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Shohei Ohtanis Main Impact Will Come As A Pitcher Mike Scioscia Says

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Shohei Ohtani is quickly discovering how his every move at Los Angeles Angels’ camp will be scrutinized this spring. About 50 Japanese media members gathered at the entrance of the player parking lot at Tempe Diablo Stadium for his arrival Tuesday. Later on, in the clubhouse, a wall of reporters looked on intently as he sifted through a box of belongings at his locker and tried on his batting practice uniform for the first time.

Over the coming days and weeks, Ohtani will get a better read on how his teammates will try to ease his transition and his new club will accommodate his quest to blaze a trail as a two-way player in the majors.

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Angels manager Mike Scioscia provided some insights into the nuts and bolts of the team’s plans for Ohtani in conjunction with the reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Scioscia confirmed that Ohtani will be part of a six-man starting rotation in Anaheim, and his exposure as a designated hitter will be based in part on the workload he’s prepared to handle. The Angels regard Ohtani as a pitcher first, and they’ll work off that assumption in assessing his offensive role.

“He’s going to get the most looks as a pitcher,” Scioscia said. “If he can pitch to his capabilities, that will always influence your team more than what he would do hitting. But that’s not to say he won’t have a chance to be a difference maker on the offensive end, too.

“There’s a certain novelty to it. You’ve had Madison Bumgarner swing the bat with the Giants, but not like we’re trying to implement with Shohei. I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue. We need him to pitch. He’s a big part of our rotation. Secondary to that, when he has an opportunity to swing the bat, we definitely want to take a look at him.”

Ohtani, 23, arrives in the U.S. with massive expectations stemming from his moniker as “Japan’s Babe Ruth.” He routinely surpassed 100 mph on the radar gun as a pitcher and displayed his power by launching 22 homers and slugging .588 for the Nippon Ham Fighters at age 21.

The Angels emerged from a group of seven finalists to land Ohtani on Dec. 8. He received a signing bonus of $2.135 million and will receive the major-league minimum salary of $545,000 this season. If Ohtani had waited two more years, he almost certainly would have commanded a nine-figure contract under the terms of baseball’s labor agreement.

Ohtani is scheduled to give his first news conference in camp Wednesday afternoon. He showed up in Arizona more than a week ago and has impressed the Angels’ other early arrivals with his humble demeanor and abundant skills.

“It’s crazy,” said pitcher Matt Shoemaker. “I only saw a couple of swings, but they were easy swings and the ball just jumps. And we know what he can do on the mound, especially velocity-wise. The ball comes out hot.”

Ohtani took a physical exam Tuesday, logged some swings in the cage and played long toss on the main field with his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. At one point Scioscia was addressing the media along the right field line at Tempe Diablo when he spotted Ohtani emerging from a back cage. Scioscia turned, yelled “Hey!” and took a few steps to shake Ohtani’s hand as cameras clicked.

“I guess his physical was OK,” Scioscia said upon returning to the microphone. “He’s here.”

In 2016, Ohtani posted a 10-4 record and a 1.86 ERA as a pitcher and hit .322 in 323 at-bats with the Fighters. He missed much of last season with a right ankle injury that required surgery in October.

In December, it was revealed that Ohtani had received a platelet rich plasma injection last fall for a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Angels general manager Billy Eppler released a statement that Ohtani’s MRI readings were “consistent with players his age,” and reiterated that the Angels were “very happy to have the player.”

Nevertheless, the Angels will try to ease the burden on Ohtani and their other starters this season by going with a six-man rotation. Depending on health, Garrett Richards, Ohtani, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney and Shoemaker look like good bets for the first five spots. Parker Bridwell, Nick Tropeano and J.C. Ramirez are the other three pitchers in the mix.

“In talking with Billy Eppler and everyone who’s dived into this, we all feel very comfortable with it,” Scioscia said. “Let’s get the six best guys we have and get after it. It will not only pay dividends for Shohei, but with the rest of our staff to hopefully keep them effective and strong through the whole season. That’s going to be very important to our team this year. We’re going to be flexible, but that looks like the way we’re going to map things out.”

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The Latest Russians Dominate Womens Figure Skating

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The Latest on the Pyeongchang Olympics (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

The Russians have come to dominate women’s figure skating and they showed it by sweeping the top two medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Even their closest rivals acknowledge how much ground they have to make up. But what’s much more difficult to pin down is whether it’s possible to close the gap and what it will take for someone to rise to the Russians’ level.

