Rangers hire Mike Maddux (pitching coach), Dayton Moore (adviser)

The Texas Rangers hired Mike Maddux as their new pitching coach Wednesday, and added former Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore as a senior adviser in their baseball operations department.

Maddux is returning to Texas to be on new manager Bruce Bochy’s staff. Maddux was first the pitching coach for the Rangers from 2009 to ’15, a span in which they made their only two World Series appearances. He spent the past five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, and has been part of 11 playoffs teams over his past 15 campaigns as a pitching coach.

Moore spent the past 16 years with the Royals, where he was named GM in May 2006 and also served as president of baseball operations before getting fired in September. The Royals had three consecutive 100-loss seasons before Moore’s arrival. They collected back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015, defeating the New York Mets for the World Series title after the second one.

Moore will collaborate with Rangers general manager Chris Young, the former pitcher who finished his big league playing career with the Royals from 2015 to ’17.

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“There is no one more respected in our game. He rebuilt the Royals into a world champion,” Young said. “Dayton’s experiences as a longtime general manager, as well as his extensive background in scouting, will be a tremendous asset to me and the other leaders of our baseball group.”

Before joining the Royals, Moore spent 13 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in scouting and player development roles before becoming their director of player personnel in 2002.

Maddux was the second-longest-tenured pitching coach in club history when he left the Rangers after the 2015 season and spent the following two years with Washington. Texas had four consecutive seasons with team ERAs under 4.00 from 2010 to ’13. Before his arrival, they hadn’t had a team ERA under 4.00 since 1990, and haven’t had one since Maddux left.

After 15 seasons pitching in the big leagues, Maddux started his MLB coaching career with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003 to ’08. Even before three-time World Series champion manager Bochy was hired last month, the Rangers had said co-pitching coaches Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara wouldn’t return to their major league staff.

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Packers’ Aaron Rodgers confirms right thumb is broken

Aaron Rodgers never felt the need to get into details about his right thumb injury for one reason: It was never going to keep the Green Bay Packers quarterback from playing.

That’s why it wasn’t until Wednesday when he finally — and reluctantly — confirmed that it was indeed broken.

“It doesn’t make a difference with me playing,” Rodgers said. “It doesn’t make a difference. You saw the tape on my thumb. Didn’t make a difference.”

Rodgers has been dealing with the injury since he was sacked by Giants linebacker Oshane Ximines on the final play of the Packers’ Oct. 9 game in London. Rodgers attempted a Hail Mary, but Ximines hit Rodgers’ throwing arm and forced a fumble. Immediately after the play, Rodgers came up flexing his right hand.

Rodgers was asked specifically on Oct. 26 if his thumb was broken. He replied at the time: “My thumb is hurt.”

Even when Pat McAfee asked Rodgers on Tuesday during his weekly appearance on McAfee’s show if the thumb was broken, Rodgers just said he had played with broken fingers before without elaborating on this injury specifically. “I think I’ve had worse injuries I’ve played with,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “Definitely a challenge, but the days off helped. Feeling better this week.”

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He was back at practice Wednesday after an extended break following the Packers’ loss to the Titans last Thursday, when Rodgers’ accuracy was perhaps at its worst. He missed throws at critical times in the second half to Allen Lazard and Sammy Watkins that he described as passes he’d complete 99 times out of 100. Still, he insisted the thumb injury had nothing to do with those misses.

“There’s one in every 100 that doesn’t come off the right way,” Rodgers said.

When asked whether he’s just saying that because he doesn’t want to sound like he’s using the thumb as an excuse, Rodgers said: “I think it’s the truth. My thumb was hurting a lot worse in the Dallas game, and I put the ball where I wanted to.”

Indeed, Rodgers had pinpoint accuracy just five days earlier in a victory over the Cowboys.

As a whole, however, Rodgers’ accuracy numbers have been down since the injury. He completed 69.7% of his passes with eight touchdowns and three interceptions in the first five games of the season with the Packers at 3-2. In the next six, of which the Packers have won only one, his completion rate dropped to 62% with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.

However, Rodgers stated he has had other injuries that have impacted his ability to throw more than this one.

