February 24, 2015

Josh Darrow makes unusual transition: broadcasting to UM football staff; Role changes for Haslem, Deng, Chalmers

Though UM hasn't announced his hiring yet, Josh Darrow, UM's new assistant director of football operations, today joined a small group of media members who landed jobs in the "front-office" of a sports team or university.

There are other, much higher profile examples: Former New York Mets general manager Frank Cashen was previously a sportswriter.

Marty Hurney covered sports for The Washington Times before becoming general manager of the Carolina Panthers, a position he lost in 2012.

Several media members have gotten jobs in public relations for teams, but that's not what we're talking about here.

Darrow did good work as WQAM's football sideline reporter, as an architect of SFHSSports.com (which diligently covers recruiting) and previously, as Joe Zagacki's partner on UM basketball games before WQAM eliminated the color analyst position for financial reasons.

Among the reasons UM’s Al Golden hired Darrow: He established a very good rapport with players and parents in reporting for the South Florida High School Sports web site; he is liked and trusted by the UM staff; and he’s sharp (Pennsylvania grad).

He is expected to have a multitude of duties, including organizing clinics, getting UM's message out to recruits and their families through the Internet and other means, among other duties handled previously by Kevin Beard before his promotion to receivers coach.

Check back later this evening for a lot more UM news, plus Dolphins.

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The Heat’s acquisition of Goran Dragic and loss of Chris Bosh have sent a ripple effect through the rest of the lineup, with several players directly impacted.

For Luol Deng, it means adjusting to playing at least part of the game at power forward, competing against bulkier players.

For Mario Chalmers, it means settling into the role of backup shooting guard after holding down the starting point guard job for much of the past 3 1/2 years.

And for Udonis Haslem, it means returning to the starting lineup at power forward --- a role he handled for five years here previously.

“I really haven’t played four [power forward] since [spring] 2010, before the Big Three,” Haslem said this week. “The last four years, I played five [center]. But I’m a natural four anyway.”

With a premium now placed on power forwards with shooting range, Haslem said the starting power forward job here has changed slightly from when he started at the position from 2004 through 2009.

That’s why Haslem, who had taken only 13 three-pointers in 751 NBA games before Friday, has launched three (and made one) in the past three games since Chris Bosh was sidelined for the season by blood clots in his lungs.

In fact, Haslem said Erik Spoelstra told him before the season that "If I want to play [power forward], I have to shoot the corner three."

“It’s part of our offense,” Haslem said. “If I’m going to play the four, I have to implement that. You’re not going to make all of them, but you have to take them with confidence. I’m going to make some.

“Coach gives me confidence. He sees I’ve been working on that. He’s seen me knock it down a thousand times in practice. I have confidence in shooting it. I’ve just got to take good ones. Take the ones that are open. Don’t force it.”

Erik Spoelstra said he does not “mind him shooting the corner three. He has reinvented himself so many times in 12 years. He can find a way to be effective no matter how we play.”

Though Deng continues to start at small forward, a lot of his minutes are coming at power forward as part of a smaller lineup with Deng, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Mario Chalmers or another wing player. He was terrific Monday, scoring 29 points on 11 for 14 shooting.

“When we get comfortable, we’re going to be quicker [with that small lineup],” Deng said. “We’re going to put teams in a lot of switches they’re not used to, so their defense will not be as organized. There’s definitely advantages to it.”

Deng, listed as 6-9 and 220 pounds, said he played some at power forward in Chicago when Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were injured.

“It’s definitely different,” he said.

Offensively, playing power forward means “doing a lot of dribble handoffs, finding myself at the top of the key a lot, getting the team into second situations that CB [Bosh] was so good at, spreading the floor, going into the next pick and roll. Now I’m involved in a lot of screens instead of being in the corner.  It’s totally different.”

And defensively, “I’ve got to guard the screen and make the calls for the guards,” Deng said.  “I’m used to guarding the ball…. It’s a different game when you’re battling in the post.”

For Deng, it’s yet another adjustment in a season of transition and tumult.

“We just got Dragic; I’m playing out of position; D-Wade just got back. It’s a lot going on,” Deng said. “The CB news hit us. You kind of appreciate seasons you had in the past where you roll out and play. But we’re all about challenges. My whole life has been about some type of challenge and I’ve always been OK with that.

