The Sports Report: Baseball is back

It's almost time to play ball.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

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

From Bill Shaikin: Better late than never: Play ball!


Can the Dodgers get back to the World Series? Can Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani carry the Angels into the playoffs? Was last year’s epic pennant race between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants a onetime classic, or the start of another stellar chapter in the storied rivalry?

A long winter reduced to debates about tax rates and bonus pools has ended, and baseball’s spring finally has dawned. Three months after major league owners locked out players and declared not another game would be played without a new collective bargaining agreement, the league and the players’ union agreed Thursday on a five-year deal.

The deal includes a full 162-game season this year, starting April 7.

“I am genuinely thrilled to be able to say that Major League Baseball is back,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “and we’re going to play 162 games.”

The changes most visible to fans: an expansion of the playoffs from 10 to 12 teams and the addition of the designated hitter to the National League.

The game will revert to traditional extra-inning rules, ending the experiment of starting each extra inning with a runner on second base in an attempt to hasten an ending. And, starting next year, every team will play every other team at least once during a season.

The Angels, for example, would play fewer games against division rivals, including the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers. They would play the Colorado Rockies every year, home or away, so that baseball fans in Denver would see the likes of Trout and Ohtani once every two years, rather than once every nine years.


Breaking down the biggest Dodgers and Angels questions ahead of the season

With MLB back in business, the free-agent frenzy is about to begin

Plaschke: With MLB lockout over, Dodgers need to add Freddie Freeman

Consistent contact propels unheralded Michael Stefanic to the cusp of Angels roster

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From Ben Bolch: What happened in Seattle and Westwood came here.

Every time UCLA needed a basket to generate some momentum or extend a lead Thursday night, it found what it needed from Jaime Jaquez Jr.

The junior guard scored in a variety of ways during one stretch in the second half of the Bruins’ Pac-12 Conference tournament quarterfinal against Washington State. He buried a three-pointer. A contested layup. A layup in which he was fouled. Two more layups. A lay-in off an inbounds lob.

By the time the in-game layup line was over, the second-seeded Bruins were well on the way to a 75-65 victory over seventh-seeded Washington State at T-Mobile Arena.

For Jaquez, it was the continuation of a recent scoring spree that started last week in the Pacific Northwest. His 23 points on nine-for-15 shooting to go with 11 rebounds against the Cougars included 17 points in the second half, including 14 of his team’s 16 during one stretch.

He punctuated his final basket, a corner three-pointer, by making a three sign with his fingers on the way back down the court.

Jaquez has now scored 30, 27 and 23 points in his last three games, erasing any lingering worries about the dual ankle braces he’s been wearing for a month.


From Ryan Kartje: USC had withstood plenty on its path to the Pac-12 tournament. Brutal starts. Close finishes. Lengthy defensive lapses and unfortunate offensive slumps. Somehow, the Trojans seemed to always still find a way, even when they were at the worst.

They were pretty close to that nadir again Thursday, if not dragging along the bare bottom of their all-too-familiar doldrums. Their top scorers had fallen flat. Almost every facet of its 40 minutes pointed towards an inexcusable quarterfinal loss, its first in the Pac-12 tournament under Enfield since his first season as coach.

But against all odds, even as USC tried again and again in the final minute to hand away its ham-fisted effort on Thursday, it didn’t matter. The Trojans in spite of it all still emerged unscathed, at least physically so, in an 65-61 victory over Washington.

They escaped in spite of a season-high 23 turnovers, even as the final two came in the last minute. With 37 seconds left, Max Agbonkpolo threw an errant pass just as USC had taken a four-point lead. When Washington cut that lead to two, Drew Peterson lowered his shoulder just 10 seconds later, handing the Huskies yet another chance.

Still, even the barrage of ill-fated mistakes couldn’t help Washington hit a shot late, as the Huskies missed 11 of their final 12 shots.

And somehow, USC still had trouble putting Washington away. How it’ll manage against UCLA in a rematch of its recent loss remains to be seen.


USC’s Isaiah Mobley forges a path to the NBA and ignores comparisons to his brother


From Jeff Miller: Since the end of the season, Brandon Staley has been open about the need to reshape the Chargers’ defensive personnel into something that more closely aligns with his desires.

The team and its second-year head coach took a significant step in that direction Friday, agreeing on a trade to acquire three-time All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack from Chicago.

The deal, contingent on Mack passing a physical, can’t be deemed official until the new league year begins at 1 p.m. PT Wednesday. The Chargers have agreed to send the Bears a second-round draft pick this year and a sixth-rounder in 2023.

Staley was Mack’s position coach with the Bears in 2018, a season during which Mack finished with 12½ sacks and earned his most recent All-Pro recognition. He finished runner-up to the Rams’ Aaron Donald as the top defender in the league.


Khalil Mack trade takeaways: Brandon Staley’s influence all over Chargers’ move


From Helene Elliott: Dayana Yastremska shouldn’t know so much about the terrible cost of warfare.

The 21-year-old Ukrainian should be able to focus on improving her tennis game, on polishing an aggressive style that has allowed her to rank as high as 21st in the world. She shouldn’t have to be familiar with what to do when civil authorities issue take-cover warnings. She shouldn’t have to understand so well why living near the Black Sea makes her hometown of Odessa a tempting target for the Russian invaders who have attacked her homeland the last two weeks.

