Source: Foles gets raise in restructured deal

Source: Foles gets raise in restructured deal

The Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Nick Foles agreed to a reworked contract Friday, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The restructured deal includes a $2 million signing bonus, incentives if he starts and hits certain benchmarks, and a mutual option for 2019. Foles was in the final year of his contract and was scheduled to make a base salary of $4 million this season.

NFL Network first reported the contract restructuring.

Both parties would have to be on board to exercise the ’19 option. The move gives the Super Bowl MVP a pay bump and provides an avenue for Foles to remain in Philadelphia beyond this season depending on circumstances.

Foles stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz, who tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee against the Los Angeles Rams in December, and guided the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl win in 2017.

He completed 73 percent of his passes in the postseason with six touchdowns and one interception, including three TD passes in a 41-33 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Wentz has set the 2018 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 6 as his target return date. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Wentz said that he is in the “running progression” stage of his rehab, is “feeling good with where I’m at” on the comeback trail.

He completed 73 percent of his passes in the postseason with six touchdowns and one interception, including three TD passes in a 41-33 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Wentz has set the 2018 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Sept. 6 as his target return date. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Wentz said that he is in the “running progression” stage of his rehab, is “feeling good with where I’m at” on the comeback trail.

Foles recently expressed the desire to be a starter again during an interview with a Texas ABC affiliate, while also highlighting the positives of remaining with the Eagles for another season.

“We love Philly. I know there was some stuff going around [about] a possible trade, and I would love the opportunity to be a starter again,” Foles said. “I know my spot in Philly. I think I’ve shown what I can do. I’m signed for one more year and I love the team, I love the city. I’m excited for Carson to get back on his feet. I’ll be ready to go whenever they need me. But we’ll see; just living in the moment.”

While some teams inquired about potentially trading for Foles at the beginning of the league year, the Eagles set the price high and no deal was struck.

Lillard: Blazers must take fight back to Pelicans

Lillard: Blazers must take fight back to Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS — Damian Lillard says the key for the Portland Trail Blazers, if they are to dig out of a 3-0, first-round hole against the Pelicans, will be to start matching New Orleans’ aggressiveness and physicality — even if it means foul trouble or some possible “altercations.”

Lillard, speaking before practice Friday, said the Blazers haven’t done enough to stem the tide of confidence the Pelicans have fed into, which was more than evident in Thursday night’s 119-102 rout at the Smoothie King Center.

“They were up into us a lot, a lot more aggressive than we were. And we didn’t dish it back out,” Lillard said. “I think in the playoffs and in a situation like this, when a team is coming for you like that, you’ve gotta maybe go out of your way to do it back — even if that means some foul trouble or some altercations happen out there or whatever.

“When a team comes for you the way they did in that last game, maybe we need to just make it a point of emphasis to go back at ’em.”

Lillard said a different defensive coverage plan from the Pelicans against him “than I’ve seen at any other point in my career” has also been the source of frustration.

“Two and three layers of defense,” explained Lillard, who said the Pelicans are keeping a big defender on him after screens instead of falling off of him — which is forcing him to either give up the ball or take tough shots.

As a result, Lillard is averaging just 18.3 points per game — down from his regular-season average of 26.9.

Lillard said he didn’t notice the way Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday pointed toward fallen Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic on Thursday night after Nurkic was dunked on by Anthony Davis.

“I didn’t see it. But, I mean, when things are going well for you, you do stuff like that,” Lillard said. “That’s, I guess, something you do when you’re just feeling really confident, you’re feeling yourself a little bit. It’s not like we’ve done anything about it.”

Lillard quickly added, however, “But as much as they’ve played well and we haven’t, three games to zero, that doesn’t mean that it’s over with. That don’t mean that we walk around here defeated. We just gotta get one. The series can change after one game, especially going back home.”

Lillard has struggled to get going throughout this series with 15 turnovers over the past two games and a 32.7 percent shooting percentage. But the All-Star guard was quick to stress that his confidence remains unshaken.

“My confidence, that’s something that’s never been affected since I’ve been in the league,” Lillard said. “I might get a little irritated and a little frustrated, but taking my confidence away — that’s gonna be much harder than what they’ve done.”

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry hasn’t lost faith in Lillard’s ability either.

Gentry laughed Friday when he said, “I think we’re doing the right thing — but, listen, I still don’t trust anything.”