“When I hurt my knee in ’18, you throw from the ground up, so that was definitely difficult on the footwork, plant leg,” Rodgers said. “When I broke my index finger in college, that was probably a slightly more important finger to deal with. I remember I was at practice and Coach Tedford said, ‘I don’t care what’s hurting, you’ve got one day off and if you miss another day of practice, you’re the backup again.’ So there was no choice.”

Unlike Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who needed his fractured thumb surgically repaired earlier this season and missed five games, Rodgers said surgery was never considered and won’t be needed after the season unless something else happens.

“I don’t know what [Prescott] had, but it probably wasn’t,” Rodgers said when asked if his injury was as severe.

Rodgers and the Packers had five days off before they returned to the practice field on Wednesday to prepare for Sunday’s game at the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I hope it helped his thumb,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. At 4-7, the Packers can ill afford many more — if any — losses and still have a chance to make the postseason. Some have likened this to the 2016 season, when the Packers were 4-6 and heading to Philadelphia when Rodgers said he thought they could “run the table.”

However, the Eagles team Rodgers & Co. faced six years ago was 5-5. This one is 9-1. “I feel confident we’re going to go out and play well,” Rodgers said. “But I don’t think this is the last stand.”

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Wiggins scores season-best 31 points, Warriors beat Clippers

When the opposing defenders focus too much attention on Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins lets loose and makes them pay.

Wiggins scored a season-high 31 points, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers during a key stretch midway through the third quarter, and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 124-107 on Wednesday night.

“Steph’s going to be Steph, always,” Wiggins said. “Tonight the ball was moving and found a lot of people, made some shots.”

Wiggins shot 12 for 18 and matched his most 3-pointers this season with six in his third consecutive 20-point performance.

“He’s shooting the lights out. He’s just been so consistent from the field and from the 3-point line,” coach Steve Kerr said. “You see how comfortable he is in our offense, constantly slipping to the rim.”

Curry added 22 points, nine assists and six rebounds, while Thompson scored 18 points. He hit his first three shots and two 3-pointers and four of his initial five shots on the way to 15 points in the opening quarter.

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After a slow start this season finding his shooting groove, Thompson was coming off a season-best 41-point game at Houston on Sunday in which he made 10 3s.

Marcus Morris Sr. had 19 points to lead the Clippers and Terance Mann added 17. Amir Coffey made his initial three field goals, but Los Angeles went just 5 for 13 from long range in the first half to fall behind 66-47 at the break as the Warriors shot 56.5%.

John Wall was limited to nine points on 2-for-8 shooting and missed all three of his 3-point tries.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard sat out with a sprained right ankle after he landed on it Monday while trying to block a shot in the fourth quarter Monday night in a home victory over Utah.

Kerr wants to use Draymond Green more regularly with the second unit when possible to give the reserves a reliable ballhandler and floor leader given their recent struggles.

“It looks good and we’ll continue to do it,” Kerr said of Green leading the second team.

Early in the fourth, Green drove the length of the floor and into the pain then dished off to Anthony Lamb for a layup that made it 103-82 with 10:41 to play. Green concluded with 12 assists, nine points and seven rebounds.

“It’s huge for the confidence of the guys,” Green said.

Golden State notched its fifth game in the last six with 30 or more assists and leads the league. The Warriors committed only five first-half turnovers and 13 overall as Kerr has stressed taking care of the ball.

Warriors won their seventh consecutive home game and improve to 8-1 at Chase Center overall.

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Rams’ Matthew Stafford (protocol, neck) ruled out for Week 12

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol and will not play on Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs because of a neck injury, head coach Sean McVay stated on Wednesday.

McVay said Stafford felt some numbness in his legs after taking a hit in Week 11 against the New Orleans Saints, a game Stafford was playing in two days after he was cleared from the concussion protocol.

Stafford is in the concussion protocol, McVay said, “as a result of some of those evaluations [this week] and because we pulled him out of the game.”

McVay made it clear that even though Stafford is in the concussion protocol, it doesn’t mean the quarterback has been diagnosed with a concussion.

McVay said after Stafford was evaluated for a concussion on Sunday versus the Saints, “we wanted to take a conservative approach to take him out of the game as a result of some of those symptoms that he was having.”

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McVay said the Rams are taking it a week at a time with Stafford’s injury.

The coach did not rule out shutting the quarterback down for the rest of the season, saying, “We’re not going to do anything that’s reckless.”

“[Stafford is] so tough,” McVay. “He’s such a great competitor and I definitely think that’s probably one of those deals where if he is cleared, you definitely want to make sure that I’m making a smart decision for him and for our team, not exclusive to this year.”

McVay did not commit to a starting quarterback against Kansas City, as John Wolford, who started in Week 10 when Stafford was in the concussion protocol, will be limited in practice with a neck injury. Wolford was inactive in Week 11 against the Saints because of his neck injury.

Stafford was replaced by Bryce Perkins in the game in New Orleans. Perkins is in line to take the majority of the quarterback snaps during practice on Wednesday. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 64 yards in relief of Stafford against the Saints. He also ran for 39 yards on five carries.

The Rams signed quarterback Case Cookus to the practice squad on Wednesday.

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Australia beats Netherlands to reach Davis Cup semifinals

Alex De Minaur and Jordan Thompson gained their singles matches to help Australia qualify for the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time since 2017 at the expense of the Netherlands.

De Minaur defeated Botic Van De Zandschulp 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to clinch the series 2-0 and set up a semifinal tie versus either Spain or Croatia.

“We’ve got a great team, a lot of belief and a lot of passion,” De Minaur said. “I’m very happy to win today. ”Every single one of these players on our team is going to play their heart out. We’ll do everything we can for our country.”

Australia is the second most successful nation in the team competition with 28 titles but the last triumph dates to 2003. De Minaur completed his rally with a break in the 10th game of the final set by building a 40-0 lead and converting the first match point on an indoor hardcourt in the southern Spanish city of Malaga.

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He started his comeback by breaking Van de Zandschulp in the first and last games of the second set.

The Dutch player took the first set with a break in the 12th game. He recorded three victories in the group stage, including a victory over American Taylor Fritz.

Earlier, Jordan Thompson also came from a set down to defeat Tallon Griekspoor 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and give Australia a 1-0 lead.

The Australian hit 16 aces to overcome his Dutch opponent in a hard-fought match that took almost three hours. Thompson got the decisive break to jump to a 4-2 lead in the final set and held on. After losing the opening set, the Australian came back with a break in the 12th game of the second set.

The final doubles of Wimbledon champions Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell of Australia versus Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands was not played.

The quarterfinal tie between the 2019 champion Spain and 2021 runner-up Croatia is Wednesday.

The quarterfinals wrap up Thursday, when the U.S. meets Italy, and Canada plays Germany. The semifinals are Friday and Saturday, and the title will be decided Sunday.

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Panthers name Sam Darnold starter vs. Broncos

In the revolving door known as the Carolina Panthers quarterback position, Sam Darnold will become the team’s third different starter in as many weeks Sunday versus the Denver Broncos at Bank of America Stadium.

The team made the announcement Tuesday after interim coach Steve Wilks told his quarterbacks he will go with Darnold instead of Baker Mayfield, who had two passes intercepted and failed to get the Panthers (3-8) into the end zone in Sunday’s 13-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

It will be Darnold’s first start in a regular-season game since a Jan. 9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to end the 2021 season.

Wilks made the decision after evaluating Mayfield’s performance versus Baltimore and finding out that PJ Walker would not be ready to return Sunday from a high ankle sprain. Mayfield started the season as the starter after winning the job in training camp during an open competition with Darnold.

Sunday was his first start since Week 5, when he suffered a high ankle sprain in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He replaced Walker, who was 2-3 before suffering his own sprain in a Week 10 win versus the Atlanta Falcons.

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Mayfield had a Total Quarterback Rating of 20.4 against the Ravens, giving him an NFL-worst 17.8 rating among qualified players. His 57.8 completion percentage ranks next to last.

Darnold was 4-7 as the starter last season and had a Total QBR of 38.6 that ranked ahead of only those of Zach Wilson (33.4) of the New York Jets and Justin Fields (31.4) of the Chicago Bears.

Mayfield was the first pick of the 2018 draft and Darnold the third.

The Cleveland Browns traded Mayfield to Carolina in July after dealing for Deshaun Watson earlier in the offseason. After selecting Wilson with the second overall pick of the 2021 draft, the Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers.

Wilks has stated several times that the Panthers want to get a look at Darnold, who, like Mayfield, is in the last year of his rookie contract.