Alina Zagitova won individual gold with 239.57 points Friday, beating her training partner and close friend Evgenia Medvedeva by less than two points.

That they would stand on the top two steps of the podium at Gangneung Ice Arena was about as predictable as the sun rising over the nearby Sea of Japan, the only question left being what order they would finish.

Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond put together two clean programs for what she claimed was the first time ever, and she still only managed 231.02 points, leaving her a distant — but quite happy — third.

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2:45 p.m.

South Korea’s women’s curling team has become a global sensation. And they don’t even know it.

The team known as the “Garlic Girls” came into the Pyeongchang Games as the underdog who few believed would medal. Now they’re number one in the rankings.

They have earned worldwide attention for their fierce talent and funny personality.

But their coach has shielded them from publicity and the women agreed to turn off their phones before the Games. So they have no idea they’re superstars.

They got their name from their hometown of Uiseong, known for its prolific garlic production.

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2 p.m.

Alina Zagitova has won the women’s figure skating competition, becoming the first Russian gold medalist at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The 15-year-old Zagitova edged her friend and training partner Evgenia Medvedeva to end the gold drought for the Olympic Athletes from Russia. That’s the designation given to the nation’s competitors after Russia was officially banned by the IOC for a doping scandal.

Zagitova and Medvedeva tied in the free skate, a rare occurrence, but Zagitova had won the short program Wednesday, so she got gold.

Kaetlyn Osmond has won bronze, giving Canada four overall medals in figure skating.

———

1:10 p.m.

The Americans secured their worst showing in modern-era Olympic women’s figure skating with Mirai Nagasu failing to get any lift on her triple axel and popping a triple lutz.

The 24-year-old Nagasu was fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Games but never got going in the individual competition at the Pyeongchang Games after helping the U.S. win a team bronze. She hit her triple axel in that event, becoming the first American woman and third overall to do so in an Olympics. But she slipped below U.S. champion Bradie Tennell in the standings after Friday’s free skate, with 2017 national champ Karen Chen just behind.

With the top six skaters to go, the Americans almost certainly will wind up ninth, 10th and 11th. Since World War II, at least one American woman finished sixth or higher.

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1 p.m.

Canadian defenseman Jocelyne Larocque says she wishes she hadn’t taken off her silver medal almost immediately after it was placed around her neck at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Larocque issued a statement through Team Canada apologizing to the IOC, International Ice Hockey Federation, the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Hockey Canada and her teammates and fans.

She says her emotions got the best of her Thursday after a 3-2 shootout loss to the United States and she meant no disrespect. Larocque says she takes being a role model and representing Canada seriously and is truly sorry that her actions did not represent her values or those of her family and team.

The general manager of Canada’s national team programs says they expect professionalism and sportsmanship from their players.

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11:50 a.m.

American ski great Lindsey Vonn not only won a bronze medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics, she also had a chance to scatter some of her grandfather’s ashes on a rock near the mountain where the downhill races were run.

Don Kildow served in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War in the 1950s.

“I know that it would mean a lot to him to be back here, a part of him is in South Korea always,” says Vonn, who shared her story with The Associated Press and the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Vonn says she scattered parts of Don Kildow’s ashes “just a few days ago” on a rock that she was told was special when she visited South Korea last year to be named a Pyeongchang Olympic ambassador. She described the location as “right by the men’s downhill start.”

Vonn won a bronze medal in the downhill , but skied out of Thursday’s slalom leg of the Alpine combined in what was likely her last Olympic race. Later in the day, a group of elderly South Korean men gave her family some gifts and a letter of thanks to mark her grandfather’s service during the 1950-53 Korean War.

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11:30 a.m.

Canada’s Kelsey Serwa has raced to victory in women’s skicross, giving her a gold medal to go with the silver she won in Sochi four years ago.

Serwa raced to the lead early in the final and was well in front by the time she reached the bottom of the course at Phoenix Snow Park. Canadian teammate Brittany Phelan made an impressive pass late in the run to finish second.

Serwa’s victory came two days after Canada’s Brady Leman took gold in the men’s event.

Switzerland’s Fanny Smith held off Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund for bronze.

While Serwa and Phelan gave the Canadians a one-two finish, teammates Marielle Thompson and India Sherrit were not so fortunate. Thompson, the defending Olympic champion, clipped a ski in the first elimination round and did not finish. Sherrit left the course in a medical sled following a frightening crash. There was no immediate update on her status.