“I’ve seen him completely take over games, and I know what kind of competitor he is,” Gentry said. “So that may be nice to say, but in the back of his mind, he’s going, ‘I’m going at ’em.’ So we have to understand that, and I think our guys do understand that.

“I mean, we still have appropriate fear. And I think you have to in these situations. We still have another game to win.”

Gentry also praised Pelicans assistant coach Darren Erman for being the brains behind New Orleans’ stifling defensive plan. (Holiday has been awesome against both of the Blazers’ star guards, Lillard and C.J. McCollum, in this series — but he’s not alone).

Davis raved Thursday night about the way the entire team has picked up its defense and stuck with it during the Pelicans’ current eight-game win streak.

“First of all, I don’t think Daren Erman has gotten the credit that he deserves,” Gentry said. “He put together a great defensive game plan. It was him that brought the game plan to me and said, ‘This is what I want to do against them.’ He said, ‘I’ve studied every game that they’ve played this year almost and seen what’s been effective and hasn’t been effective, and these are the things I want to do.’

“So Erm gets a lot of the credit for what we’re doing against those guys right now.”

Nurkic, by the way, said he didn’t notice Holiday’s pointing gesture on Thursday — though he agreed that the Blazers need to get more physical.

Portland coach Terry Stotts, meanwhile, did not speak to the media on Friday, which local media suggested might be a first all season.

JaCoby Jones goes big for Tigers with steal, web gem, homer

JaCoby Jones goes big for Tigers with steal, web gem, homer

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Free Press sports writers Anthony Fenech and George Sipple give their thoughts on the first few games of the Detroti Tigers’ 2018 season from Comerica Park.

JaCoby Jones used his legs, glove and bat to help the Detroit Tigers win again. 

Jones hit a walk-off home run to left to give the Tigers a 3-2 win in 10 innings over the Kansas City Royals on Friday afternoon at Comerica Park in the first game of a doubleheader. 

Jones joked that he might have started celebrating — he put his finger up as he began to round the bases — too quickly on the homer. “I put it up very quickly and as it started getting close to the fence, it might hit the wall. Luckily it went out.”

Jones finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. 

“My last at-bat, I was just trying to put the ball in play and get on base,” Jones said. “Luckily I put a good swing on it, line drive and it went out. I’m just aggressive and I want to make stuff happen, make the game exciting. That’s just how I play the game.”

More on the Tigers:

Jones had a couple of other exciting moments on Friday. 

He made a leaping catch at the wall in left in the ninth inning on a ball hit by Alcides Escobar off Shane Greene. Jones said he wasn’t sure if the ball was going to go out or not when he made the leap.

“I took steps on the warning track, so I knew the wall was getting close,” Jones said. “I’m was like, ‘I’m just going to jump and catch it.’ I don’t really know if it was going to go out or not. Probably not. Made the catch, so who cares?”

In the fifth inning, Jones stretched a single into a double on a ball hit to left-center. That allowed James McCann to score.

“I was just going to second,” Jones said. “I didn’t know Mac was going. I thought it was going to be runners on second and third.”

Jones went on to steal third and score on a sacrifice fly to center by Dixon Machado.

Of his three contributions — defense, baserunning and walk-off homer — Jones preferred the homer. 

“Hitting the walk-off homer is no doubt the best thing ever,” he said. “Just a sense of excitement for your team. You won the game and you hit a homer. Any time you hit a homer is good. Especially when it’s a walk-off. A game like that we’re battling, when you can walk-off, it’s a great feeling. I was pumped up, excited. I’m still excited.” 

Jones said he just wants to “cause havoc” for the opposition because of his speed. 

“That’s my game, that’s what I do on bases is be aggressive and make stuff happen,” Jones said. “I do whatever I can to get on base and make stuff happen for the team.”

The home run was Jones’ first extra-base hit of the season. He has hit .353 (6-for-17) on the homestand. He’s batting .300 (9-for-30) over 13 games this season. 

ones is getting the chance to play more since Mikie Mahtook was demoted to Triple-A Toledo after hitting .129 over his first nine games.  The Tigers could have brought Mahtook up to serve as the 26th man for the doubleheader, but instead called up Mike Gerber from Triple-A Toledo. 

