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Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Rojas help fill in for injured Mookie Betts in Dodgers' win

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Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Rojas help fill in for injured Mookie Betts in Dodgers' win

No Mookie, no problem.

For one night at least.

In the Dodgers’ first game without star shortstop Mookie Betts, who is expected to sit out roughly six to eight weeks because of a fractured hand he sustained Sunday, the team cruised to a 9-5 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

And, in a reminder of the talent on the Dodgers’ roster, they received some of their biggest contributions from the two players taking over Betts’ primary responsibilities.

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Without Betts at the top of the lineup, designated hitter Shohei Ohtani was bumped up to the leadoff spot and went three for four with an RBI and a walk.

Without Betts at shortstop, Miguel Rojas slid back over to his natural position and christened the return with a three-hit, two-run, one-RBI outburst, continuing an impressively productive start to the season the Dodgers will need to last for the foreseeable future.

The Dodgers received plenty of help from others Monday, including a seven-inning, one-run, two-hit start by James Paxton (one of the pitchers who will have to step up in the absence of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who also suffered a significant, but non-season-ending injury this weekend), three hits from Jason Heyward and a career-high five walks from Freddie Freeman.

But, in the big picture, it was the play of Ohtani (who was batting leadoff for only the second time this season) and Rojas (starting at shortstop for only the fourth time in the last month and a half) that was most encouraging to a club still reeling from Betts’ injury.

“You just don’t know how things are gonna go after you lose Mookie,” Freeman said. “So we kind of responded today. The game we played today, that was huge for us. So we’ll just hold it down until Mookie can get better.”

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Ohtani’s performance served as an encore to Sunday, when he emerged from an 11-for-51 slump with two home runs. The star slugger didn’t leave the yard again Monday, but he did single home a run in the second, before hitting back-to-back doubles in the fourth and sixth innings — the latter on an opposite-field bullet down the left-field line.

“We haven’t seen him drive a ball to left field like he did for that double in quite some time,” manager Dave Roberts said. “So that’s a good sign.”

Ohtani now has a .314 batting average and .989 OPS, ranking fourth and second in the National League, respectively.

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For the time being, Ohtani will also serve as the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, moving up from a No. 2 spot that on Monday belonged to catcher Will Smith, the former cleanup hitter. Freddie Freeman remained in the No. 3 spot, and Teoscar Hernández batted fourth.

Is this the new look Roberts will use at the top of the lineup?

“I think versus the right-hander, I like this,” Roberts said, not entirely tipping his hand. “Against left, I will probably think through it. But this feels right, versus both right now.”

Dodgers shortstop Miguel Rojas singles during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

Dodgers shortstop Miguel Rojas singles during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

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Roberts made the Dodgers’ shortstop plans much more clear, stating that, in Betts’ absence, Rojas will start the majority of the games at the position, with Kiké Hernández backing him up in addition to his other roles at third base and the outfield.

Rojas has the glove to be a starting shortstop, the role he served for the Dodgers for most of last year and the Miami Marlins the six seasons before that. He has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, raising his batting average to .292 and OPS to .799 with two singles and an RBI double in the seventh inning Monday.

In games Rojas has recorded at least one hit this season, the Dodgers are 20-0.

The big question with Rojas, 35, has been durability.

Last year, when he unexpectedly started 109 games after Gavin Lux’s spring training knee injury, Rojas was bothered by nagging cramps in his hip. Earlier this month, Roberts said some lingering leg soreness was affecting Rojas, as well, contributing to the reason why, before Monday, Rojas had started only 30 of 73 games this season.

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Freddie Freeman rounds third base to score on a double hit by Teoscar Hernández in the first inning.

Freddie Freeman rounds third base to score on a double hit by Teoscar Hernández in the first inning. Freeman was walked five times in the game.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

“I’m not 30 years old anymore,” Rojas said. “It takes special preparation, doing rehab, doing postgame work, so that’s what I’m doing.”

On Monday, both Rojas and Roberts expressed confidence in the 11-year veteran handling an increased workload. This week, Rojas will start in three of the four games at Coors Field.

“He would argue he could play every day,” Roberts said. “But my job is to manage it, so I think that’s a good rhythm for him. He’s in a good rhythm right now.”

