Wednesday’s Sports In Brief – The San Diego Union-Tribune

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — Toronto left-hander Robbie Ray bounced back from a dismal season to win the AL Cy Young Award and Milwaukee righty Corbin Burnes returned from a bout of COVID-19 to win the NL’s top pitching prize.

In the Year of the Pitcher, Burnes led the majors with a 2.43 ERA and Ray topped the AL at 2.84. Both put up impressive strikeout totals, too, helping build their cases with those studying new-era stats and others looking at more traditional numbers.

Burnes edged Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler for the award, with both receiving 12 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Max Scherzer finished third. Burnes became the first Brewers pitcher to earn the NL honor — Pete Vuckovich in 1982 and Rollie Fingers in 1981 won the award when Milwaukee was still in the American League.

Ray became the first Toronto pitcher to win since the late Roy Halladay in 2003.

Ray got 29 first-place votes. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole got the other top vote and finished second and Chicago White Sox righty Lance Lynn was third.

NEW YORK (AP) — ustin Verlander reached a $25 million deal to remain with the Houston Astros as he comes back from Tommy John surgery, and Brandon Belt accepted an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants.

Verlander, a 38-year-old right-hander, has a conditional $25 million option for 2023 as part of the agreement.

He made just one start in 2020, pitching six innings on July 24 in a win over Seattle on opening day before being placed on the injured list with strained right forearm. He attempted a comeback after he was injured, but announced on Sept. 19, 2020, that he needed Tommy John surgery and underwent the procedure on Oct. 1. Verlander, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2011 AL MVP, became a free agent after completing a $94 million, three-year contract with the Astros.

Belt was the only one to accept among the 14 free agents who received the offers from their former clubs on Nov. 7. Bell is 33 and perhaps wary of a free-agent market at first base that includes 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman. Belt hit .274 with a career-high 29 home runs and 59 RBIs last season.

Players who turned down offers included Freeman (Atlanta), shortstop Carlos Correa and Verlander (Houston), right-hander Raisel Iglesias (Los Angeles Angels), AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray and second baseman/shortstop Marcus Semien (Toronto).

CHICAGO (AP) — New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he voted for Major League Baseball’s proposal to lower the luxury tax threshold, a plan opposed by the players’ union with the sport on the brink of its first work stoppage in 26 years.

The luxury tax, formally known as the competitive balance tax, had a threshold of $210 million this year. Owners proposed lowering it to $180 million and adding a $100 million payroll floor. The union long has opposed a floor, fearing it would lead to a hard cap.

Speaking at Major League Baseball’s regular owners’ meetings, Steinbrenner said the CBT proposal was approved by the labor policy committee.

MLB’s five-year labor contract expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, and Steinbrenner said the owners are having discussions with the players’ union “on a continuous basis.” But negotiations have been taking place since last spring, and there has been no sign of any significant movement toward a deal. If the agreement expires without a new deal in place, Major League Baseball could lock out its players — putting the start of spring training in jeopardy.

NFL

The NFL is requiring players and staff to wear masks inside team facilities regardless of vaccination status for a week starting on Thanksgiving, and they must be tested twice for COVID-19 after the holiday.

The league’s protocols were updated as a result of increasing rates of COVID-19 across the country. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger each missed a game in consecutive weeks because of COVID-19.

There were 34 new confirmed positive tests among players and 47 new confirmed positives among club personnel in the latest testing period from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in a conference call Wednesday the league had its highest number of cases last week.

As of Wednesday, 94.3% of NFL players and nearly 100% of NFL personnel are vaccinated. Overall, 30 of the league’s 32 teams have an overall vaccination rate of 95% or higher.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas judge ordered former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III to appear before her on Monday after learning he missed a required alcohol test while on house arrest following a fatal crash he’s accused of causing by driving drunk at speeds up to 156 mph.

Ruggs’ lawyers told Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum that Ruggs “self-tested” negative shortly after missing one of his calls for a breath test last weekend. Ruggs’ attorney, David Chesnoff, blamed the delay on trouble with testing equipment.

A note posted later in the court record shows Ruggs, 22, missed a test at 4:41 p.m. Saturday and that he completed “a client initiated remote breath test” at 6:28 p.m.

The alcohol monitoring agency noted that it “cannot confirm Mr. Rugg’s sobriety during this point-in-time,” and said Ruggs’ attorney provided an updated phone number for text notifications for Ruggs’ remote breath test.

Ruggs could face a return to jail. A judge who set his bail at $150,000 warned Ruggs directly that if he didn’t comply with release restrictions he would face re-arrest. Ruggs is under home confinement with electronic monitoring and four-times-a-day alcohol checks. He is required to respond to a telephone or text signal by blowing into a device that checks his blood-alcohol level.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament is expanding to 68 teams beginning with the current season, giving it an equal number of participants as the men’s tournament as part of a concerted effort at gender parity.

The men’s tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011 with four first-round games traditionally played in Dayton, Ohio. The first four for the women’s tournament will take place on the campuses of teams seeded in the top 16 this season, but they will move to a to-be-determined neutral site beginning with the 2023 tournament.

The expansion of the women’s tournament was among the recommendations put forth in August after a comprehensive external gender equity review conducted by the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink. It was commissioned after backlash driven by social media of disparities in the men’s and women’s tournaments, including weight rooms and other facilities.

ESPN will broadcast the first four games along with the rest of the women’s tournament. The network is also moving its selection show for the tournament from Monday to Sunday — the same day as the men. It’s the first time since 2005 that the women’s bracket will be announced on Sunday.

Other recommendations include exploring a joint Final Four with the semifinals and title games held in the same city on the same weekend, though that would not happen until at least 2027 with sites already locked in until that point.

NBA

PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 24 points, Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 13 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns ran their winning streak to 10 games, beating the Dallas Mavericks 105-98.

Chris Paul drove to the basket and was about to fall out of bounds before finding Ayton for the dunk and a 100-96 lead with 1:27 left. Paul had seven assists in the fourth quarter and finished with 14. Booker hit a long 3-pointer with the shot-clock expiring with 50 seconds left to seal it. The Suns scored 37 points during a stellar fourth quarter.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 47 points and Khris Middleton tied Milwaukee’s franchise record for career 3-pointers as the Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-102.

Middleton returned after missing eight games due to COVID-19 and made consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to put the Bucks ahead for good. The second of those 3s was his 1,051st with the Bucks to match Ray Allen for first place on the team’s all-time list.

Allen holds the NBA record with 2,973 3-pointers in a career that also included stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat.