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Dodgers pleased with 'really sharp' Blake Treinen, but team continues to stress caution

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Dodgers pleased with 'really sharp' Blake Treinen, but team continues to stress caution

The lively sinking fastball that averaged 97.4 mph in his last full season has already touched 95-96 mph in Cactus League play, and the nasty slider that hitters rarely made contact with in 2021 has retained much of its bite.

Blake Treinen is 2 ½ years and one major shoulder surgery removed from a 2021 season in which he was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers, but there are early signs this spring that the 35-year-old right-hander could reclaim a prominent role in one of baseball’s deepest bullpens.

“Watching live batting practice from behind the screen, when our hitters don’t want to face you, that’s generally a good thing,” Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said of Treinen, who has thrown two hitless innings with one strikeout in two exhibition games.

“He’s been really sharp. The movement [on his pitches] is ungodly. His command has been good. He really hasn’t missed a beat as far as putting the entire arsenal together and being able to attack the zone.”

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While Dave Roberts has been impressed with Treinen’s “strike-throwing, the teeth of the sinker, the cut fastball and the slider,” the Dodgers manager is not ready to herald the return of a 2021-model Treinen.

“He’s not there, but nor is anyone at this point of spring training,” Roberts said. “Could he get there? Absolutely. It’s just a constant build-up and facing hitters, but he’s doing a good job of competing.”

Treinen, a nine-year veteran, had his best season for the Oakland Athletics in 2018, going 9-2 with an 0.78 ERA in 68 games, giving up 46 hits, striking out 100 and walking 21 in 80 ⅓ innings. He went 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 27 games in pandemic-shortened 2020 to help the Dodgers win the World Series.

Treinen was nearly untouchable as closer Kenley Jansen’s setup man in 2021, when he went 6-5 with a 1.99 ERA in 72 games, allowing 46 hits, striking out 85 and walking 25 in 72 ⅓ innings and holding opposing hitters to a .179 average and a paltry .512 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

His 93-mph cutter was effective enough to hold hitters to a .176 average (12 for 68) in at-bats ending with the pitch, but Treinen’s most lethal weapon was an 86.4-mph slider that had 37 inches of drop and 13 inches of break and held hitters to an .074 average (seven for 95) and 57 strikeouts in at-bats ending with the pitch.

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“Just dominance,” closer Evan Phillips, who joined the Dodgers in August 2021 after he was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay, said when asked what he remembered most about Treinen that season. “Dominance and conviction and confidence on the mound. I think when any bullpen pitcher is at their best, they have full conviction in themselves.”

After a grueling, injury-plagued and rehabilitation-filled two years in which Treinen was limited by shoulder problems to five games in 2022 and missed all of 2023 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff, Treinen is just happy to be in a position to return to the mound in 2024.

“I don’t want my career to end the way that it presumably could have,” Treinen said. “And I want my kids to see [the importance] of hard work and not giving up when things get hard. My whole life has kind of been a testament to that. I’ve worked my tail off, God has opened a lot of doors, and I’m very grateful to have another opportunity.”

Though Treinen had surgery in November 2022 and was expected to miss most, if not all, of 2023, the Dodgers still signed him to a one-year, $8-million contract for 2023 with a 2024 option that could range from $1 million to $7 million based on innings pitched.

Most teams would have cut ties with a 35-year-old reliever who missed most of the previous two seasons because of shoulder problems. The Dodgers exercised Treinen’s 2024 option last November.

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“We’ve developed a really good relationship with Blake over the years,” Gomes said. “The talent, the compete, is obviously there, and we knew once he had the surgery and was rehabbing that his dedication to his craft is as good as anyone.

“We bet on Blake to go out and do everything he can to get back to his previous form, which was one of the best relievers in baseball. That was an easy bet for us.”

Treinen nearly made it back to the Dodgers last September but had to abort a minor league rehabilitation stint after three appearances because of shoulder soreness.

“I was fighting myself mechanically, trying to get into positions where I didn’t feel anything, but that’s not conducive to long-term success,” Treinen said. “Other things started to bark a little bit, so we agreed to let the body heal completely and have a 15-month recovery instead of 12 months. That was probably the biggest blessing of all.”

Treinen still has plenty of boxes to check before he returns to a high-leverage role for the Dodgers, but he appears to be trending in that direction.