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Mahtook needs to continue working in the batting cage and getting at-bats to work out of his slump. 

Michael Fulmer allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings, helping the Tigers extend their winning streak to four games. 

“He’s just an outstanding player, he’s an athlete,” Fulmer said of Jones. “He can do it on the defense, and obviously the offense too. It’s exciting to watch this whole team develop and never quit.”

Gardenhire said he appreciates Jones’ agressive play. 

“We’ve seen some good baserunning plays already this year,” he said. “We expect more of him. He’s aggressive. If you give him an inch, he’s going to take a mile. I like that. I like the way he plays. If he was out, I’ll yell at him.”

The Tigers improved to 8-9 entering Friday’s second game against the Royals.

“I’m sure everyone still has really low expectations for us,” Jones said. “We don’t care about what people think about us. We’re just going to keep playing ball, playing for these guys, just playing for each other and see what happens.”

Jones is enjoying the Tigers’ early season success. 

“Every time you show up to the ballpark, you should be excited to play,” he said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s what Gardy talks about, just staying loose and having fun and playing the game.”

Contact George Sipple: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @georgesipple.

 

 

 

More artificial turf awaits Twins' Max Kepler as he tests balky knee in center field

More artificial turf awaits Twins' Max Kepler as he tests balky knee in center field

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Max Kepler was back in the Twins’ lineup Friday despite a right knee issue that caused him to be removed in the 10th inning two nights earlier in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“It locked up,” Kepler said. “I’d say blame it on the turf, but we’re playing on more turf. Hopefully the turf will go easy on me today.”

Like Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Tropicana Field has FieldTurf for its playing surface. Kepler planned to wear molded inserts to give him extra shock absorption in his cleats.

“All I hear from players around the league is playing on turf one game is equivalent to a week’s time of playing on (grass),” he said. “It just doesn’t give as much as grass would. Have to go easy on it.”

There was no specific play or movement that led to Kepler’s knee flareup against the Cleveland Indians. He did have some extra running to do after shifting over from right field to center with Byron Buxton unavailable due to migraines.

“It was over time,” Kepler said. “The first time I felt it was when I was getting down (in a pre-pitch position) and I just felt my knee lock up.”

Before this week Kepler, 25, had made just nine career starts in center, none since last July 1.

“I just prepare to cover more ground,” he said. “Personally I think you see the ball perspective-wise a lot better off the bat from center, (without) having to calculate the angles from the corners and how the ball is going to spin and cut, depending on each hitter.”

Left fielder Eddie Rosario has made 38 big-league starts in center, but he has been allowed to remain at his usual spot with Robbie Grossman spelling Kepler in right. Twins manager Paul Molitor said Rosario’s throwing arm is not the issue after missing time this spring with triceps tendinitis.

Instead, it was the recommendation of outfield coach Jeff Pickler in consultation with the team’s analytics department in terms of “matchups and tendencies and where balls might go,” Molitor said, “and where we want to feel the most protected. We’re kind of going off whatever analytics provides for us.”

Ryan LaMarre figures to start in center on Saturday against left-hander Blake Snell.

GETTING CLOSE

Logan Morrison got some good news hours before he was asked to face former Rays teammate Chris Archer. An official scoring change on Morrison’s 16th-inning grounder that skipped under the glove of second baseman Jason Kipnis gave the Twins’ designated hitter just his fourth hit of the season.

Now 4 for 44 (.091), Morrison saw his anemic batting average improve by 23 points. Molitor gave him the news as Morrison sat at his locker Friday.

“He smiled,” Molitor said. “It was good to see.”

Molitor hasn’t given much thought to benching Morrison or dropping him in the order as he deals with the worst start of his career.

“I think he’s close,” Molitor said. “I thought he had some good swings the second game down there in Puerto Rico. I know he’s working at it. I have a lot of confidence that he’ll get going. It didn’t make sense to just force a change for change’s sake.”

HUGHES SET

Veteran right-hander Phil Hughes (oblique) is set to come off the disabled list and start Sunday’s afternoon game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hughes, who didn’t go past 65 pitches in his two rehab starts for Class A Fort Myers, will have roughly 75 to 90 pitches at his disposal in his first big-league start in 11 months. Hughes’ last start was May 21 against the Kansas City Royals before he was placed on the DL with shoulder fatigue; he underwent a second procedure for thoracic-outlet syndrome in July.