Yastremska knows all of these awful things, and more. She lived them before her parents, Oleksander and Marina, arranged for her and 15-year-old sister Ivanna to leave the country to ensure their safety. The sisters went first to Lyon, France, where adrenaline and emotion carried Dayana to the finals of a tournament last week, and then to California, where anxiety and jet lag caught up to Dayana in a loss to Caroline Garcia in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open.

“I felt like I was very empty inside,” she said in an interview with The Times on Thursday. “I think everything that’s going on, it’s really affecting me mentally and physically. I’m very sad I lost because it’s a really good tournament and I got a good opportunity with the wild card but I couldn’t realize what I wanted to do on the court. But it’s OK. We still have doubles. We’re going to enjoy it.”

Her parents are still in Ukraine. So are her thoughts about the horrors she saw before she left and the danger they’re still experiencing.

“I remember we were walking close by to our apartments and there was a bomb close to us. Not so far and not so close but you could hear it like crazy,” she said. “We got so scared and we ran back to our apartments and went to the underground because there was the sign that we must be careful because there’s going to be shooting from the sky.

“In a couple cities they are shooting even to the schools, hospitals, you know, where a lot of small children are. They don’t really care where they shoot. So it’s pretty dangerous.”


Matt Duchene had two goals and an assist, Juuse Saros made 27 saves and the Nashville Predators beat the Ducks 4-1.

Filip Forsberg had a goal and two assists and Colton Sissons also scored for the Predators, winners of three straight. Nashville entered Thursday in the top wild-card spot in the tight Western Conference race to the postseason.

Adam Henrique scored and John Gibson made 26 saves for Anaheim, which has lost three of four.

Duchene scored the game’s first goal at 10:53 of the opening period. With the Predators on a power play, Duchene finished off a slick tic-tac-toe passing sequence that originated with Mikael Granlund’s pass from the right side to Forsberg in the left circle, who immediately found Duchene on the right side for his 28th goal of the season.


Tomas Hertl scored at the 1:13 mark of overtime to give the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 win over the Kings at Arena.

Hertl took possession of the puck in the Kings’ zone and his wraparound attempt got past goalie Jonathan Quick as he snapped a 12-game goal drought and ended the Sharks’ three-game losing streak

Erik Karlsson, in his first game since Jan. 20, assisted on a power play goal by Brent Burns and an even strength marker by Alexander Barabanov. Nick Bonino also scored a power play goal and goalie Zach Sawchenko overcame a shaky few seconds in the first period to finish with 33 saves.


1922 — Cornell wins the first IC4A indoor track meet held at the 2nd Regiment Armory in New York.

1947 — Harry Boykoff of St. John’s sets a Madison Square Garden scoring record with 54 points in the Redmen’s 71-52 win over St. Francis, N.Y.

1958 — Manhattan upsets top-ranked West Virginia 89-84, in the first round of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Jack Powers leads the Jaspers with 29 points. Manhattan holds sophomore Jerry West to 10 points in the Mountaineers’ second loss of the year.

1963 — Chicago Loyola blows out Tennessee Tech 111-42 for the largest margin of victory (69) in the history of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

1979 — St. John’s and Penn post two of the biggest upsets ever in the NCAA tournament in the second round of the East regional in Raleigh, N.C. St. John’s, the 40th and last team selected, beats No. 2 seed Duke 80-78, and Penn comes from behind to beat No. 1 seed North Carolina 72-71.

1991 — Steffi Graf’s streak of 186 weeks ranked as the No. 1 women’s tennis player ends as she is replaced by Monica Seles.

2001 — Jana Kostelic, Croatia’s 19-year-old skiing sensation, becomes the second youngest woman to win the overall World Cup title. She finishes 21st, but she captures the title when Renate Goetschl of Austria skied off the course in the first run in Are, Sweden.

2003 — The longest winning streak in women’s Division I history ends at 70 games when No. 18 Villanova hands No. 1 Connecticut its first loss since the end of the 2001 season, 52-48 for the championship of the Big East Conference tournament.

2007 — Chris Simon of the New York Islanders is suspended for an NHL-record 25 games, missing the rest of the regular season and playoffs as punishment for his two-handed stick attack to the face of Ryan Hollweg.

2009 — Mike Singletary leads Texas Tech to the biggest rally in Big 12 tournament history, scoring all 29 of Texas Tech’s points during a second-half surge that pushed the Red Raiders to a 88-83 win over Texas A&M. The Red Raiders erase a 21-point deficit. Singletary, who outscored A&M 29-18 to give Tech the lead for the first time, finishes with 43 points.

2009 — Wesley Matthews scores 20 points and Marquette snaps a four-game losing streak by holding St. John’s to a Big East tournament-record 10 points in the first half on the way to a 74-45 victory.

2012 — Vanderbilt rallies to beat No. 1 Kentucky 71-64 in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game, ending the Wildcats’ 24-game winning streak.

2014 — FIU senior Jerica Coley becomes the 10th female player in NCAA Division I history to eclipse the 3,000-point barrier, doing so with a 20-point showing in FIU’s 85-65 win over Rice in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.

2017 — Jayson Tatum takes over in the final three minutes, making key plays on both ends of the floor, and Duke becomes the first team to win the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with four wins in four days by rallying past Notre Dame for a 75-69 win.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

A day in the life of Andre Ethier. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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