“[Power forward] is something I can do. The way we want to play here is not think of positions, but you think a lot when you’re the four [power forward]. And that’s something CB was so good at.”

As for Chalmers, the acquisition of Dragic and the recent development of Shabazz Napier means most of Chalmers’ minutes figure to come at shooting guard.

The enjoyable part of playing that position is “being able to attack,” he said. “As a two guard, your main objective is to attack and pass when you can’t get a score. It’s a little bit different mentality.”

Chalmers is easygoing about switching between guard spots. “I was starting point guard, back to reserve two, to starting point guard” and now backup shooting guard again. “You just have to be ready for anything.”

Wade said “I like this role” for Chalmers. “We really need him to embrace it now. When he embraced it earlier in the year, he did unbelievable.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for a lot more.

February 23, 2015

Exploring Marlins variables: Fernandez, Latos, Saltalamacchia & more; Dolphins, Heat, Canes chatter

MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As the Marlins begin spring training, there are many things they feel they can count on: Giancarlo Stanton’s power and run-production, Christian Yelich’s continued development as of the game’s polished young hitters; Dee Gordon’s blazing speed, among others.

But there’s also a level of uncertainty on several other fronts. Chatter on five variables that will affect whether the Marlins will be contending for a playoff berth in late September:

### When Jose Fernandez returns between mid-June and mid-July, will he be the same caliber pitcher who went 16-8 with a 2.25 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .183 average in 36 big-league starts?

For perspective, we analyzed six prominent starting pitchers who returned during the season from Tommy John surgery over the past six seasons. The results were mixed, but more favorable than unfavorable.

Here’s what’s encouraging: Tim Hudson, an All-Star before and after the surgery, pitched well after returning in September 2009 (2-1, 3.61 in seven starts), then went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA and an All-Star appearance in 2010…. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg returned from the surgery in September 2011 and threw well (1-1, 1.50 ERA in five starts), then returned to dominant form in 2012 (15-6, 3.16)…

Josh Johnson, with a timetable similar to Fernandez’s, returned to the Marlins on July 10, 2008 --- 11 months after the surgery --- and was 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts for the Marlins, then went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 2009. But he has fallen off dramatically the past four years and needed a second Tommy John surgery last April… Jordan Zimmerman has blossomed from decent young starter to an eventual All-Star after the surgery: He was 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in seven starts after returning from the surgery late in 2010 but has posted an ERA below 3.30 every season since.

“Those guys had [partial] seasons and the following full season they were outstanding,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “You can throw Anibal Sanchez into that mix also.”

On the flip side: Francisco Liriano, an All-Star before the surgery, struggled initially after a mid-April return (0-3, 11.32), went back to the minors, but pitched well upon returning later that summer, finishing 6-4, 3.91, and has since been named Comeback Player of the Year twice.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went 18-3 in 2008 but fell off quite a bit since then, was 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts after a June 2012 return from Tommy John and was 6-6 as a starter/reliever the past two years.

“We hope when Jose does come back, he’ll be the guy he’s always been,” Hill said.

### Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia the above-average catcher the Marlins thought they were getting or the player who badly struggled last season? “He needs to be better,” Hill said. “He recognizes that.”

The Marlins gave him a three-year, $21 million deal 15 months ago, after he hit .273 with 14 homers and 65 RBI during Boston’s run to a World Series title in 2013. The fear is that the Marlins might have been fooled by one good season, just as they were with John Buck a few years early. Saltamacchia’s .273 in 2013 appears to have been an anomaly; he hit .235 (with 16 homers) in 2011 and .222 (with 25 homers) in 2012.

Last season, his .220 average was worst among National League catchers with at least 300 at-bats and third worst overall. His 15 errors were the most for any catcher. Plus, he threw out only 19 percent of base-stealers, second worst for catchers who appeared in at least 100 games.

And this was puzzling: He hit well at Marlins Park (.273), but his .162 road average (29 for 179) was the worst in baseball for any player with at least 150 at-bats.

Saltamacchia said moving to a new league was an adjustment and he battled fatigue because he had a shorter offseason after winning the World Series with Boston.

### Is center fielder Marcell Ozuna headed for stardom? That’s what former big-league front office executive Tony Blengino predicted in an ESPN.com piece last month.

