The Cincinnati Bengals shuffled around the roster a bit Tuesday ahead of their Thursday night primetime clash with the Cleveland Browns.
The team announced the moves, which include sending guard Xavier Su’a-Filo to injured reserve, promoting defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe off the practice squad, waiving defensive back Torry McTyer and confirming the waiver wire claim of kicker Austin Seibert.
Nothing too shocking here — Seibert is Randy Bullock insurance. Su’a-Filo will be out at least a few weeks, so the team can afford to carry some extra players elsewhere.
From the sounds of it, the Bengals still expect Bullock to be able to kick for the team against the Browns. If not, it’ll be Seibert kicking against the team that just let him go.
With Geno Atkins still a question mark for Week 2, Bledsoe is emergency depth the roster needed on a short week.
Hendrick Motorsports promotes Knaus, who will leave crew-chief role after 2020
Hendrick Motorsports promoted Chad Knaus to an executive management position Tuesday, announcing organizational moves that also included the elevation of Jeff Andrews to executive vice president and general manager.
Knaus, 49, will finish out the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season as William Byron‘s crew chief for the No. 24 Chevrolet team before moving into his new role as vice president of competition. For Andrews, who will be Knaus‘ boss, his transition will be made effective immediately.
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The changes will signal the end of Knaus‘ 21 years as a crew chief at NASCAR‘s top level. During that span, Knaus has won seven championships with Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and has amassed 82 Cup Series victories. Only Hall of Fame crew chiefs Dale Inman and Leonard Wood have more race wins at NASCAR‘s top level than Knaus.
“When I started at Hendrick Motorsports (in 1993) working for Ray Evernham, my goal was to be a crew chief,” Knaus said in a team release. “Starting at a young age, I wanted to win every race we entered and battle for every championship. Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has given me the chance to do exactly that, and I could not be more thankful to him.
“After all these years, my competitive desire has not changed at all, but now I have a family that deserves my attention. This new executive role will allow me to compete in a different way with all four of our teams while spending more time with my wife and two young children.”
As vice president of competition, Knaus will oversee the technical development of Hendrick Motorsports‘ stable of cars, including implementation of NASCAR‘s 2022 Next Gen vehicle. Knaus will be responsible for personnel that includes crew chiefs, pit crews, engineers, fabricators, assemblers and other team-related staff.
Knaus will report to Andrews, 55, who joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1992 and had served as vice president of competition since 2017. He reports to Hendrick Motorsports president Marshall Carlson.
“As we look to the years ahead, Jeff and Chad are going to play significant roles in our success,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “They‘re tremendous leaders who are respected within our organization and across the entire auto racing world.”
Hendrick Motorsports will announce a new chief for Byron and the No. 24 team at a later date. Knaus has overseen Byron’s efforts with the No. 24 since 2019, following a successful 17-season run with Johnson and Hendrick’s No. 48 operation.
Knaus’ drivers qualified for the Cup Series Playoffs in every year since the 10-race postseason format was established in 2004. He was atop the pit box for Byron’s first Cup Series win earlier this season, a clutch victory in the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 29.
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Mladenovic pins French meltdown on US Open lockdown, no-call
PARIS (AP) — Kristina Mladenovic blamed her French Open meltdown on her U.S. Open lockdown – and she wasn’t too pleased about a no-call on a double bounce that helped her opponent avoid ceding the first set Wednesday, either.
France’s Mladenovic lost 7-5, 6-3 in the first round at Roland Garros to Laura Siegemund, blowing a 5-1 lead in the opening set after holding a set point that she thought she converted with a drop shot.
Mladenovic was furious that chair umpire Eva Asderaki didn’t spot the extra bounce that came during a 10-stroke exchange. Siegemund ran for Mladenovic’s short ball and got it back over the net – although a TV replay showed the ball had bounced twice.
”I think the chair umpire was the only person not to have seen it,” said Mladenovic, who was thrown off when the point continued and wound up touching the net, automatically giving the point to Siegemund.
”Mistakes are human, but I don’t see how the umpire can miss that. She didn’t see a double bounce,” Mladenovic said. ”Unfortunately, she will continue at Roland Garros, and I won’t continue at Roland Garros.”
Mladenovic would have been pleasantly surprised if Siegemund acknowledged the double bounce herself.
