Baseballs have been tested repeatedly and “I know with absolute certainty” that baseballs are within specified limits.

While some of these kids make it look easy, being a 20-something-year-old thrust into the majors is a difficult task. They’re called the minor leagues for a reason, as Jordan Montgomery will attest to.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere, man,” the 24-year-old southpaw, who debuted in April, told SN. “You’re going out there in front of 50,000 people. [There’s] a little more pressure on the games and you’re just trying to do your best to bring what you can to the table.”

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Status heading into series: 46-47, 2.5 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, the longest current drought in the majors, and they’re within 2.5 games of the second wild-card spot. This season has been frustrating at times with injuries and inconsistencies, but the bottom line is they’re still in relatively good position. They have to make a run, right?

On the other hand: If they get swept by the Astros — a distinct possibility, considering Houston has the AL’s best record — they could drop further back in the race, with as many as five teams to climb over to get to that wild-card berth. Almost all of the primary figures on this team are under contract for next year, so maybe it would be more prudent to put all their eggs in 2018’s basket.

Darn fine question, Mr. Strasburg. It’s a question that was asked many times during the media session at Marlins Park on Monday, hours before the Home Run Derby showed exactly why fans love the type of power they’re seeing on a nightly basis this season. I asked some of the questions, and some were asked by other reporters in the group.

First, though, a response from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred about the possibility that baseballs are somehow “juiced” this season.

Manfred: Baseballs have been tested repeatedly and “I know with absolute certainty” that baseballs are within specified limits.broncos_116

USF’s Rodney Adams will have the most heartwarming workout at the Combine

The higher Rodney Adams can leap at the NFL Scouting Combine, the greater the number of grieving children who may be able to jump for joy once again.

Adams isn’t just aiming to enhance his draft stock next week in Indianapolis. The University of South Florida wide receiver is using the platform to raise money via internet fundraising for Experience Camps, a program designed to provide a one-week getaway for youngsters who recently lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver.

Adams hopes to solicit $3,000 in donations through pledges for each inch he soars in the vertical jump. Adams was already 70 percent to his goal Tuesday morning through Pledgeit.org.

“It’s a difficult time for those kids being that they don’t have that parent,” Adams told co-host Zig Fracassi and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s tragic. We wanted to do this cause to raise money and let them have a week of fun to forget about all the bad things that have happened.”

“I don’t know what the dang rule is …. but I’m pretty sure I caught it.”

For great tipped passes in the biggest game, that ranks with Swann’s legendary catch in Super Bowl 10 for the Steelers against the Cowboys — except that wasn’t in nearly as dire a spot. Edelman’s came right before the two-minute warning, with the Patriots trying to tie the game after falling behind 28-3. The Jones catch came on the previous Falcons possession, which went to pieces in hideous fashion and ended in a punt.

Edelman’s miraculous grab, however, put the Patriots in Falcons territory, and four plays later, they did tie the game at 28. It was the fourth of his fifth catches, for 23 of his 87 yards. It was the biggest of the night.

It put him in exalted company. The competition just this postseason has been stiff, with Jones’ catch and with Jared Cook’s clutch sideline reception that set up the Packers’ overtime playoff win over the Cowboys.seahawks_084

NFL Draft 2017: How great was 49ers’ first round? GM John Lynch puts it in perspective

In case there is any doubt the 49ers were a decided “winner” on the first day of the NFL Draft, the players the team landed with the Nos. 3 and 31 overall picks were two of the top three prospects on its board, new GM John Lynch claims.

Those two players: Stanford DE Solomon Thomas and Alabama LB Reuben Foster

“I can tell you right off the bat that what we had on the board was just under 200 players, and in terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players,” Lynch said, per ESPN.com. “We were able to do that, and we’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. We think these guys have a lot of traits of what we want to be about as a football organization.”

As the night began, San Francisco swapped the second and third overall picks with Chicago and also acquired the Bears’ third-round (No. 67 overall) and fourth-round picks (No. 111) this year and their third-round pick in 2018. While the Bears selected QB Mitch Trubisky with the No. 2 pick and the 49ers picked Thomas No. 3, the overwhelming feeling among NFL observers is the 49ers got the far better end of the trade.

Michigan tight end Jake Butt ran into the same thing this season. He suffered a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl and went from what some thought was a late first-round grade, all the way to possibly undrafted.

Ultimately he was selected in the fifth round, No. 145 overall, by the Broncos Saturday, but his injury cost him a large sum of money. Quantifiably $543,000.