Citing various metrics, Blengino said: “Ozuna is going to be a star and he’s a good bet to take it to the next level in 2015. A Ruben Sierra like career is a fairly conservative projection. More likely, he’ll become the second most well-rounded superstar in the Marlins’ lineup.”

Sierra, incidentally, was a four-time All-Star who hit .268 with 306 homers in 20 seasons. Ozuna blossomed last season, hitting .269 with 23 homers and 85 RBI and was second in the NL with 10 outfield assists.

Like many sluggers, he strikes out too much (164, seventh most in the NL).

“Who knows what the ceiling is on this guy? He’s special, a game-changer,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Reminds me of [nine-time All Star] Vladimir Guerrero.”

### Is Jarred Cosart the pitcher whom the Astros deemed expendable or the one who had quality starts in eight of his 10 Marlins appearances?

Through 40 starts, Cosart’s career has been interesting because of its unevenness: He had a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts as a rookie for Houston in 2013, then was pretty average in 10 Astros starts last season (9-7, 4.41); then thrived for the Marlins after his July trade (4-4, 2.39). Overall, he’s 14-12 with a 3.26 ERA.

The Astros were concerned by his strikeout/walk ratio (108 to 86) in 30 starts for them. It was much better for the Marlins (40-22), but he walked eight Nationals in five innings of his final Marlins start last September, his worst performance for Miami.

ESPN’s Keith Law has expressed concern about his “cross-body delivery” that sometimes affects his command. But after the trade, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said: “I think he will be a 15-game winner pretty consistently.” Hill said he’s still young and needs time to develop.

### Will Matt Latos return to dominant form after being limited to 16 starts for the Reds in 2014? Latos, who had stem cells moved from his hip to his elbow during the winter to re-grow tissue, was solid last season (5-5, 3.25) but his velocity dropped nearly two miles per hour after finishing 14-4 and 14-7 the previous two seasons.

Batters hit .176 off him before the All-Star break last year, .275 in 10 starts after. “This is a very volatile asset,” fangraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan wrote.

Latos said his knee was his only issue last season and it’s fine now, downplaying a reported forearm injury.

“I feel better than I did [anytime] last year.” But he’s only 27 and eighth among active pitchers in ERA. Plus, batters have hit .233 off him in his career. If he’s at his best, he could be a dominant starter.

Hill said the Marlins were thrilled “to be able to add such a great pitcher. He’s big, works downhill, power sinker. All the things we think can be successful with us.”    

CHATTER

### Another positive about new Heat guard Goran Dragic: He does some of his best work in the clutch. He’s shooting 14 for 26 (53.8 percent) in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or less, which is best in the league among guards with at least 20 attempts. Conversely, Dwyane Wade is shooting 14 for 39 in clutch situations this season (35.9), Luol Deng 3 for 16 and Mario Chalmers 7 for 22.

### Dragic, who is at his best when playing at a faster tempo, said today: "It's going to be a challenge for others. When I get the ball, I'm going to push it." He said he knows Wade is "great in the open court."

### Dragic on Hassan Whiteside: "He's going to be a dominant big guy in this league."

### Udonis Haslem developed blood clots in his lungs when recovering from foot surgery in 2010 and has spoken to Chris Bosh about his experience.

"One of the worst pains I ever felt," Haslem said today. "I couldn't breathe." He has told Bosh to "just be patient. It's going to get better. I learned how to inject myself with blood-thinners."

### Thomas Robinson, who was on the list of power forwards under consideration by the Heat, committed to the Brooklyn Nets today.

### Erik Spoelstra said this morning that Bosh remains hospitalized but is in "great spirits."

### With Caleb Sturgis losing some benefit of the doubt, the Dolphins conveyed to former Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker that he has a very fair chance to unseat him as Dolphins kicker. Sturgis made 78.4 percent of his field goals last season, which was 28th in the league.

### Add Mike Pouncey to the list of Dolphins lobbying for Mike Wallace’s return. “I really hope they bring Mike back," Pouncey told me last week. "He’s a great player and it would really help our team make the playoffs.”

### Unlike with Penn State, the NCAA rejected UM’s request to modify any of its sanctions, meaning UM says it will self-impose three more football scholarships next year and can’t allow recruits to attend
more than one game on an official visit until November 2016.

### UM smartly pitched moving the Sept. 12 FAU game from Boca Raton to Sun Life Stadium to accommodate more fans, but FAU refused. UM's deal with FAU calls for two games in Sun Life, one in Boca Raton.

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

February 22, 2015

Sunday 7 p.m: UM football notes; D'Onofrio; Heat trying to fast-track Dragic's integration; Heat personnel talk; Wade weighs in

Note: If you read this post before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, please scroll down for a lot more, including UM football notes from Sunday.

After a 58-hour emotional whirlwind in which Miami split back to back games, acquired a former third-team All-NBA point guard and learned that All-Star forward Chris Bosh will miss the rest of the season with blood clots on his lungs, most Heat players resisted any temptation to exhale or enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.

Instead, they convened at AmericanAirlines Arena for a voluntary on-court session designed to expedite the acclimation of new Heat point guard Goran Dragic, in advance of Monday's game against Philadelphia.

"One of my biggest priorities will be to make Goran feel comfortable as soon as we can and what we’re trying to do,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday at the Heat’s annual Family Festival to raise money for the team’s Charitable Fund.

“That’s why we came in today… [for] optional workout that most of the guys showed up to. It wasn’t a punishment day. It was to try to find solutions. It’s not as if we haven’t done it this year.

“We’ve had to do this already, three, four, five times, where we’ve had to try to get organized with a different lineup, different points of emphasis and we’ve become pretty efficient in fast tracking that process. How long that will take for him, I don’t know, but it’s a priority for me. Goran will feel more comfortable each game as we go. He’s a high IQ player. He’ll be able to pick thing up quickly, get into his comfort zone, find out where he can be aggressive and help the team, and that’s what [Sunday] was about.”

Dragic bemoaned his performance after his Heat debut Saturday in which he scored 12 points (all in the second half)  but shot 4 for 11 with one assist and one turnover in 33 minutes in Miami’s 105-91 loss to New Orleans.

"It was tough. Sometimes you didn't know where to go," he said. "I tried to learn the action. But, you know, when it's a game, you need to make a quick decision. It was tough."

For Spoelstra, integrating a new point guard holds more challenges than injecting center Hassan Whiteside because Dragic has the balls in his hands so much.

“Much of our plan early in the season was built around either Chris Bosh or Josh [McRoberts] having the ball in their hands and facilitating the next action,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously, that is a big change now.

But we have experience dealing with adversity this year and changing courses and fast-tracking it. We’ll see how long it takes to fast-track it. We have a good group. I commend them for not feeling sorry for themselves.”

On Saturday, Spoelstra at times experimented with a smaller lineup with Luol Deng, Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers paired with one natural power rotation player.           

"It gives us an opportunity to make some plays off the dribble," Spoelstra said.  "As we move forward and we get to know this group, we'll find out if that's something I go to more. It wasn't necessarily successful [Saturday] night. The alternative wasn't necessarily successful, either, so I can't really gauge that right now. But I can certainly see that being a strength of ours, is having three guys that can make plays."

Dragic was often at his best for Phoenix when he pushed the ball and played at a faster tempo. He now joins a team that was last in the league in average possessions per game. So does Spoelstra want to play faster?

“The team will tell us ultimately, but we want to play to his strengths,” Spoelstra said. “We have to be able to defend, we have to be able to play off of misses. Ultimately the team will tell us.”

Regarding the Heat’s pace, Dragic said: “If I'm honest, I felt slow today, you know. But I talked with the coach and I want to play a little bit faster.

“But it takes time, of course, because all the players, last year with LeBron [James], all those guys played fast but with all the situations with the injuries, coach put that system in that's slow. Everyone needs to adjust. First of all, I need to adjust to all the players because I’m new here.”

Wade said Sunday he would be “fine” with running more and that it’s manageable because “I’m playing 30-32 minutes a game. On misses when a team misses let’s get out and see if we can get in transition and get some easy buckets. I need some easy buckets, especially right now to get my rhythm back.”

Wade loved the trade for Dragic but admits “I have to get used to a guy that can create so much attention by putting the ball on the floor. I’m normally that guy.

“It was different when LeBron was here because I was in a different place on the court. Now I have to kind of get used to playing with him and vice versa. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to take some trial and error but I think we can make it up with his ability to attack and finish. It’s going to be good for us. He’s dynamic.”