He be worked on seven days’ rest after tossing five shutout innings on April 14.

BRIEFLY

Buxton, eligible to come off the DL on April 25, showed “slight improvement” on Friday, Molitor said. Buxton could report to the stadium for some light non-baseball activity at some point this weekend.

Triple-A Rochester reliever Jake Reed was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder impingement syndrome. Reed had a 2.70 ERA with five strikeouts and no walks in two outings and 3 1/3 innings.

Jones' HR, Tigers win 4th in row, 3-2; KC drops 9th straight

Jones' HR, Tigers win 4th in row, 3-2; KC drops 9th straight

DETROIT (AP) — JaCoby Jones understands his job with the Detroit Tigers. The 25-year-old needs to use his athletic ability to make plays all over the field to boost a young team.

He did that Friday, hitting a solo home run with one out in the 10th inning as the Tigers won their fourth in a row, beating Kansas City 3-2 in the opener of a day-night doubleheader and handing the Royals their ninth straight loss.

His productivity, though, started earlier in the game.

Jones doubled in Detroit’s first run, stole third base and scored. He then made an outstanding defensive play in left field in the ninth to help force extra innings.

“We know we’re going to have to fight to find ways to beat the other guys, and (Jones) does that with his aggression,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If he starts pushing things too far, I’ll stop him, but I want him to play his game.”

Jones hit a 2-2 fastball from Brad Keller (0-1) deep to left and immediately put up his right index finger in celebration.

“I was worried as the ball got toward the wall, because I was going to look stupid if it didn’t go out,” he said. “That’s the best feeling in baseball.”

Keller thought his pitch was an inch or two from perfection.

“We tried to go heaters off the plate, and I felt like I got it inside, but it caught too much plate,” he said. “He put a good swing on it.”

Joe Jimenez (2-0) pitched a scoreless 10th.

“We’re going to have a lot of ups and downs with this team, but we’re having fun right now,” Gardenhire said. “These kids are fighting hard.”

Royals starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs on five hits and two walks in nine innings, matching the longest outing of his career. He pitched a shutout for Baltimore against the Atlanta Braves in 2012.

The performance wasn’t much solace, though.

“I try to be a positive guy, but there’s not much silver lining here,” he said. “We’re trying to win. We know we’re close, but losses are losses.”

Tigers starter Daniel Fulmer pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out five.

Rain and snow meant Fulmer hadn’t pitched since allowing nine runs in three innings to Cleveland on April 12.

“I hated waiting for eight days to start this game, because it had been so bad,” he said. “The bright spot is I was able to make some adjustments and get closer to my best stuff.”

The Tigers broke the scoreless tie in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by James McCann and Jones. Jones stole third on the next pitch and scored on Dixon Machado’s one-out sacrifice fly.

“I knew (McCann) didn’t get a great jump, but I was going for second all the way,” Jones said. “When I got to second, I wanted to get to third. That’s how I play.”

Moustakas extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a solo homer in the sixth, pulling the Royals within 2-1. Jon Jay’s RBI single tied the game with one out in the seventh.

Kansas City put two runners on with two out in the eighth, but Ryan Goins hit a sharp liner directly at Machado at second.

Alcides Escobar led off the ninth with a flyball to deep left, but Jones made a leaping catch at the wall.

“I knew I was up against the wall, and I didn’t think it was going to go out, but I figured I should catch it either way,” Jones said with a smile.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Royals: OF Alex Gordon is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Friday night. Gordon has been out since April 10 with a left hip tear. … C Salvador Perez (knee) caught seven innings on Thursday for Double-A Memphis, and is expected to join Gordon in Omaha.

Tigers: Gardenhire pinch ran for Cabrera in the ninth inning, but the 35-year-old has played all 17 games this season despite hip and back issues. Gardenhire said Cabrera could get a day off on Detroit’s upcoming road trip to Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

BIG NIGHTS AHEAD?

Tigers outfield prospect Mike Gerber was called up to be Detroit’s 26th man for the doubleheader, while the Royals brought up reliever Scott Barlow. Neither has appeared in a major league game.

The teams face each other again in the second game of the split doubleheader, with Detroit’s Daniel Norris (0-1, 7.11) facing Kansas City’s Jakob Junis (2-1, 1.93).