”If she would have done it, she would have all my respect and be super fair play,” Mladenovic said. ”But she’s not the one responsible. I think the chair umpire is the one that should be really focused on that call.”
In her most recent tournament, at Flushing Meadows this month, Mladenovic threw away a 6-1, 5-1 lead in her second-round singles match. Then she got kicked out of doubles at the U.S. Open – where she and Timea Babos were seeded No. 1 – because she came in contact during a practice session and card game with a countryman, Benoit Paire, who tested positive for the coronavirus in New York.
Public health officials said Mladenovic was at risk and was placed in quarantine after her singles exit but just before her doubles match.
”Definitely not the preparation I wanted to have coming up to Roland Garros. I couldn’t prepare the way I wanted, so it obviously affected my whole preparation,” Mladenovic said. ”I wanted to play Rome, to play Strasbourg, but I couldn’t be ready for it.”
Not having access to a gym was bad enough, but stuck inside four walls was on another level.
”It’s brutal for the body when you (have) eight days (of) lockdown in a hotel room,” Mladenovic said Wednesday. ”Even the first week, where I competed in my singles, I was basically isolated and couldn’t train.”
All in all, she said, ”Not a great experience.”
Danish women are so scarce in top-level tennis that you would have to go all the way back to 1989 to find one not named Caroline Wozniacki in the second round of any Grand Slam tournament.
Until Tuesday, that is. That’s when 17-year-old qualifier Clara Tauson earned her first tour-level victory – in her main-draw debut at a major, no less – by eliminating U.S. Open semifinalist and No. 21 seed Jennifer Brady 6-4, 3-6, 9-7.
Quite a breakthrough for Tauson, who was ranked No. 1 as a junior and won the girls’ title at last year’s Australian Open.
”I was just grateful to be there,” Tauson said after the 2-hour, 45-minute match on Court Simonne Mathieu, the third-biggest arena at Roland Garros.
”I’ve never really experienced a match like that,” she said.
Tauson erased a 4-2 deficit in the final set and saved two match points before closing out the victory on her fifth chance.
Tauson grew up watching Wozniacki, who retired this year after reaching No. 1 during a career that included an Australian Open title in 2018.
”Of course, Caroline was a huge role model for me. Denmark is a very small tennis country and she made it out,” Tauson said. ”That made me think I could make it out, also, on the tour.”
She is based at four-time French Open champion Justine Henin’s academy in Belgium, where Tauson works with coach Olivier Jeunehomme.
”She was there at some of my match today, and she’s always at the academy, always saying hello and watching some of my practices,” Tauson said about Henin. ”She’s also a great inspiration. She’s done pretty well here also in her career. So I’m trying to do the same.”
EGYPTIAN TENNIS PIONEER
Mayar Sherif is the first woman from Egypt to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament. Even threw a scare into the French Open’s No. 2 seed.
Now Sherif wants another wish to come true: a phone call from countryman Mohamed Salah, the soccer star who helped Liverpool win the Premier League last season and is a two-time African Player of the Year.
”He hasn’t reached out. I wish he would, that would be very, very, nice,” Sherif said after losing to 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.
”It was amazing feeling. I cannot describe it. It just gave me so much energy,” said Sherif, who is ranked 172nd and went through qualifying to earn a spot in the field in Paris. ”I loved playing in the stadium. I loved having attention. I loved people being there, supporting. I enjoyed so much, enjoyed the pressure moments.”
While the 24-year-old Sherif is just starting out on tennis’ big stage, Salah is well used to starring on it and is a huge name back home.
”He’s one of the best football players in the world and to see someone very successful supporting other people in his country, it just gives you some energy,” she said.
If the call does come, she’d like to pick his brain.
”The thing I would ask him is how did he break the barrier of believing, or being the first of doing something so big from Egypt, as a person that comes from Egypt?” she said. ”How did he go through that? And how were the stages to get to the point to where he is now?”
Pugmire reported from Paris; Dampf reported from Rome. AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Dodgers must contend with the unhittable ‘Airbender’ pitch of Brewers’ Devin Williams
The pitch defies logic and description. It’s classified as a changeup but acts more like a screwball, the rare offering from a right-hander that fades down and away from a left-handed batter. Rob Friedman, known on Twitter as the Pitching Ninja, may have coined the best moniker for the pitch: the “Airbender.”