The Heat might not be done adding reinforcements. Miami is mulling what to do with its open roster spot and veteran forwards Thomas Robinson, Andray Blatche and Michael Beasley all will be discussed internally, among others.

Though Beasley received permission to work out at AmericanAirlines Arena in recent days, he did not have an audition for Heat officials. Beasley, who lives in South Florida, also has been working out at UM.

Wade succinctly put this rollercoaster season in perspective Sunday.

“This has been a trying year for this team, for this organization,” he said. “So this last 28 games, we’re going to have to fight. Our goal is to try to make the playoffs. We’re still poised to do that.

“We were excited for about 20 minutes [about the Dragic trade] and then we got the news Chris was in the hospital and things weren’t looking good. It put a different perspective for all of us about this season. We were all concerned about all playoffs, playoffs, playoffs and now something life changing could have happened to my good friend and someone we all came to love and respect in Chris.

“It just put us a different mindset and now we have to switch that mindset to get back into basketball and playoff mode and try to incorporate new players, very important players, our point guard. It’s been a trying year but I think we can overcome.

“Getting angry is not going to help any situation. You have to stay in a positive mindset. It doesn’t go everybody’s way every year. I’ve been through five Finals, a lot of success. You’re having one bad year. But we can make the playoffs and save it.”

BOSH ITEM

Confirmed earlier today that the Heat cannot apply for a disabled player exception for Bosh for this season because the deadline has already passed. The Heat would surpass the luxury tax threshold by using all of its $2.65 million disabled player exception that was awarded when it lost Josh McRoberts to a knee injury. Miami is about $1.4 million under the threshold.

### The Heat set up a large get-well card for fans to sign at Sunday's Family Fest.

### Pat Riley missed the Heat's Family Festival because of the flu.

UM NOTES

### For details on the soap opera involving cornerback Antonio Crawford (who did not show up to practice today and wrote since-deleted tweets that he's "out"), please see Susan Miller Degnan's UM story.

### Golden said Gus Edwards has emerged as the leader at running back.

"Running hard right now," Golden said. "Got to protect the ball a little better, but running hard, finishing runs, playing big. He's not just a big man running with the ball. He's playing big, running with his pads a little more, seeing it better."

Golden likely will use a running back by committee approach this season, with Edwards, Joe Yearby, Trayone Gray, summer arrival Mark Walton and perhaps Walter Tucker.

"I'd like to continue to use a bunch of guys," Golden said. "It takes the hits off them and keeps them healthy."

### Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is thrilled to have Al-Quadin Muhammad back from a university suspension.

"It's great to have him back," D'Onofrio said. "He's probably about 15 pounds heavier since last spring. I was commenting to guys when we were watching the tape; he's moving better, he's explosive, he's quick and he's moving well. "He's got a lot of recall with the scheme. He's not making mental errors and he's playing fast."

### Here's how D'Onofrio assessed his linebacker unit, which loses Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister:

"We decided to move Tyriq McCord over to SAM. Raphael Kirby has looked great, really taken on a leadership role. He's really an expert at what we're asking him to do on defense. He plays like a veteran guy.

"Jermaine Grace had a really good year for us athletically, and he continues to make plays. It kind of starts with those guys, and we have to gain the depth that we need. We're counting on Juwon Young. He's 6-2-plus and 245 pounds and probably runs in the 4.6s. He's got all the skill. He's just got to make sure he's honing in on his assignments. Marques Gayot going to WILL has been a really nice addition, moving from safety to now a real athletic linebacker. It seems like he's got good instincts at that position.

"We're working on creating that depth and we're going to have more guys added in the fall, guys that we signed. Bottom line is we've got to get to six or seven. Last year we only played with five. We were fortunate we didn't get hurt. [Losing Alex Figueroa and Jawand Blue] really hurt us."

### D'Onofrio was non-committal about whether he will use more 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Miami plays both.

"The defense always starts with the players in mind. One of the advantages of us being a hybrid defense is that we can play multiple fronts and coverages are --- you can't play everything --- but you have the ability to tailor the scheme to what the guys do well. That's really what we try to do. Put the guys in position. Match their skill set and doing what they do well."

