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03/21/2012 - 7:46am
Mashup: Rival criticizes retiring Steeler Ward

Hines Ward retired from the Steelers Tuesday, and Bengals safety Chris Crocker won't miss him. Crocker acknowledged that Ward belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he said the receiver was dirty as well. "He tried to end people's careers, and that's not the way the game is supposed to be played," Crocker said.

Added Crocker: "He's probably the first receiver to make blocking such a big part of his game; he was an all-around receiver. He was a dirty player, but he made a lot of plays. They used him perfectly to suit his abilities and he was a big-time player for them. Some people might think of him as a borderline Hall of Famer, but I think the fact he helped them win two Super Bowls and all the things he did for that team make him deserving."

In 2008, Ward hit Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers with a blindside block that broke Rivers' jaw. The following season, Crocker said Ward punched him in the face at the start of a play.

...

03/20/2012 - 11:06pm
Valentine on Bard: Walks a concern

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Daniel Bard has walked seven batters in his last two appearances spanning 7 2/3 innings. Though the right-hander was effective for most of his outing on Tuesday night, a pair of walks with no outs in the second inning led to a three-run yield to the Blue Jays.

Sox manager Bobby Valentine said after the game that he is trying to figure out whether control will be an issue for Bard, or if it's simply a matter of the pitcher working to iron out spring wrinkles on the mound.

"That’s exactly what I’m looking at, though, or wondering. I don’t think that even with his good stuff I could handle the walks," said Valentine. "Now I don’t know if they’re spring and trying to impress. That’s why I looked for the changeup. If there’s a pitch that he wasn’t comfortable with and that was causing some of these negative counts, I would have been able to use that as an excuse. I...

03/20/2012 - 10:04pm
Bard sees progress in five innings

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox starter Daniel Bard rebounded from his worst start of the spring to increase his workload to five innings in which he allowed three runs on three hits and three walks to the Blue Jays. Bard struck out two.

The right-hander put up zeros in four of his five frames, but struggled with his fastball command at times, most prominently in a three-run second in which Bard sandwiched a pair of walks around a bloop single. That set the stage for a two-run opposite-field double by Travis Snider and a sac fly by minor leaguer David Cooper. In the outing, Bard threw 83 pitches, just 49 for strikes.

Still, Bard settled for the duration of his outing, his longest of the spring. He showed a sharp breaking ball on which he collected both of his strikeouts. After the outing, he suggested that he was far more pleased with this outing than he had been after yielding seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in his previous appearance.

"The...

03/20/2012 - 9:45pm
UMass on to NIT semis after edging Drexel

Chaz Williams continued his sensational postseason with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and UMass rallied for a 72-70 victory over Drexel Tuesday night in Philadelphia to advance to the semifinals of the NIT.

The Minutemen, seeded fifth in Region 3, will play the Region 4 champion (Nevada or Stanford) next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The championship game is Thursday, also in New York City.

Terrell Vinson added 18 points for UMass (25-11), which was outrebounded 43-21 but shot 58.8 percent from the field (including a blistering 70.8 percent in the second half).

Dartaye Ruffin led third-seeded Drexel (29-7) with 17 points.

UMass trailed by 10 points at the half, 41-31, and by 17 points in the second period. The Minutemen finally forged ahead with a late 13-2 run that started and ended with Vinson jumpers. His 17-footer with 4:13 remaining put UMass up by six, 68-62.

Drexel closed to within two points on two Frank Massenat...

03/20/2012 - 9:19pm
Miller (hamstring) out of running for rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller left Tuesday's game after just three pitches due to what the Red Sox described as a mild left hamstring strain. After he entered the game in relief in the top of the seventh inning, Miller signalled to the Red Sox dugout after throwing a 1-1 fastball for a called strike.

The 26-year-old appeared to be favoring his left leg as he followed through on his delivery from the set position. After some discussion with the Red Sox trainer and coaching staff, the left-hander left the game.

The injury was the second for Miller this spring, following a bout with elbow soreness that resulted in his going 12 days between appearances. Given that Miller has thrown just 3 1/3 Grapefruit League innings this spring (in which he has struck out six), this injury could put his availability for Opening Day in some jeopardy. At the least, said manager Bobby Valentine, Miller will not be considered for the rotation...

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