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Rojas’ shortstop defense has also remained sharp, thanks largely to his extensive routine of pregame infield drills alongside Betts this season, in which Rojas has served as a sounding board during Betts’ transition to the position.

Because of all the time they’ve spent together this season, Rojas said he was sad and angry when he saw Betts writhing on the ground in pain Sunday, after being plunked by a 98-mph fastball.

“It affected me a lot,” he said. “I don’t ever want to see Mookie go down like that, because I know his desire and drive to be great.”

In his first chance to step up in Betts’ place, though, Rojas and the rest of the Dodgers’ lineup delivered, helping ensure the Dodgers’ first game without their former MVP winner wasn’t one in which his presence was dearly missed.

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Behind Caeleb Dressel's Olympic return, 'a work in progress' to rekindle his love for swimming

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Behind Caeleb Dressel's Olympic return, 'a work in progress' to rekindle his love for swimming

Follow our Olympics coverage in the lead-up to the Paris Games.


The shimmer of Caeleb Dressel’s seven gold medals may suggest otherwise, but he knows swimming can be a brutal and suffocating sport.

He is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best in the world at what he does, sprinting from one end of the pool to the other (and sometimes back). He holds the world record in the men’s 100-meter butterfly, having first snatched that historical distinction away from Michael Phelps in 2019. Then, Dressel lowered his world record in the event at the Tokyo Olympics — where he won five gold medals in five events.

Despite it all, Dressel was miserable.

He was fixated on where he felt he’d failed. In one race, it was the turn. Another, the finish. His head position. It didn’t matter that he’d touched the wall first over and over again. It didn’t matter that he was bringing gold home and helping Team USA finish atop the medal count. He chased perfection. He chased times and chased stretch goals. He hadn’t met them.

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“I created a monster in myself — just so caught up in perfectionism,” he told former Olympians Missy Franklin and Katie Hoff on their “Unfiltered Waters” podcast. “So caught up in, ‘If I don’t see these times, it means I’m a bad person, or it means I did not train hard enough. If I don’t go a world record, it means … I didn’t obsess enough.’”

The sport he’d been drawn to as a kid because it was so delightfully fun was quite the opposite. And it’d been that way for years. But Dressel kept pushing himself, listening to his internal critic ripping himself apart.

Until he “broke,” he puts it now. He withdrew abruptly in the middle of the 2022 world championship meet in Budapest and disappeared from the sport for eight months.

Dressel hasn’t gone into much detail about that period of his life in Gainesville, Fla., other than to say he spent a lot of time with his therapist. His wife, Meghan, was there for him, too, though she also realized there were a lot of conversations Dressel needed to have inside his own mind. Some days, he didn’t do much. Most days, he avoided routes that took him past the University of Florida pool. He didn’t want to smell the chlorine.

He had to figure out who he was beyond his best times and what made him tick outside the pool. He had to reorient himself, how he believed others felt about him and why they loved him. He had to learn how to smile again.

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The process wasn’t easy, and progress hasn’t always been a straight line. But it’s what makes Dressel, 27, who he is now as a swimmer and a person (and new dad). It’s also why he’s back in the pool and headed to Paris, one of the headliners of Team USA and arguably the most important piece of the puzzle for the U.S. swim team in its efforts to win the meet by bringing home more gold medals than its peers. There is outside pressure, yes. But inside his mind, Dressel’s biggest critic is quieter.

“It’s really tough,” Dressel told The Athletic last month. “It’s embedded in me — where you always want to look for ways to get better. I’m still doing that, but I’m not becoming obsessed and so fixated on it that I lose sight of what’s actually fun with the sport. It’s hard, and it’s not like I’ve all of a sudden gotten to figure it out this year. There are things that I’m really proud that I’ve done differently, like being able to enjoy parts of the sport without just crapping on myself for not being perfect.

“It is still very much a work in progress.”


Caeleb Dressel won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. But a year later, he walked away from the sport. It’s still “a work in progress,” he said of his return. (Tim Clayton / Corbis via Getty Images)

Now, Dressel sounds like a person who’s figured out a lot about himself through therapy. One of the first things he will tell you is how helpful his regular appointments with his therapist have been.