Because Butt had an insurance policy taken out on himself prior to the draft in case, he will get that money back, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

While that could never make up for what he could eventually make with a second contract in case he never truly recovers from the knee injury, it’s at least something that can keep him from getting absolutely nothing just because he decided to play in a bowl game.

the Atlanta Falcons were coming off one of the most tragic seasons in team history

Back in 2008, the Atlanta Falcons were coming off one of the most tragic seasons in team history. Michael Vick was in prison serving a sentence for a dogfighting conviction, and the team was reeling after head coach Bobby Petrino slid out of town in the middle of the night, letting players know he was leaving with notes in their lockers.

After a 4-12 finish with a combination of Chris Redman, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich behind center, the Falcons needed a quarterback. They got one with the third overall pick, and Matt Ryan went on to be named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year last season. But fans didn’t want Matt Ryan in the first round.

After four consecutive winning seasons and back-to-back trips to the playoffs, the Chiefs have one of the NFL’s best rosters. With 10 draft picks (two each in the third, fifth and sixth rounds), it’s difficult to imagine so many rookies making the team. Packaging some of those picks to get better value early would make sense.

It would also be a good move by the Chiefs to find a quarterback to groom for the 2018 season when Alex Smith’s cap hit balloons to $20.6 million, and has the potential for $17 million in savings if Kansas City moves on. Going up to get the No. 1 quarterback isn’t realistic, but if a passer the Chiefs like drops to an attainable range, they’re primed to go up and secure the future of the position.

During the 2016 NFL Draft, there were five trades during the first round, and it’s likely that we’ll see a similar amount next Thursday.

The Browns are reportedly split between North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, although most believe the latter will be the selection.

Brown said Wednesday that one of the teams that called Cleveland about possibly acquiring the No. 1 pick was interested in a quarterback, presumably Trubisky. But the likeliest scenario is that the Browns stick with Garrett, leaving the next 31 picks in the draft open for business.
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Joe Johnson gave the Clippers a very Clippers loss

The L.A. Clippers never have it easy. The Utah Jazz are every bit as good as them, and maybe better. We knew that coming into this series. But when Rudy Gobert goes out with a knee injury on the first play of the game, you expect L.A. to take advantage at home.

Nope.

Joe Johnson hit a floater at the buzzer to give Utah a 97-95 win in Game 1. It’s Joe’s 2,453rd game-winner (estimate) and a perfect explanation of why the Jazz signed him to join their otherwise fairly young team in the summer.

This might seem a bit melodramatic given we’re talking about a man making $26 million a year to play basketball and a man making $12 million a year to run a basketball team. But … we’re also talking about a comic book panel. We’re allowed to apply it to situations that fall short of life and death.

What Carmelo Anthony could do — what Carmelo Anthony should do, in my opinion — is plant himself like a tree beside the river of truth (the Hudson, I suppose?) and tell the whole world, “No, I’m not waiving my no-trade clause. You move.”

We have seen the New York Knicks succeed with Carmelo. The Knicks made the playoffs in three of the four seasons Anthony was on the team before Jackson took over. The Knicks are 0-for-3 since Jackson arrived.

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I think the more you dwell on it and you think about it too much

I think whenever we get to that week well do the same thing weve done the past couple of years: Thats try to make it as normal as possible week to week. That (Super Bowl video) will be part of our breakdown for sure, but its only one part. Were going to have a few different guys, too, and so will they.

By the time this week ends, Ryan and more than 40 of his Falcons teammates will have gathered in South Florida to get a head start on Atlantas official offseason workout program set to begin Monday at team headquarters. Thats when the process of leaving behind memories of losing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl will begin in earnest for the entire franchise.

I think the more you dwell on it and you think about it too much, the more it lingers, Ryan said. It is what it is. Well move forward and learn from it.

Even if it means having to take a step back when readying to face the Patriots.

Alex Marvezs interview with Matt Ryan will appear Wednesday morning at sportingnews.com. Alex can be heard from 7-11 p.m. ET Tuesday through Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Quarterback Christian Chapman. Im not going to pretend Chapman is a world-beater. He was only asked to throw about 20 passes per game last year, took too many sacks, and mostly stuck the ball in an awesome runners belly. Still, hes started for two years, and he completed 61 percent with a 20-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio. He could become more of a play-maker in his third year.

Receiver Mikah Holder. The only receiver targeted more than 40 times last year, Holder averaged a ridiculous 21.7 yards per catch, and every pass he caught resulted in a successful play (per success rate definitions).
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Kansas freshman Josh Jackson says he is entering NBA draft

Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

Jones then walked away after declaring the reporter was not allowed to ask him any more questions for the rest of the year. He walked across the locker room to the restroom before turning around and coming back to berate the reporter. Jones repeatedly cursed at the reporter and said it was a “dumbass question.” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis eventually entered the room to speak with Jones.

