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Jeter Marlins In A Good Spot As Spring Training Begins

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Speaking Tuesday at Marlins Park, Derek Jeter said he was about to jump in the car and head down to spring training, even though the Miami Marlins’ camp is actually up in Jupiter, 90 miles north on Interstate 95.

Now in his fifth month on the job, Jeter acknowledged he’s still finding his bearings as the Marlins’ CEO.

The team opens camp Wednesday following a Jeter-led fire sale that purged the batting order of four starters, including NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The trades netted mostly prospects, making the immediate outlook even bleaker than usual for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003.

But before heading to his first spring training since his final season with the New York Yankees in 2014, Jeter said his ownership group is on the path to long-term success.

“We’re in a good spot,” Jeter said. “We are doing exactly what we set out to do.”

A beloved five-time World Series champion in New York, Jeter is now a rookie owner who has been faulted for his handling of the Stanton deal and other offseason moves.

But Jeter said he has been encouraged by the reception he has received from the South Florida business community. It helps that his group bought the team from the wildly unpopular Jeffrey Loria.

“Contrary to popular belief, we’ve gotten a very warm welcome from individuals and corporations who have reached out and said they want to be a part of this journey,” Jeter said. “People understand that there needed to be some change here.”

The same is true around baseball. Jeter said he has been pleasantly surprised by “the advice and support and well wishes I’ve gotten from a number of different organizations. It’s kind of awkward, because you’re used to trying to beat those guys. Now it’s, ‘If you ever need anything, let me know.’ I kind of think I’m being tricked.”

Jeter’s latest move was to hire former NBA executive Chip Bowers as president of business operations. Bowers, who spent five years as chief marketing officer for the Golden State Warriors, blames the Marlins’ perennially poor attendance on losing and roster turnover.

“I think it’s very shortsighted for people to say this is not a baseball market, because it has gone through a lot of change, and when there’s change it’s hard to create sustainable enthusiasm,” Bowers said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s obvious to me that from the ground up, Derek is going to build a world-class organization at every level.”

Jeter, who has the final say on business and baseball decisions, won’t be hands-on at spring training. He said he’ll visit camp on occasion but won’t be on the field and has no urge to swing a bat.

On other topics, Jeter said:

— He intended to keep Stanton until the slugger said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding. “We planned all along moving forward with him,” Jeter said. “What changed is he didn’t want to be part of the organization. He preferred to be moved.”

— Ownership has added investors since the purchase of the team in October. Jeter declined to provide details. “This is a well-capitalized ownership group. If we don’t add another investor, everyone is fine.”

— Michael Hill was retained as president of baseball operations to provide continuity. “We wanted to give Mike an opportunity to show he can do his job,” Jeter said. “No one knows this organization better than him. I can learn a great deal from Mike about the players that are here and how this organization is being run.”

— Discussions regarding how to honor pitcher Jose Fernandez are ongoing. He and two other men died in a boat accident in 2016, and an investigation determined Fernandez was the probable driver, with drugs and alcohol factors in the crash. “It’s a tricky situation because there are other people who lost their lives,” Jeter said. “But we’re in constant communication with Jose’s family, and we will honor Jose and what he has meant to this organization in the near-term future.”

— The retractable roof at Marlins Park will likely be open for more games than in the past.

— Players will be allowed to wear a mustache and-or beard “as long as it’s well-groomed,” Jeter said. “If you look professional, you act professional.”

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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Arizonas Trier Suspended For Trace Amount Of Ped

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Arizona’s Allonzo Trier has been declared ineligible for the reappearance of a banned substance that led to a 19-game suspension last season.

The NCAA notified the school on Thursday that the preseason All-America junior guard tested positive for trace amount of the substance late last month.

Arizona says the amount detected was minuscule by scientific standards and appeared to be a remnant of the undisclosed performance-enhancing drug Trier said he unknowingly ingested last season. The NCAA agreed, the school said.

Arizona is appealing the decision and hoping Trier will regain his eligibility soon. The 14th-ranked Wildcats (21-6, 11-3) have four regular-season games left before the Pac-12 Tournament starts March 7 in Las Vegas.

Trier sat out the first 19 games in 2016-17 after testing positive for the drug. He won an appeal with the NCAA and was allowed to return after the substance cleared his system.

“I have never knowingly taken a banned substance,” Trier said in a statement last season. “After finding out that I was given a banned substance by a well-intentioned, but misguided person not associated with the University after an injury, I presented this information to the NCAA. The NCAA agreed that I had no knowledge of receiving the substance and my eligibility was restored.”

Trier has been a key cog in the Wildcats’ bid to win their fourth Pac-12 title in five seasons. He is second to freshman Deandre Ayton for the team scoring lead at 19.6 points per game and second with 3.2 assists.