“I’ve been trying to not be so fixated on results and just simply enjoying racing and training — those are the two parts of the sport that I really enjoy,” Dressel said. “There are parts of the sport that I really dislike, that I really hate. But it’s worth putting up with for the moments that I really do enjoy. It’s going to be a balance; I’m not expecting every part of the sport to just be the best thing ever for me. But I’ve really leaned into the parts of the sport that I do enjoy.

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“That’s been the main difference for me. I’ve always loved training. I’ve always loved being around the team. The actual racing portion, I do really, really enjoy — as soon as the gun goes off, it’s just simply fun. So, I’ve just been trying to keep it just simply swimming. Simply swimming this year.”

Dressel will simply swim the 50-meter freestyle and the 100 fly as individual events at the Games, and he’ll likely be part of multiple relays. At the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis, he finished third in the 100-free final, which cost him the opportunity to defend his gold medal in the event in Paris.

But he’s happy to be part of the Olympic team. He’s proud of what he accomplished at trials to qualify for it. He’s thrilled that his infant son, August, got to see it all, held in Meghan’s arms in the stands.

“No one can take that away,” Dressel said in Indianapolis. “He’s not going to remember it. I will tell him, trust me, I got photos so I can prove it. … That was a really special moment. Meghan knows what goes into this, not just the parenting side of things but she gets to see firsthand the struggles that come with the sport.

“The tears that come with it, the frustration and then also the high points, and getting to share that with them, because they go through that as well — that was really special, August getting to see that.”

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Meghan shared a video of Dressel with baby August at the Olympic training camp in North Carolina this month, another moment captured and saved to commemorate a once-in-a-lifetime moment. They’ll be in Paris, too, alongside Dressel’s parents and family. Dressel said he wouldn’t be where he is today without their support. And he certainly wouldn’t be where he is without Meghan, whom he calls the “superhero” of their family.

Parenthood is wonderful for many reasons, but perhaps the greatest lesson it teaches is one of perspective — especially for someone who has spent most of his life chasing times and hunting perfection that does not and cannot exist.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever go a best time ever again, and that’s tough to say out loud. It really is,” Dressel said. “When you’re 19, 20, 21, you keep chipping away, chipping away, chipping away. I’m still working harder than ever, finding every path I can take to shave those couple of tenths. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do that. I’m really good at racing. You put me in a race, I will make it close, as close as I possibly can, even if I have to try to kill myself to get there. I will put myself in those situations.”

So, he doesn’t know exactly how Paris will go. But he knows he’s older, wiser and genuinely happier than before the last Olympic Games. Others see it, too, and not just when he’s straddling the lane line after a race or punching the water in celebration.

“He’s always had that smile,” seven-time gold medalist and University of Florida training partner Katie Ledecky said. “He took that time away, and when he came back, he’s had that smile every day. Just to see his progression over this past year, how he’s just gotten better and better each meet — he seems to just be loving the racing, and he loves the training probably more than the racing, and that makes everyone around him better.”

It will make one of the best swimmers in the world better, too. And that’s why that smile is as good as gold, no matter what medal hangs around Dressel’s neck.

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Caeleb Dressel

“I don’t know if I’ll ever go a best time ever again, and that’s tough to say out loud,” Caeleb Dressel said. He’ll give it a shot in Paris starting later this month. (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

(Top illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images) 

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Utah State fires football coach Blake Anderson for 'significant' contract violations

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Utah State fires football coach Blake Anderson for 'significant' contract violations

Utah State fired football coach Blake Anderson Thursday for what it called “significant violations of his contractual obligations.”

The firing came more than two weeks after the school informed Anderson of its plans to terminate his contract due to actions in the spring of 2023 that violated “both his employment agreement and university policy.” The school said it conducted an external review that found he failed to comply with Title IX policies regarding the reporting of sexual misconduct cases.

The university also dismissed Jerry Bovee, associate vice president and deputy athletic director of external affairs at Utah State, and Austin Albrecht, the director of player development and community, for alleged violations of university policies related to the reporting of sexual and domestic violence and failures of professional responsibilities.

Head coach Blake Anderson of the Utah State Aggies during the first half of his team’s game against the New Mexico Lobos at University Stadium Nov 26, 2021, in Albuquerque, N.M.  (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

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After informing Anderson his employment agreement would be terminated July 2, the school waited two weeks for Anderson’s response as required by Utah law.