The decision to go with Darnold over Mayfield also impacts what the Panthers owe from their trade with Cleveland. Mayfield currently has played 58% of the snaps and would need to play 70% for the Browns to get a fourth-round pick in 2024. If he doesn’t reach that threshold, that pick becomes a fifth-rounder.

The Panthers, who if the season ended today would have the No. 2 pick in the 2023 draft, are expected to select a quarterback in the first round next year in a QB strong class. They would consider a veteran such as Darnold to help bring that player along.

Darnold recently said he learned a lot being the backup while recovering from a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve to start the season. “You learn a lot just by watching,” he said.

“There’s a lot to learn in terms of walking around the building, learning from other guys. There’s a lot you can learn when you don’t have the stress of being a starter. But at the end of the day, I want to be out there.”

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DeRozan scores 28 as Bulls stop Celtics’ 9-game win streak

Zach LaVine was back where he wanted to be, on the court and helping the Bulls get a victory they sorely needed.

Even better, it came versus the team with the NBA’s best record.

LaVine scored 22 points, DeMar DeRozan had 28 and Chicago stopped Boston’s nine-game win streak, defeating the Celtics 121-107 on Monday night.

Patrick Williams scored a season-high 17, and the Bulls made it look rather easy versus a team that’s 13-4. They led by 13 at halftime, got it up to 21 in the third quarter and withstood a push to come away with the win after dropping four straight and five of six.

How important was the victory for the Bulls?

“Big time,” LaVine said. “We’ve lost a lot in a row and they’ve won a lot in a row. I think we’re a really good team, but we go through little lapses or times where we play bad. That’s how fast the game can change.”

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LaVine was coming off what might have been the worst performance of his career.

The two-time All-Star was 1 of 14 with four points versus Orlando on Friday and got benched for the final 3:43.

“Everybody has a career-worst night,” LaVine said. “Everybody in the NBA has. I guess that was my night.”

Against Boston, he was 8 of 20 from the field, but made five 3-pointers. He also scored nine in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan, who scored 41 in the previous game, had eight in a span of just over a minute late in the third. He also spun and fed Alex Caruso for a reverse layup that made it 116-101 with just under three minutes left in the game.

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 28 points. Jaylen Brown scored 25, and Malcolm Brogdon concluded with 23 points, nailing 5 of 6 3-pointers. “Just kind of a slow start for whatever reason and we should have known a little bit better that they haven’t great recently,” Tatum said. “They were — not desperate — but they came out and played like they really wanted to win.”

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Jefferson, Vikings look to regroup after ’embarrassing’ loss

There is no doubt how Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson feels about his team’s 40-3 loss Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys.

Speaking Monday to local reporters, Jefferson called the loss “embarrassing” and “a disaster all around.” He then made clear that coach Kevin O’Connell and his staff should have adjusted the passing game to counteract the Cowboys’ fierce pass rush.

Lastly, quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked a career-high seven times, including twice by NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Micah Parsons, and was pressured on 63% of his dropbacks.

“It’s tough with Kirk getting sacked before you’re even getting out of the break,” Jefferson stated.

“It’s definitely being in a tough situation, but we’ve just got to move toward more quick game, getting the ball out quicker, putting the ball in space and letting people work, just things we need to adjust on just throughout the game. If things are not working out the way we planned, then we need to find a way to adjust and go toward something that will work better for us. We just can’t continue to keep doing the same thing throughout the game even though it’s not working. But we’ve got to be better as a whole team. It’s good because we have a chance to do that in three days.”

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Indeed, the Vikings will host the New England Patriots on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

They’re 8-2 in O’Connell’s first year, and Jefferson is off to the best start of his career. But he caught only three passes for 33 yards Sunday and pointedly called the game-long issues in pass protection a “lesson learned.”

“I mean, of course I wish we had adjusted faster throughout the game,” Jefferson said. “Getting the ball out quicker, not letting Micah Parsons and the rest of that D-line get a chance to get back there to Kirk. So it’s just things we need to learn from. This is a new team. This is a new coaching staff. We have new players on this team. We’re all still learning each other. We’re still all learning how to play with each other.

