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The Sports Report: Chris Taylor will remain with the Dodgers

Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: After striking out on two of their top free agents over the last three days, the Dodgers managed to retain one Wednesday.

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Utilityman Chris Taylor agreed to a four-contract worth $60 million guaranteed to stay in Los Angeles, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, hours before Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires at 9:01 p.m. PDT and the owners impose a lockout. The deal includes a $12 million club option with a $4 million buyout. The Dodgers designated infielder Sheldon Neuse for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Taylor.

Taylor, 31, picked the best time for a resurgent season ahead of free agency in 2021, riding a strong first half to his first All-Star appearance. He stumbled mightily at the plate in the second half — he batted .223 in 62 games — but rebounded to star in the postseason and again raise his stock in free agency.

Taylor began the playoffs as a bench player, but he delivered the walk-off home run in the wild-card game and started the Dodgers’ 10 final playoff games. In Game 5 of the National League Championship series, he went four for five with three home runs and six RBIs. He batted .351 with a 1.202 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 43 postseason plate appearances.

The Dodgers used Taylor at six positions in 2021, but he regressed defensively from his previous levels. Whether that was an aberration or the sign of things to come in his early 30s remains to be seen.

Ultimately, signing Taylor became almost imperative for the Dodgers after losing shortstop Corey Seager to the Texas Rangers, who introduced him in a news conference Tuesday. The Dodgers are expected to move Trea Turner from second base to shortstop. The Dodgers could then try Gavin Lux at second base again after he struggled in the everyday role to start the 2021 season before bouncing back in September and October as an outfielder.

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Max Scherzer says his dead arm in postseason was result of Dodgers’ pitch count

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CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: With Paul George resting from a sideline seat inside Staples Center, the intrigue for the Clippers centered, at first Wednesday night, on their starting lineup featuring two centers.

Then their deficit grew, a rough stretch dating back three weeks continued, and the most compelling sight amid a 124-115 loss belonged to the promise of one rookie wing.

Brandon Boston Jr., the 51st pick in July’s draft, did not by himself alter the late stages of a loss, just as the dual big man lineup of Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka couldn’t take control of its start. The images of both in coach Tyronn Lue’s rotation are likely fleeting, the product of a night when the Clippers’ best players were either on the bench in street clothes – George and Kawhi Leonard – or at home, in the case of Nicolas Batum, in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

But on this night, the usage of Ibaka and Zubac and Boston were more interesting to consider than the alternative – a defense shredded by a Kings offense that, only 24 hours earlier, proved so inept at holding onto a double-digit lead against the Lakers that interim coach Alvin Gentry actually began Tuesday’s postgame news conference by apologizing to fans who “deserve better.”

When a Clippers lineup filled by reserves cut what had been a 25-point hole to 14 with eight minutes remaining in the final quarter, Gentry was bothered enough to reinsert starters Richaun Holmes, Tyrese Haliburton and Terence Davis. But less than a minute later, after a bobbled dribble became a De’Aaron Fox dunk, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue called a resigned timeout with their deficit back to 18. The basket helped the Kings outscore the Clippers 20-4 in fast-break points. George sat with arms crossed during the timeout, while Ibaka held his facemask.

UCLA BASKETBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: It seemed like old times for about an hour inside Pauley Pavilion, and not just because Bill Walton was wiggling his fingers at a courtside camera and Russell Westbrook was tossing T-shirts into the crowd.

The fun carried over to the court, UCLA’s Jaylen Clark driving for a vicious one-handed dunk that was reminiscent of a Westbrook move and Myles Johnson showing he could be a two-way force by finally unleashing some offense to go with his active defense.

But the fifth-ranked Bruins’ dominance and the parallels to yesteryear ended amid a role reversal early in the second half of their Pac-12 Conference opener Wednesday night, UCLA going cold while Colorado turned what was shaping up as a blowout into an uncomfortably close game.

When Colorado’s Jabari Walker made two free throws with 9½ minutes to go, the Buffaloes were down by only four points and the Bruins were on the way to missing eight consecutive shots. The unease inside the renovated arena was palpable.

If UCLA wanted to assure itself of remaining unbeaten at home, it needed to find a way to end all the empty possessions and find some offense. The Bruins found the big plays they needed from the smallest player on the court, Tyger Campbell powering a push that lifted his team to a 73-61 victory that qualified more as a sigh of relief than any sort of proclamation of greatness.

DUCKS

Troy Terry scored his 15th goal during Anaheim’s four-goal second period, and Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano had three assists apiece in the Ducks’ 6-5 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night.

Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm also scored in the second period for the Ducks, who have won 11 of 15.

Jamie Drysdale scored in the third period and Isac Lundestrom added a shorthanded empty-net goal for Anaheim. Anthony Stolarz made 34 saves.

Max Pacioretty and Mattias Janmark had a goal and an assist apiece for the Golden Knights, who have lost three of four. Robin Lehner stopped 28 shots and repeatedly kept his team in the game, but Anaheim stayed ahead after blowing a three-goal lead one night earlier.

The Ducks played without captain Ryan Getzlaf, who appeared to injure his left ankle on Tuesday night early in Anaheim’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Kings.

RAMS

Gary Klein on the Rams: The Rams organization and players are mourning the death of Otis Anderson Jr., a running back who played for the team during the preseason.

