Will Big Ben, Polamalu play vs. the Ravens?

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Will Big Ben, Polamalu play vs. the Ravens?

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger took a break from changing his newborn son's diapers to throw a few passes with his sprained right shoulder on Monday.The Pittsburgh Steelers saw enough to ask their franchise quarterback to throw a few more over the next few days, hoping he can recover in time to salvage a season in danger of slipping through their fingers.Calling the session "a step in the right direction," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday there's "a chance" Roethlisberger could play on Sunday in Baltimore."We'll leave the door open," Tomlin said.Or maybe just closed, but not locked.Roethlisberger hasn't played since getting slammed to the turf in the third quarter of a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12, suffering a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. He's spent time welcoming his son Ben Jr. -- born last Wednesday -- and watching his team lose consecutive games for the first time in three years while managing two offensive touchdowns in 10 quarters of work.The nadir -- Pittsburgh hopes -- came in an eight-turnover, almost comically bad 20-14 loss to Cleveland last Sunday that left the Steelers at 6-5 and heading in the wrong direction as December begins."It's quite amazing that you only lose by six," Tomlin said, "when you provide that type of leg up to the opponent."One the Steelers hope to avoid even if backup Charlie Batch makes his second straight start. Though Roethlisberger appears to be a long shot at best, there's a chance a few familiar faces could be in uniform against the Ravens (9-2), who could wrap up the AFC North title with a win over the Steelers and a Cincinnati Bengals loss.Safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown could both play Sunday. Polamalu has been limited to just five quarters all season due to a right calf injury, though Tomlin said he's "encouraged" by Polamalu's progress.Brown hasn't played since injuring his ankle in a 24-20 win over the New York Giants on Nov. 4, and Pittsburgh's receivers have struggled in his absence. Mike Wallace, a Pro Bowler a year ago, had just one catch against the Browns and couldn't hold onto a pass that turned into one of Batch's three interceptions.Tomlin allowed Wallace is struggling and there's a possible demotion in the works. Wallace has started 41 of Pittsburgh's last 43 games, but the team listed as either Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders as the starter alongside Brown in the depth chart released Tuesday."Mike is frustrated and rightfully so," Tomlin said. "He's not producing like we'd like him to and he'd like to."Neither is the running game, though the Steelers have settled on Jonathan Dwyer as a starter after unsuccessfully rotating Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman the last two weeks.The trio managed just 32 yards on 15 carries -- and three fumbles -- in Cleveland, but the job is Dwyer's to lose based on his steady (by comparison) performance this season. Dwyer has two of Pittsburgh's three 100-yard games this year."We've been working under less than ideal circumstances shuffling those guys due to injury and lack of production," Tomlin said. "But he's healthy and most productive. He will get the bulk of the carries."Even if he'll have to do it behind an offensive line so decimated by injuries that rookie Kelvin Beachum will start at right tackle against the Ravens after Mike Adams went down with a sprained ankle and starter Marcus Gilbert was placed on injured reserve Monday after his bum ankle failed to "perk up" despite nearly two months of treatment.The Steelers activated first-round pick David DeCastro on Monday, but it's unlikely the rookie right guard will be ready to play after just a handful of practices.Not exactly the way the Steelers wanted to start December, though the players are hardly interested in excuses. They know they're not alone in shuffling lineups in search of healthy bodies."You can't count on guys who you don't know if they're going to be there or not," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We have a good enough football team to win those types of games and we have to do it."Tomlin remains optimistic Batch can shake off his spotty play against the Browns to lead the Steelers to just their third win in Baltimore in their last 10 trips. There are no plans to go to recently signed Brian Hoyer."Charlie is our quarterback," Tomlin said.Just, the Steelers hope, for not much longer.

NBA Gameday: Smiling Kings look to pounce on stumbling Hornets

NBA Gameday: Smiling Kings look to pounce on stumbling Hornets

SACRAMENTO -- The new-look Sacramento Kings stunned the Denver Nuggets Thursday night in their first game without DeMarcus Cousins. They look to make it two straight Saturday afternoon when Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets drop by Golden 1 Center for a 2pm matinee.