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“He looks good, and I think the velocity will start creeping up a little bit the more game action he gets into,” pitching coach Mark Prior said. “With guys in his situation, it’s really about the workload. The stuff’s been great when there’s plenty of rest. Can he maintain that?

“He’s been throwing the ball really well. Now it’s about building up that tolerance to be able to pitch every third day, two out of three, and obviously in back-to-back games. I don’t think that will be forced anytime soon.”

The Dodgers don’t necessarily need Treinen to regain his 2021 form, but if he can come anywhere close to that, it would add another power arm from the right side in a bullpen that already features high-octane right-handers Phillips, Ryan Brasier, Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly.

“His stuff is in a great place right now, and there are a lot of outcomes where he’s an elite pitcher, whether it’s the 2021 form or not,” Gomes said. “He’s been so good in many different ways over his career.

“So our messaging and our conversation with Blake is, ‘OK, whatever comes out of this, which right now is exceptional stuff and command, don’t be pushing for more. If more comes, cool; if not, you’re still one of the best relievers in the game.’”

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Rangers' Matt Rempe makes immediate impact in 1st postseason game: 'I think I'm built for the playoffs'

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Rangers' Matt Rempe makes immediate impact in 1st postseason game: 'I think I'm built for the playoffs'

New York Rangers rookie Matt Rempe set the tone early for the team in their 4-1 Game 1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

Rempe scored the team’s first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The score came in the second period. And before anyone knew it, the Rangers were up 3-0 by the time the game was in its second intermission.

New York Rangers’ Matt Rempe is seen during the third period in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, April 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The forward, who has become a fan favorite during the year, heard his name chanted across Madison Square Garden. It only amplified his performance even more and appeared to give him the confidence to do it again through the rest of the postseason – as long as the Rangers are in it.

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“I know my game. I know I can skate well and be physical. I think I can be a real pain to play against down low, protecting pucks and going to the net,” Rempe said, per ESPN. “I think I’m built for the playoffs. I think that that’s where you want to play, and I was happy how tonight went.”

Rempe didn’t only turn the heads of fans at the Garden, but he made an even bigger believer of his veteran head coach, Peter Laviolette.

Rangers celebrate

The New York Rangers celebrate after winning Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, April 21, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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“That was a big goal to put energy in the building, maybe because it was him, too, put a little more extra juice in the building,” Laviolette said. “And then be able to get another one right after that. That was a turning point in the game.”

Rempe’s score came off the stick of Jimmy Vesey, who also scored in the second period.

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“(Rempe) scoring sent the fans crazy, and we scored two more goals in the next few minutes,” Vesey said. “He definitely gets the crowd into the game and, as the team with home-ice advantage, you’re going to try to feed off that energy in the crowd.”

Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider also scored for the Rangers.

Jimmy Vesey breaks away

New York Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey, center, races for the puck with Washington Capitals’ T.J. Oshie, left, and Dylan McIlrath during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 21, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Washington’s Martin Fehervary put the Capitals on the board in the second period.

Game 2 is set for Tuesday night in New York.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Lakers weren't as good (or as bad) as you thought in Game 1

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The Lakers weren't as good (or as bad) as you thought in Game 1

There was a feeling around the arena and in the media room Saturday night that the Lakers had fired their best punch and that, maybe, it just wasn’t good enough.

But fresh eyes on Game 1 combined with some time gave coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers the ability to properly contextualize what happened in their 114-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets in their first-round Western Conference playoff series.

“We got great looks that we just didn’t knock down. Shots that we’ve been knocking down. And then our pace is off,” Ham said in a call with reporters Sunday. “There’s no question, we just watched with the team, of us walking up and down, walking back toward the offensive end and not getting in and out of our actions quick. We’re a completely different ball club when we’re sprinting up the floor. Even after a made basket, we have to have urgency offensively.

“That has to be a part of our defense as well. How to defend this team is to put more pressure on them on offense. Try to put them on their heels too.”

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The Lakers’ Game 1 offensive woes were overshadowed, in part, by the 59 combined points of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the two also had nine turnovers (seven by James).

And the Lakers shot eight for29 on three-pointers, scoring only 103 points. During the regular season, the Lakers were held to 103 or fewer only eight times. D’Angelo Russell, in particular, was one-for-nine shooting from three-point range after making 41.5% of his shots from deep in the regular season.

