Venezuela hunts for kidnapped MLB player

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Venezuela hunts for kidnapped MLB player

From Comcast SportsNet
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan authorities said Friday they are confident they can quickly solve the kidnapping of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. The abduction on Wednesday was the first known kidnapping of a major leaguer in a country that has scores of players on big league rosters, and it has brought a renewed focus on rising violent crime in Venezuela. Deputy Justice Minister Edwin Rojas said investigators are making progress in gathering evidence and have physical descriptions of the kidnappers based on the accounts of relatives. "We have faith in the quick resolution of this case," Rojas told state television. He said President Hugo Chavez's government "is working 24 hours a day to solve this case." Armed men seized Ramos at gunpoint Wednesday outside his home in a working-class neighborhood in the city of Valencia. Authorities said Thursday that they had found a stolen SUV used by the kidnappers abandoned in a nearby town. Neighbors held a candlelight vigil outside his home and prayed for Ramos, as did fans at a baseball game in Valencia on Thursday. At games in three Venezuelan stadiums Thursday night, players and fans observed a minute of silence in support of Ramos. Some held signs reading: "Free Wilson Ramos!" Teams added green to their uniforms, some sporting a green ribbon on one shoulder, others a green "W" for Wilson embroidered on their jerseys. Security has increasingly become a concern for Venezuelan players and their families as a rising wave of kidnappings has hit the wealthy as well as the middle class. Venezuelan police said 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. In 1998, when Chavez was elected, just 52 kidnappings were reported. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings today is much higher because many cases aren't reported to authorities.

49ers GM Lynch speaks with Harbaugh about Michigan prospects

49ers GM Lynch speaks with Harbaugh about Michigan prospects

PHOENIX – John Lynch’s draft preparation as a first-year NFL general manager prompted him to make a phone call Monday to Jim Harbaugh.

“I talked to an old 49ers coach yesterday,” Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings. “He was great. He has a lot of players who are draftable. (He) gave me a lot of great information, and it was entertaining, as it always is with Jim.

“He just said, ‘Fired up for you, man,’ then we started talking about his players. He had to go to a meeting and I had to go to a meeting, so it was quick.”

Before Lynch could quiz Harbaugh about some of the Wolverines’ draft-eligible prospects, Harbaugh had a brief chance to catch up with his brother, John, the Baltimore Ravens head coach.

“It was fun because right when we called, his brother was right there,” Lynch said.

“So John came over and before I could get on the phone, John and Jim were talking. I said, ‘Hey, you’re cutting into my time, give me the phone.’ We had a good time.”

Michigan’s top prospects are safety Jabrill Peppers, who won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most-versatile player, and edge rusher Taco Charlton.

Lynch said does not ask “lazy questions” of any college coach about his former players. Instead, he’s looking at specifics, such as what position a player is better suited to play at the NFL level.

Harbaugh, who was let go after the 49ers' 8-8 season of 2014, enters his third season at his alma mater after two seasons with 10-3 records.

NFL centralizes replay reviews, Del Rio wants more freedom in challenges

NFL centralizes replay reviews, Del Rio wants more freedom in challenges

PHOENIX – Fans won’t see special teams players leaping over the long snapper in an attempt to block a field goal or extra point. Seattle’s Kam Chancellor made some big plays with that technique, but won’t have the chance anymore.

The NFL outlawed that option on Tuesday as one several rule changes enacted at the league meetings.

“There are some safety concerns,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “that are legitimate.”

The NFL also centralized replay reviews, taking that power away from officials on the field. NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino and associates at the NFL’s command center will handle reviews in an effort to add consistency to important calls.

Del Rio hoped replay challenges would be expanded further, but a proposal by Seattle and Buffalo allowing coaches to challenge any play save scoring plays and turnovers, which are automatically reviewed, did not pass.

“I think there are a number of coaches who feel like, if there’s an obvious error, we should have a mechanism to correct it,” Del Rio said. “We catch most of them, so you’re talking about a small percentage. It’s hard to move the needle for such a small percentage. That’s the problem. The fact is, if it’s important enough that we’re willing to use that challenge, we’d like that right and ability. Things happen, and you don’t want to lose a big game, a game that decides whether you advance in the playoffs or make the playoffs and it’s something you could overturn, that you could challenge or change. Why not?”

Here's a list of new rules and bylaws adopted by the league on Tuesday.