Welcome to the big leagues Willie Cauley-Stein. The second-year big man went off for a career-high 29 points against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets last time out. Highlight reel dunks are becoming the norm for the athletic 7-footer as he tries to fill some of the void left by Cousins’ departure.

The Hornets are on a slide. Losers of 12-of-13, including an overtime stumble against the Pistons on Thursday, Charlotte sits 3.5 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

OPENING LINE
Hornets by 2.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH
Tyreke Evans vs. Nic Batum -- Evans will likely come off the bench in his second game back in Sacramento. The former top pick of the Kings is still playing himself into game shape after missing most of the first half of the season with a knee injury. He dropped in 15 points, three assists in four rebounds against Denver as a point forward. Batum is a versatile wing that loves to stuff the stat sheet. Walker is the primary scorer, but Batum is the player that make the Hornets go.  

WHERE THEY STAND
Kings: 25-33, third place in Pacific

Hornets: 24-33, fourth place in Central

INJURY REPORT
Kings: SG Arron Afflalo (hamstring) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, G/F Garrett Temple  (left hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Hornets: C Cody Zeller (quad contusion) questionable, C Miles Plumlee (calf) out, PG Ramon Sessions (knee) out.

SERIES HISTORY
The Hornets swept the season series 2-0 last season, but Sacramento came away with a 109-106 win in the only matchup this year.  Charlotte holds a 13-11 lead in the all-time series between the two clubs.  

QUOTE
“We’ve got a very solid locker room. Even though a couple people aren’t there, guys have an opportunity to step forward in leadership and hug on each other and there’s lots of smiles and hugs right now and [we got] the first one out of the way. That’s a positive vibe to have just to come to work every day. So I think that’s positive.” -Dave Joerger following the win over Denver

 

Hendriks cites travel, readiness as reasons he withdrew from WBC

Hendriks cites travel, readiness as reasons he withdrew from WBC

MESA, Ariz. — In his heart, Liam Hendriks wanted to pitch for his national team in the World Baseball Classic. In reality, the A’s reliever just couldn’t justify it.

So Hendriks withdrew from joining Team Australia for its first-round games in Tokyo. He becomes the second Athletic to bow out of the WBC after left fielder Khris Davis decided not to play for Mexico. Relievers John Axford (Canada) and Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic), and starter Sonny Gray (United States) are still slated to play, though Gray wouldn’t join the American squad unless it advances to Round 2 and Casilla still hasn’t reported to A’s camp because of visa issues, so his exact plans aren’t known.

“When I really sat down and thought about it, I’m not quite where I want to be to be pitching in competitive games yet,” Hendriks said Saturday morning. “I’m not hurt or anything like that. There’s no issues, I feel great physically. But it’s one of those things, I’m not quite ready to go into a game, and I know if I get into a situation where if I push it a little bit more, I’m going to overextend myself and I don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to risk this season coming up with Oakland.”

Hendriks told Australian officials he could be available for Round 2, but it will be a joint decision between how he was feeling and whether the Aussie pitching staff needs him.

The right-hander was originally scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s Cactus League opener, in an effort to get him into game shape for the WBC. Now that he’s not playing in the first round, the A’s are slowing him down just a bit. Hendriks will throw on the side a bit more and then throw live batting practice before pitching in an exhibition.

“I could pitch in a game right now … but I’m not confident in all my pitches,” he said. “I’m confident in my spring training pitches, but it’s not midseason form like I’d want to be to be able to perform for that (Australian) team.”

The 30-hour round trip travel to Tokyo also complicated things, with Hendriks saying his throwing schedule would have been thrown out of whack upon his return.

Now 28, Hendriks pointed out that he got to pitch in the 2009 WBC as a wide-eyed 20-year-old, getting his roster spot because a veteran backed out. He’s hopeful another youngster now gets the same opportunity.

Hendriks posted a 3.76 ERA in 53 appearances last season, but pitched particularly well over the second half of the season, setting him up as an important piece of this year’s A's bullpen.

“It’s just a better decision for my career and my season,” he said.