“It’s just a lesson learned. Just like [after a Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles], it was a lesson learned that week. So it’s just throughout the season, we’re learning things about each other, learning ways to win. And it’s all going to turn out better for us later in the season when we get to the playoffs and we get to that stretch where we need to win and we need to know what to do and how to change up the plan if things are not going well.”

O’Connell stated Sunday that he “didn’t coach well enough tonight and we got outplayed.” He was not available Monday to address Jefferson’s specific comments about moving to a quicker passing game.

Sunday’s loss came by the second-highest point differential for a team 8-1 or better in the Super Bowl era, an outcome not lost on Jefferson.

“I mean, it just sucks that we lost this bad,” he said. “If we just lost by three, seven, 10 points, it wouldn’t be as bad. People lose games. We’re not expected to go undefeated for the rest of the season. Things happen. It’s the NFL. There’s good teams that we’re playing. But it’s just the fact that we lost by 37 points at home. It’s just embarrassing being in that type of situation and we just didn’t play good in all phases. That’s what really killed us and made us act the way we’re acting now.

“We’ve just got to get that taste out of our mouth. We didn’t play good at all. We just want to get to Thursday [and] have a chance to get that taste out of our mouth and play better.”

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Max Verstappen secures dominant 15th win in Abu Dhabi, Charles Leclerc second

Max Verstappen capped a dominant F1 season with a record-extending 15th victory of the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. 

Verstappen, who secured the championship with four races to spare, turned in an utterly untouchable performance out in front in what will go down as one of the most impressive title victories in F1’s recent history. 

The previous record of most victories in an F1 season was 13, jointly held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.   Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel concluded 10th in his final F1 race before retirement. 

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Vettel joined Verstappen in doing donuts on track after the race, something which has become common at the Abu Dhabi season-ender. 

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was unable to capture a one-two in the drivers’ championship for Red Bull, falling 1.3s short of catching Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second in the final laps. 

In a year Ferrari has been criticised for poor strategy calls it was a risky one-stop strategy which was key in holding on to position.  

“Yes baby, we got it… at least,” Leclerc said to Ferrari after the race on the radio. “Good job boys, really good race.”

Carlos Sainz was fourth in the other Ferrari. Sainz caught and passed Lewis Hamilton with five laps left as the Mercedes driver appeared to encounter a hydraulics issue in his car, which caused him to drop down the order and retire from the race. 

It officially ended Hamilton’s record of 15 consecutive seasons of scoring at least one race victory every season.  George Russell concluded ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.

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Rams star WR Cooper Kupp expected to miss 6-8 weeks

Los Angeles Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery this past week for a high ankle sprain, league sources told ESPN.

The last-place Rams, who are 3-6 entering Sunday’s contest versus the New Orleans Saints, will need to bounce back to give Kupp a realistic opportunity to return this season.

If the Rams can somehow string together enough wins to climb back into playoff contention, it would increase the chances that Kupp could possibly return later this season. But if Los Angeles’ struggles continue, Kupp would not be likely to play again until the 2023 season.

The tightrope surgery that Kupp underwent last week typically sidelines players six to eight weeks. Some players have returned to play ahead of that timeline, while others have taken longer.

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Rams rookie running back Kyren Williams had the same surgery that Kupp did and was practicing in five weeks, while rookie linebacker Daniel Hardy had the same surgery this past summer and still hasn’t been cleared to return to practice.

Without Kupp, the Rams will need their other wide receivers to make up for the production of one of the NFL’s best players.

Receivers Allen Robinson II, Ben Skowronek and Van Jefferson already were receiving playing time, and Kupp’s absence figures to free up opportunities for Tutu Atwell and undrafted free agent Lance McCutcheon.

Just as big of an issue as Kupp’s absence is the state of the Rams’ offensive line, which has been riddled with injuries throughout the season and will feature its 10th different starting combination in 10 games Sunday.

This past week, starting left tackle Alaric Jackson was sidelined for the season due to blood clots, starting guard Chandler Brewer suffered a season-ending torn medial collateral ligament and center Brian Allen injured a thumb. The Rams already were without offensive tackle Joe Noteboom, guard Logan Bruss, and linemen Tremayne Anchrum Jr. and Jeremiah Kolone.

Against the Saints, the Rams are expected to start left tackle Ty Nsekhe and guard Oday Aboushi, who were both recently signed as free agents.

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