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP—Top25

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Wooden Watch Can Someone Catch Trae Young

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To this point, there is no question as to who has been the most impressive player during the college basketball season: Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young.

The nation’s leader in both scoring (29.1 points per game) and assists (9.3), Young is the clear favorite for the Wooden Award. Two weeks ago, it seemed like he was a virtual lock and the final two months of the season would serve as somewhat of a send-off party before his inevitable leap to the NBA.

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But even then, after Young scored 44 points in a 98-96 win against Baylor on Jan. 30, there were signs that Oklahoma might not be much of a factor come March. The Sooners lost three of four going into that win after peaking at No. 9 in the AP poll and have since lost four straight to fall into a fifth-place tie with Baylor in the Big 12 at 6-7.

The Sooners’ poor run isn’t in spite of brilliance from Young, either. He’s still scoring at a high clip, but in the four-game skid he has made just 7 of 41 3-point attempts and committed 23 turnovers.

In the past 20 years, only one Wooden Award winner has come from a team with double-digit losses — Texas was 25-10 when Kevin Durant won it in 2007. In that same span, every winner’s team won at least one game in the NCAA tournament and all but two advanced past the tournament’s opening weekend.

In ESPN’s latest Bracketology, which came out before Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech on Tuesday, the Sooners were listed as a No. 5 seed, but it’s not inconceivable for the Sooners not to make the tournament. Say they lose three of their remaining regular-season games and bow out in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. At 18-13, they would be firmly on the bubble and if they get left out, Young’s shot at winning the Wooden would be a break from history.

So, if the Sooners lose him out of contention, who would have a real chance at winning?

Right now, that’s anybody’s guess, but here are a few possibilities — and it will likely be decided more by what happens over the rest of the season.

The draft darlings

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: The Wildcats haven’t quite met expectations, but they’re still 20-6, in first place in the Pac-12 and Ayton has been a dominant force. At 7-foot-1, he’s a strong candidate to be drafted No. 1 overall in the upcoming NBA draft and if he has a memorable March, he could play his way into contention. He’s averaging 19.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke: A knee injury has kept him out of the Blue Devils’ past two games, but when he’s on the court it’s easy to see why Bagley believed he didn’t need another season of high school basketball. In fact, there’s a case to be made that he was ready to play in the NBA this season. Like Ayton, and the rest of these candidates, there’s still plenty of time for him to leave his mark on the season.

The best players on good teams

Miles Bridges, Michigan State: A favorite for the award when the season began, Bridges leads the second-ranked Spartans in scoring (17.3) and knocked down a key shot late to beat then-No. 3 Purdue last week. With another run to the Final Four, Bridges could be deserving.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: The Musketeers have won nine in a row, including a win against Seton Hall on Wednesday in which Bluiett went for a season-high 37 points. He has a chance Saturday against Villanova to make a statement in a game that could give Xavier a 2?-game lead in the Big East standings.

Stock up

Keenan Evans, Texas Tech Evans’ rise was highlighted in last week’s Wooden Watch and took another significant step forward after outplaying Young in Tech’s 88-78 win on Tuesday. Evans scored 26 points, aided by shooting 4-of-7 on 3s, and has the Red Raiders all alone in first place in the Big 12.

Stock down

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s Largely because of Landale, the Gaels climbed to their highest ranking in program history — No. 11 in the AP poll — but against Gonzaga at home, with a chance to move into the top 10, he was ineffective. Landale scored just four points — his lowest total in the past two seasons — as Saint Mary’s lost 78-65 on Saturday. He’ll have a chance to bounce back Thursday against San Francisco, which he scored 26 points against the first time they played.

Others to watch: Mohamed Bamba, Texas; Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State; Mikal Bridges, Villanova; Jalen Brunson, Villanova; Carsen Edwards, Purdue; Vincent Edwards, Purdue; Marcus Foster, Creighton; Kansas; Luke Maye, North Carolina; Collin Sexton, Alabama; Allonzo Trier, Arizona.

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No 14 Arizonas Trier Suspended For Trace Amount Of Ped

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The NCAA has declared No. 14 Arizona’s Allonzo Trier ineligible for the reappearance of the banned substance that led to a 19-game suspension last season.

The school said the NCAA notified the Wildcats on Thursday that the junior guard had a trace amount of the substance from a drug test late last month. Arizona did not specify the drug, saying only it was a banned substance.

Arizona says the amount detected was minuscule by scientific standards and appeared to be a remnant of the performance-enhancing drug Trier unknowingly ingested last season. The NCAA agreed, the school said.

Arizona is appealing the decision and hoping Trier will regain his eligibility soon.

Trier sat out the first 19 games in 2016-17 after testing positive for the drug, which he said came from a well-intentioned person not affiliated with the university following an injury.

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For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP—Top25

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