Just a few minutes earlier, Jones answered a question from the same reporter on how he felt about the support from the Bengals organization after the arrest.

“Words can’t express my feelings for the organization, Mr. Brown, Coach Lewis, my teammates, the city of Cincinnati,” Jones said. “This is home for me, so I’m very eager [to] be here and I don’t take it for granted.”

The reporter whose question drew Jones’ ire addressed the incident late Monday afternoon on Twitter. If Atlanta hopes to make another Super Bowl run, it needs its young defense to play more like it did late in the year in 2016. Adding more talent would help it get there, and Rivers is the type of edge rushing talent that fits perfectly at the LEO position in Dan Quinn’s defense.

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Van Gundy seems absolutely miserable.

Sometimes referees need to know when to keep their flags in their pocket. We don’t tune in to see them, after all. Prime example? Bengals linebacker James Harrison intercepted Browns quarterback Jason Campbell on Sunday and went HAAAAMMMM. He ran over not one, but two Browns offensive linemen on his way to the end zone. The man didn’t even get to celebrate, however, because some no-name referee threw a flag for a block in the back.

Disappointing seasons for well-respected coaches. The Hornets have talent issues, but fell off hard compared to both last season and to the early part of this season. Clifford is likely safe in the offseason, but the shine wears thin when you can’t put together a good team in back-to-back seasons with similar talent levels.

Van Gundy seems absolutely miserable. He gets paid too much to get fired now, but you almost wonder if that’s not what he’s after. This is perhaps his worst season ever in the NBA.

This SUCKS. This royally SUCKS. And it’s insulting for Bettman and the NHL to insist over and over again that they’re doing this because the fans want this. No, really. This was part of the league’s statement:

The NHL conducted polls in both Canada and the United States to determine if fans were in favor of the League taking a break in February to allow players to compete in the Olympics. In the United States, 73 percent said they were not in favor. In Canada, it was 53 percent against the break.
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The Game of the Week was never really in doubt for the Denver Broncos.

The Eagles are now 6-5, following a well-rounded win over the Redskins at home. Despite this being the Eagles’ first win at home, Philadelphia has a winning record after 11 weeks of competition. Nick Foles and the offense scored 24 points without interruption, while the defense was able to hold the Redskins to 16 points throughout the game. A fourth-quarter comeback was not be as the Eagle won the game, 24-16.

Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation is impressed by Nick Foles but believes the team could have had a better performance against their division foes:

Kaepernick was far from perfect, but had a better game than recent weeks. The 49ers quarterback finished with 127 yards passing and two touchdowns — but was unable to make an impact when the team needed him to step up. Entering the game it felt like San Francisco would make running the ball a focal point, but Frank Gore carried the ball just 13 times in the loss. Moving away from running the ball was a critical mistake that allowed New Orleans to dictate the tempo on offense.

The Saints realized following the 49ers’ second touchdown that they needed to flip the game from a defensive slugfest into a shootout. After some initial failures, the deep completions started to flow, and the Saints got in an offensive rhythm. They moved the ball successfully in the fourth quarter, and while the offense couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone, the Saints were able to slowly whittle down the 49ers’ lead with a series of field goals.

The stage was set for Kaepernick to prove he wasn’t a flawed third-year quarterback struggling to read defenses. Two minutes were on the clock, the ball was in his hands and a drive would set up the game-winning field goal — but he was stopped, the ball was punted away and the Saints finalized another drive to leave with the victory.
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He owns at least one pink button-down.

You could argue that Bill Belichick is the most famous Luddite in America. He makes a big show about not knowing the names of social media platforms (SnapFace, InstantFace, MyFace), because why would you care about social media platforms when you have seven Super Bowl rings? You think anyone’s trying to keep in touch with Belichick via Facebook? If he had a Twitter account, it would be a string of tweets that just said “Seattle.”

But, in case there was any doubt as to whether he’s recently changed his mind about the internet, it’s looking like he hasn’t. Because Belichick wore the same clothes on Tuesday that he wore on Monday, just with slight modifications. And everyone knows that the first rule of social media is: If you know you’re going to be photographed, don’t wear the same outfit two days in a row.

However, I think the quarterback market will be hot on draft day, and if there is a belief that a guy can be your franchise quarterback, waiting 21 more picks and hoping he’s still there doesn’t mesh with the belief that the player is a franchise-caliber quarterback. I know the same can be said for then why didn’t you take him at No. 1, but that speaks to the extremely high level of a prospect that Garrett is valued at. From a fan interest perspective, Trubisky is a player who the entire city of Cleveland can instantly get behind due to his local roots.
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