Anderson died Tuesday after he was shot Monday night at his home in North Jacksonville, Fla., the Orlando Sentinel reported. His father, Otis Anderson Sr., was charged with first-degree murder in Anderson’s death and with the first-degree attempted murder of his wife, Denise Anderson, the newspaper reported.

“The Rams are saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Otis Anderson Jr.,” the team said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Our sincere condolences are with his family during this very difficult time. Rest in Peace, Otis.”

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Hernández: Rams fans better hope Matthew Stafford is no Jared Goff

Don’t rush to judge defense. Rams need to stop playing from behind

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers allowed as many as 24 points once in their first four games.

They’ve given up at least 24 in every game since, although Denver needed a defensive touchdown Sunday to reach that mark.

Still, the streak is now at seven games, which is only two short of the franchise record.

“We’ve really had to fight this year to figure it out on defense,” coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday. “I think we’re a work in progress.”

This was not what was forecast back in January when the Chargers hired Staley after he coordinated the NFL’s No. 1 defense in 2020 with the Rams.

The team statistically has taken a step back this season. A year ago, the Chargers defense ranked 23rd in points and 10th in total yards. This year’s unit is 29th and 14th, respectively.

The Chargers have been the NFL’s worst run defense for most of the season and currently sit at No. 31 on defending third down. Against the Broncos, they permitted eight of 11 third downs to be converted.

Staley said he likes how the Chargers have limited explosive plays and attacked the football, noting their 13 forced fumbles, a total topped only by Arizona and Houston.

But even in that success there is failure. The Chargers have recovered only five of those fumbles. Indianapolis’ defense also has forced 13 fumbles — and recovered each one.

UCLA FOOTBALL

Ben Bolch on the Bruins: Like many college football teams across the country, UCLA is hemorrhaging players to the transfer portal as part of a process that may prove more beneficial to the schools than the players.

Reserve freshman defensive lineman Tyler Kiehne on Wednesday became the sixth Bruin to enter the transfer portal, joining quarterback Parker McQuarrie, safety DJ Warnell, punter Luke Akers and linebackers Myles Jackson and AJ Campbell. All six players are from out of state and all but Akers was a reserve, meaning finding a larger role while playing closer to home were likely significant considerations in their decisions to leave.

As part of NCAA rules, teams can add one player to their incoming recruiting class for every departure to the transfer portal, up to a maximum of 32 players via incoming freshmen and transfers so long as it doesn’t push them over the maximum scholarship allotment of 85. In many cases, the players teams add via the transfer portal will be more ready to contribute immediately than those who departed.

The six players who left UCLA have joined hundreds of others in the transfer portal, with no guarantees there will be landing spots given that supply has outweighed demand since the creation of the portal in October 2018.

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Arizona hires UCLA assistant coach Johnny Nansen as its defensive coordinator

HORSE RACING

John Cherwa on horse racing: Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be riding fulltime at Santa Anita this winter, the first time the native of Puerto Rico has done so. Velazquez, 50, still is considered one of best riders in the game, having won four Kentucky Derbies and 18 Breeders’ Cup races.

Velazquez will stay at Santa Anita through the Santa Anita Derby on April 9, when he will move to Keeneland, then to the Kentucky Derby before heading to New York for the Belmont Park and Saratoga meetings. In between, he’ll be riding in major races whenever called upon anywhere in the country and world.

“We’re kind of looking forward to a change,” said Ron Anderson, the agent for Velazquez and Joel Rosario. “[Trainer] Bob [Baffert] will obviously support us as will a lot of other trainers. We’ve already gotten a lot of interest.”

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1907 — Tommy Burns defends his world heavyweight title by knocking out Gunner Moir in the 10th round at London.

1944 — Ohio State quarterback Leslie Horvath wins the Heisman Trophy.

1947 — Notre Dame quarterback Johnny Lujack wins the Heisman Trophy.

1952 — Oklahoma halfback Billy Vessels is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1958 — Army back Pete Dawkins is named the Heisman Trophy winner.

1977 — Veterinarian Mark Gerard is indicted in a horse-switching scandal. Cinzano, a purportedly dead 4-year-old champion colt, won a race on Sept. 23 at Belmont Park, under the name of Lebon, a 57-1 long shot.

1995 — Notre Dame advances to the NCAA women’s soccer championship by becoming the first team to beat 13-time champion North Carolina in the national semifinals. The lone score comes when Tar Heels forward Cindy Parlow accidentally heads a ball into her own net.

2002 — Oakland’s Tim Brown and Jerry Rice take turns rewriting the NFL record book in a 26-20 win over the New York Jets. Brown becomes the third player with 1,000 receptions and the third with 14,000 yards receiving. Rich Gannon ties an NFL record with his ninth 300-yard passing game of the season. On the very next play after Brown’s 1,000th catch, Rice scores on a 26-yard catch, giving Oakland a 13-10 lead. It’s Rice’s record 192nd TD catch and puts him over 1,000 yards receiving for a record 14th season.

2009 — The New Jersey Nets are pounded into NBA infamy, falling 117-101 to the Dallas Mavericks for their 18th straight loss to start the season. The Nets pass the 1988-89 Miami Heat and 1999 Los Angeles Clippers, who both dropped their first 17 games.

2018 — Dallas Dorosy of Florida State scores in the 60th minute to help the Seminoles beat North Carolina 1-0 for the NCAA Women’s College Cup championship. Florida State wins the NCAA women’s soccer title for the second time. North Carolina, a 21-time NCAA champion, is shut out for the second time this season.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Corey Seager discusses signing with the Rangers. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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