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10:15 a.m.

The final competitive event of figure skating at the Pyeongchang Games is underway with Russian rivals Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva dueling for the gold medal.

They are so far ahead of the rest of the field after their short program that everyone else is competing for bronze in the free skate. Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada is currently third, but Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto are within striking distance.

The trio U.S. women are well off the pace and need a big rally in their free skates to avoid the worst showing by the American contingent in Olympic history.

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10 a.m.

The Russians have a good shot at winning their first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Olympics when teenager figure skaters Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva take the ice for the women’s free skate.

Zagitova and Medvedeva were in first and second place, respectively, after the women’s short program, where they had the highest scores ever. First Medvedeva broke the record she’d set the week before during the team competition, then Zagitova broke that record.

Americans Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen are unlikely to medal after struggling in their short programs.

Also Friday, speedskaters will compete in the men’s 1,000 meter. In hockey it’s the Czech Republic vs. the Olympic Athletes from Russia and Canada vs. Germany to determine who will play for gold.

———

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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Alpine Skiing Vonns Last Olympics Shiffrin Isnt Buying It

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – American Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic giant slalom gold medalist in Pyeongchang, isn’t buying the “official line” that her team mate Lindsey Vonn won’t take part in the next Games in Beijing.

Vonn, downhill bronze medal winner this week and champion in Vancouver eight years ago, has repeatedly said this is probably her final appearance at the Olympics.

But, after Vonn’s sisters cautioned not to rule out the 33-year-old making one final appearance in China in 2022, Shiffrin also expressed scepticism.

”It’s funny, because every time I hear anybody saying anything about this it’s ‘most likely, probably, maybe, we’ll see but not sure’.

“I‘m like, ‘Knowing Lindsey, I don’t believe her’,” Shiffrin told a news conference on Friday.

Shiffrin has emerged as the next star of the U.S. Alpine skiing team but the 22-year-old dismissed the idea she is taking over from Vonn.

“I don’t think I can fill her shoes the way she has worn them … I haven’t had a lot of thoughts about it because first of all I don’t think Lindsey thinks she’s done yet, or passing the baton and I don’t see myself taking the baton,” she said.

Pyeongchang downhill champion Sofia Goggia also believes there is a chance of Vonn carrying on for another four years.

The Italian contacted Vonn on Thursday and told Italian media she had urged the American not to quit before Beijing

“You are too much of a champion, you can manage (your schedule), you can only do the downhills,” she told the American.

Vonn confirmed she had heard from Goggia.

“She wrote me last night – she wanted to talk to me and she was trying to convince me to keep going until 2022. It means a lot to me that she enjoys racing with me as much as I enjoy racing with her, I respect her very much, especially because of all the injuries she’s had as well,” Vonn said.

”I told her – if I can, if I physically could continue for four years then I probably would, as long as I considered myself still a competitor.

“But four years is a really long time, I told her that. She says she is going to keep trying to convince me but we will see,” added Vonn.

Minnesota-born Vonn needs six more World Cup wins to beat Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 victories and become the most successful skier of all-time.

“I am not going to stop ski racing until I break it,” Vonn said.

“This year didn’t start off the way I had hoped…but I was still able to win four races. I think next year will go a lot better also with my focus shifting to the World Cup instead of the Olympics,” she added.

“It will give me more time to really be prepared for each race and not focused on peaking for February. I think next season I can get it done because I am not getting any younger,” she said.

Reporting by Simon Evans,

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Manchester United Defender Matteo Darmian Set To Join Juventus With Deal Already Agreed Between Clubs

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JUVENTUS have reportedly reached an agreement with Manchester United for defender Matteo Darmian.

Italian publication Calciomercato are reporting that a deal has been done for the 28-year-old as he looks to get his career back on track.

Getty – Contributor Matteo Darmian has reportedly already agreed to join Juventus in the summer

The Italian international has been frozen out by Jose Mourinho this season, and his future is unclear as the United boss looks to shuffle his defensive pack in the summer.

Darmian started the FA Cup game at Yeovil but has not be seen in the Premier League since the win at Arsenal on December 2.

Juve could offer an escape route back to Italy as they look to replace Stephan Lichsteiner, who is set to leave at the end of the season.

Darmian has been linked with moves away from Old Trafford in the last three transfer windows after failing to dislodge Antonio Valencia at right-back.

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