Denver coach Michael Malone even pointed out Sunday the quality of shots the Lakers got — and missed — in Game 1.

Ham said he thought the Lakers’ half-court defense in Game 1 looked better on film — the bigger issues coming in transition.

“They made some tough shots, but we didn’t do a bad job defensively. We forced them into some tough shots,” Ham said. “They made a couple tough shots. But our biggest problem was transition defense, getting back, getting matched up so we weren’t crossmatched.

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“We didn’t do that as well as we should and obviously giving up second-chance points and some untimely turnovers on our part.”

Those problems in the playoffs, especially against a team that’s as good as Denver, are critical.

“So it’s the intangible game and that’s the game you really have to fight with good teams like Denver, championship teams like Denver. The little things matter,” Ham said. “The details and the discipline. It’s more so that than anything else, than the big stuff or the post coverage or pick-and-roll coverage. It’s the intangible things.

“So that’s what’s what really came to light as we went back to the hotel after the game and rewatched the film.”

Regarding Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, a two-time league MVP, Ham said the Lakers have a practically impossible task.

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“It starts with trying to limit his touches, which is damn near impossible,” he said. “But that’s what it takes if you’re trying to win.”

Wood nearing a return?

A report from the Athletic’s Shams Charania said reserve big man Christian Wood is “planning to return to action” for Game 3 on Thursday in Los Angeles. Wood, who has been out since the All-Star break because of a knee injury that required surgery, isn’t with the team in Denver.

“All I say is he’s still going through his recovery process from injuries, rehab process,” Ham said. “…Obviously, he has size, he has length, he has rebounding capabilities, he can stretch the floor. But first and foremost, he has a couple more boxes to check before we even consider that.”

The team is still without forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered on Feb. 1.

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Patriots looking for 'unprecedented deal' to move out of No 3 pick in 2024 NFL Draft: report

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Patriots looking for 'unprecedented deal' to move out of No 3 pick in 2024 NFL Draft: report

The New England Patriots are “open for business” with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but they want an “unprecedented deal” to move out of that slot, per ESPN. 

With director of scouting Eliot Wolf saying this past week that the Patriots’ phone is being watched to hear about potential offers at No. 3, the only way they’re going to move is if another team blows them away with a deal. 

The Patriots understand that a top-three selection in the NFL Draft is a franchise-altering pick – for better or for worse – and a “blockbuster” deal is the only way they would want to leave it. And considering the Patriots need a new franchise quarterback after Mac Jones was traded away to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it only makes sense for them to stay put. 

New England Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Feb. 27, 2024. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Many evaluators have had the Patriots taking one of three quarterbacks: LSU Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, and national championship winner J.J. McCarthy from Michigan. 

Wolf and Jerod Mayo, who is taking over as head coach for Bill Belichick, both understand the importance of the pick, and everyone in the NFL knows that a team is usually as good as their quarterback play. 

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ESPN added that Mayo and “some top decision-makers” acknowledged that this No. 3 pick will be tied with their legacy in New England.

Where the Patriots decide to go with the pick, granted they stay put, will be determined by what the Washington Commanders do at No. 2 overall. The Chicago Bears, owners of the top pick, are expected to go with USC’s Caleb Williams.

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Jerod Mayo smiles

Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots speaks during a press conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Jan. 17, 2024. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Commanders are expected to also take a quarterback despite going with Sam Howell last season. 

But what if a team like the Minnesota Vikings, desperate for a quarterback but own the No. 11 and No. 23 picks, wants to jump other potential competition like the New York Giants at No. 6 to get the signal-caller they want? Could they come calling the Patriots to give them those first-round picks and more? 

This is what makes the NFL Draft so much fun, especially the week of the draft when general managers and owners take calls left and right to hear what other teams have to offer. 

Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020 didn’t bother to entertain a trade when they went with Joe Burrow out of LSU at No. 1 overall, but the Patriots are taking a different approach. 

Patriots helmet

(Winslow Townson/Getty Images/File)

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It doesn’t hurt to pick up the phone. We’ll see if Wolf and the Patriots hear an offer they can’t refuse when it’s their time on the clock Thursday night in Detroit.

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