Whatever you call it, the Dodgers are going to have to deal with the pitch in their first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Brewers, who will lean heavily on a deep and versatile bullpen that features a little-known rookie who has been even more dominant this season than left-hander Josh Hader.
Meet Devin Williams, a 26-year-old right-hander who went 4-1 with an 0.33 ERA in 22 games, striking out 53 and walking nine in 27 innings, a 17.67 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate that, in a 60-game season, tied Aroldis Chapman (2014 Reds) for the best single-season mark in baseball history.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Williams, a 2013 second-round pick who transitioned from starter to reliever at double-A Biloxi in 2019, allowed only one run all season, on a solo homer by Pittsburgh’s Colin Moran on July 27.
“I think Devin had a remarkable season, a really historic season, it’s absolutely incredible,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “The strikeout numbers were special. It’s hard to comprehend a little bit, what he did.”
Williams has a lively fastball that averages 96.5 mph according to Fangraphs, a pitch he’s thrown 43.9% of the time, but his out pitch is a changeup that averages 84.1 mph and is thrown 52.7% of the time.
His signature pitch is thrown with a circle-change grip, but the pronation of his wrist as he releases the ball creates both left-to-right and downward movement. The 13-mph difference between the fastball and changeup, which he throws with similar arm action, disrupts the timing of hitters, who often flail at the pitch or take it for a strike.
If the pitch mix and usage sound familiar to Dodgers fans, it’s because Eric Gagne used nearly the exact same repertoire to become one of baseball’s best closers in the early 2000s, when he featured a 96-98 mph fastball and an 82-85 mph changeup with similar fading action.
Counsell, a former infielder who played most of his 16-year career with Arizona and Milwaukee, went hitless in 10 at-bats with three strikeouts against Gagne. Does Williams remind him of the former Dodgers closer who had a major league-leading 55 saves in 2003?
“I haven’t heard Eric Gagne’s name with him, but I actually think that might be the best comparison as far as the action on the changeup,” Counsell said. “It’s a similar action, with velocity, and that’s what Eric was doing in his prime, throwing a really good changeup but also big velocity [on the fastball].”
Williams held opponents to an .090 batting average and .339 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season. His changeup made him even more effective against left-handers, who hit .075 against him, than right-handers, who hit .111 against him.
Williams can throw multiple innings in high-leverage spots, and he teams with Hader (1-2, 3.79 ERA, 13 saves in 21 games) to give Milwaukee a dynamic right-left, back-of-the-bullpen duo.
With ace Corbin Burnes (4-1, 2.11 ERA) sidelined by a left-oblique strain and left-hander Brett Anderson questionable because of a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand, the eighth-seeded Brewers (29-31) will need Williams, Hader and the rest of their relievers to cover the bulk of the innings against the top-seeded and heavily favored Dodgers (43-17).
“We’re not afraid to do things unconventionally,” Milwaukee general manager David Stearns said. “What Corbin did this year is the main reason why we’re still playing, so for him to not be able to pitch Game 1 of a playoff series is hard to take. It’s disappointing. But we have other guys who will need to step up.”
Adding bullpen depth are right-handers Eric Yardley (2-0, 1.54 ERA in 24 games), Brent Suter (2-0, 3.13 ERA in 16 games), Justin Topa (0-1, 2.35 ERA in six games) and Drew Rasmussen (1-0, 5.87 ERA in 12 games). Topa and Rasmussen both throw 98-mph fastballs.
“Bullpens tend to be a little more volatile, but I think we found some pieces that are talented and have a chance to be parts of bullpens for multiple years,” Counsell said. “It’s a really good core group, for sure.”
Milwaukee’s best-of-three series against the Dodgers could very well resemble its seven-game National League Championship Series loss to the Dodgers in 2018, when Brewers relievers — mostly Brandon Woodruff, Hader, Corey Knebel and Burnes — threw 45 1/3 of the team’s 65 2/3 innings.
“We’ll piece it together like we usually do,” Milwaukee right fielder and 2018 NL most valuable player Christian Yelich said. “I think this is where the Brewers organization shines, in the postseason, getting creative … we’ve seen it in the past. I think we’ll find a way to have a great series.”
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