On Thursday, Utah State officially terminated Anderson. 

“To USU’s disappointment, Anderson’s response failed to acknowledge his responsibilities as a USU employee and as a head coach and instead sought to make excuses and unsuccessfully recast the clear language of USU’s policies,” the university said.

ALABAMA REPORTEDLY NAMING FOOTBALL FIELD AFTER FORMER HEAD COACH NICK SABAN

Blake Anderson

Head coach Blake Anderson of the Utah State Aggies talks into his headset during the first half of a game against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Maverik Stadium Oct. 13, 2023, in Logan, Utah.  (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Anderson, 55, was about to enter his fourth season with the school after posting a 23-17 record in his first three seasons, including the Aggies’ first-ever Mountain West championship his first season. 

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Nate Dreiling was elevated to interim head coach after serving as Utah State’s defensive coordinator and defensive ends coach under Anderson.

Blake Anderson during a game

Head coach Blake Anderson of the Utah State Aggies during the first half of a game at University Stadium Nov. 24, 2023, in Albuquerque, N.M. (Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

“While I recognize that today’s decision has a significant impact, it is the only one that could be made based on the facts.” USU President Elizabeth Cantwell said in a statement, “We are committed to moving forward in building a winning athletics program grounded in student success and integrity.” 

The Aggies open the 2024 season Aug. 31 against Robert Morris.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Teoscar Hernández could have signed with the Red Sox. Here's why he chose the Dodgers

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Teoscar Hernández could have signed with the Red Sox. Here's why he chose the Dodgers

Teoscar Hernández could be playing for the Boston Red Sox this weekend instead of against them.

He could have taken the two-year, $28-million deal he says the Red Sox offered during the offseason.

He could have returned to All-Star form and won the Home Run Derby while representing a Boston team he says was always one of his favorites.

But that’s not how it played out for Hernández. Instead, the outfielder has been representing Los Angeles in tremendous fashion after signing a one-year, $23.5-million deal from the Dodgers, who start a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

“Obviously, I was not gonna go and spend my free agency trying to get a bad deal,” the Dominican Republic native said this week on the “Baseball Isn’t Boring” podcast. “I love the Red Sox. It was one of my favorite teams. And I love playing [at Fenway Park], but at the end of the day I have to [decide] what is best for me, my career and my family.”

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Hernández made his major league debut with the Houston Astros in 2016 and was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2017 trade deadline. He became an All-Star in 2021 and finished the season with career highs across the board, including a .296 batting average, 163 hits, 32 home runs and 116 runs batted in.

After his numbers dipped the following season, Hernández was traded to the Seattle Mariners, where his 211 strikeouts were the third most in the majors last year. As a free agent this past season, Hernández said, he received interest from the Angels as well as the Dodgers and Red Sox, but his final decision was between the latter two teams.

Hernández told “Baseball Isn’t Boring” that the Red Sox gave him the impression they’d be willing to increase their offer to three years after some maneuvering on their end.

In December, the Dodgers signed major deals with Japanese two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani and pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow. Hernández said he saw what was happening in Los Angeles and knew he “couldn’t wait any longer” on the Red Sox.

“Teams that wanna win, they spend. They go after good players,” Hernández said. “I’m not saying [the Red Sox] don’t have good players, because they do. The Red Sox are really good right now and they had amazing players. But for my part, I just wanna go to a team that it’s looking for everybody that is good to win … that they’re not afraid to spend and to go after good players so they can make their team better.”

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Hernández has flourished in L.A. His 62 RBIs rank seventh in the National League and trail only Ohtani among Dodgers. His 28 hits with runners in scoring position are 12th in the NL and second on the team, behind Freddie Freeman. His 19 home runs are tied for fifth best in the NL and second on the team to Ohtani.

On Monday night, he outlasted Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals to become the first Dodgers player to win the Home Run Derby in its 40-year history.

“In this organization, everybody talks about win, win, win, and that’s me,” Hernández said. “I don’t care about anything else. I want to win. I’m at one point in my career that I want to go out there and have fun, have a good year but also win too.”

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