bring potential, but they're fourth-round draft picks. Jerome Simpson has shown a lot of ability since signing with the Vikings in April, but he'll be suspended for the first three games. This makes Ponder's second-year development that much more important. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's goal for him in these spring practices was a 75 percent completion rate on first and second downs, and Ponder said he thinks he surpassed that mark this week. He's up to 233 pounds, from 212 at the start of offseason workouts, so he plans to lose a few before training camp so he doesn't sacrifice mobility. "For me the biggest improvement I saw was picking up blitzes and learning how to do that and recognizing things a lot better," Ponder said. "I think the game's really slowed down ... for me."

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years ago, the Giants and Padres were the two teams in it until the very end for Pablo Sandoval’s services. He ended up in Boston, and when he became available again over the past week, the Padres politely backed away. 

They prefer youth and Rule 5 Draft picks. They came into this season knowing they might lose 100 games, and they didn’t mind. If anything, they welcomed the increased shot at the top pick in the 2018 draft. They’re here to tank, but the Giants (who expect to welcome Sandoval back on a minor league deal as soon as Friday) just won’t let them. 

Thursday’s 5-2 loss to San Diego was like so many others over the past calendar year. The Giants didn’t hit, they didn’t come through in the clutch, they did not support their starting pitcher, and they did not guarantee a handshake line. 

The Giants have lost 15 of 20 to the Padres since last year’s All-Star break, including three straight last July to kickstart a tailspin that has lasted over a year now. They have dropped four of five meetings in this second half, which was supposed to prove that a Padre-like rebuild is not needed up here in the Bay Area. They are five games behind the Padres in the race to finish a distant fourth in the National League, and in a season full of disappointment, that stands as one of the more embarrassing facts. 

Not even Madison Bumgarner’s return to AT&T Park could turn the tide. The lefty looked good most of the night, but two homers left him with a rougher-than-hoped line. Bumgarner gave up four earned on two homers. He has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Both starts have come against the Padres. 

“I’ve got to stop giving up homers,” Bumgarner said of his start. “That’s not going to work.”

Bumgarner said he felt fine physically, and his curveball — the pitch that has backfired on him most often since his return — feels right mechanically. He was facing his last batter in the seventh as George Kontos warmed up with a runner on. Corey Spangenberg hit a two-run shot to the deepest part of the yard to make it 4-2. 

Buster Posey flied out with the bases loaded in the eighth. The Giants brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth but couldn’t score, which has been the norm against the Padres. The Giants are averaging just 3.2 runs per game during this 20-game stretch of futility against a team they once dominated. 

“We need to win ballgames right now,” Bumgarner said. “We’ve got to start doing that. There’s no magic solution. We’ve got to start playing better, all of us.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after he did his press conference from a “Game of Thrones” throne, manager Bruce Bochy said he was happy the Giants won their series finale against the Indians and kept that plan in play. In that respect, he’s lucky his team wasn’t facing the Padres on Wednesday. 

The Giants were on Thursday, however, and they continued their baffling stretch of ineptitude against what is supposed to be the worst team in the National League West. The 5-2 loss to San Diego was the 15th in the last 20 meetings between the two teams, one of which has a $200 million payroll and the other of which is actively tanking. 

The Giants had a shot at a comeback in the eighth, but Buster Posey flied out to right with two outs and the bases loaded. Here are five things to know, if you are the curious type: 

—- Madison Bumgarner has faced the Padres twice since returning. In 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs. He is getting hurt by a familiar problem for the 2017 Giants: The Padres have four homers off Bumgarner in those two starts. Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg took him deep Thursday, with Spangenberg hitting one out to the deepest part of the yard on Bumgarner’s final pitch. 

—- This is the first time in Bumgarner’s career that he has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back starts. 

—- Kyle Crick showed good stuff — sitting 96-97 — while stranding a runner on second in the eighth. He followed that with a scoreless ninth. The Giants should make it a priority to throw him into some deeper water over the next two months. 

—- There’s an epidemic these days of outfielders making foolish throws to the plate. We see it just about every night, and it cost the Padres in the sixth. Gorkys Hernandez was on second and he took off right away on Denard Span’s single to right. Renfroe had no play at the plate but he threw it anyway and Span took second. He scored when Eduardo Nuñez singled to left. 

—- The Giants announced their second consecutive sellout. That’s a streak. Maybe?