### D'Onofrio said UM's three early enrollees on defense (Scott Patchan, Charles Perry, Jaquan Johnson) are at a disadvantage because spring practice started sooner than past years:

"Scott Patchan is not going right now because of an injury [torn ACL in high school last year], but he's eager to go," D'Onofrio said. "If you've seen him play in high school, you see the motor he plays with. Charles and Jaquan are really smart guys who really like football."

### One concern with Matt Guodis' retirement from football is freshman Michael Badgley's inconsistency with extra points last season (he missed four of them). He was 14 for 18 on field goals.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 21, 2015

Saturday 4 p.m.: Bosh news and outlook; Goran Dragic shares thoughts; UM spring practice report; Marlins notes

As we reported yesterday, Chris Bosh has been diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs and will miss the rest of the season, the Heat announced today.

"Chris is OK and his prognosis is good," the Heat said in a short statement.

Heat associates said he has been fatigued but is starting to feel better and is looking forward to returning next season. Blood-thinner medication to treat the ailment would make it dangerous for him to play this season.

"I will be back soon," Bosh posted on Instagram tonight.

The belief of doctors is that the pain that Bosh was experiencing in his ribs was related to this condition. He also had been feeling tired and some shortness of breath.

But nobody believed there was a serious problem until he checked into a Miami hospital late Thursday. He remains hospitalized as of this afternoon. Dwyane Wade and Erik Spoelstra visited him there this afternoon.

Other athletes have returned from this ailment, including Cleveland's Andersen Varejao in 2013, and tennis star Serena Williams.

Bosh finished the season averaged 21.1 points (13th in the league) and 7.0 rebounds in 44 games. This was the first season of a five-year, $118 million contract.

Udonis Haslem is starting at power forward in Bosh's absence, but the Heat also could decide to play small at times, with Dwyane Wade at small forward, Luol Deng at power forward and Goran Dragic and Mario Chalmers at guard.

The Heat signed veteran swingman Henry (formerly Bill) Walker to a 10-day contract today, giving them 14 players under contract and one open roster spot.

Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley are among available forwards. Thomas Robinson is of Heat interest after his Nuggets buyout is finalized, RealGM reported. The Heat had not contacted Blatche as of midday Friday and Miami could instead explore adding a "stretch-four," though Blatche can't be ruled out.

The Heat has a $2.65 million disabled player's exception that it will lose if not used by March 10. But the trade deadline passed Thursday.

As a personal aside, here's wishing all the best to Bosh, a gentleman who has always comports himself with decency, kindness and class.

Meanwhile, Goran and Zoran Dragic addressed the media today. Some snippets:

### Asked if he plans to stay longterm with the Heat (he can be a free agent this summer), Goran Dragic said: “I hope so [that] I’m going to stay here. But you never know in the business.”

### Erik Spoelstra said the Heat tried to get Dragic in the past but got “the door slammed” in its face.

### Spoelstra sees the opportunity to thrive with Dragic in the open court and in the halfcourt game.

“We want to play off steals, deflections, off stops,” Spoelstra said. “But he also has shown versatility to play a halfcourt game. You need to play both in the playoffs. He has incredible energy, a real battery that we want to utilize.”

### Goran Dragic, on making his Heat debut tonight without even going through a practice: “It’s going to be a little bit tough. But all the players are professional. They know how to play basketball. Coach will tell me what I need to do. I will try to do my best. I will play with a lot of energy, hustle for every ball.”

### Goran on his goals growing up: “As a kid, you always dream to play in the NBA. Thought process first was to make first division in Slovenia, then some big European club, then to make the NBA.”

Goran said when he was playing overseas, “I was always layups, layups, layups” but realized that wasn’t realistic in the NBA.

###  Goran, on his new teammates: “Hassan Whiteside --- Big body, blocks shots, good hands. Can finish under the rim. Big guy who can protect the paint. D-Wade everybody knows he’s one of the best two guards in the league. Really excited to play with him. He likes to play in the open court. I like to do the same thing.”

UM FOOTBALL NUGGETS

### Tyriq McCord, who was a hybrid rush end/linebacker last season, has now moved to strongside linebacker. UM’s first team ends on its current depth chart today were Ufomba Kamalu and Trent Harris. But Al Quadin Muhammad and Chad Thomas will play a lot.

### McCord was listed as a second-team linebacker, behind Darrion Owens, with Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace the other first-teamers at linebacker.

### Deon Bush and Dallas Crawford are the first-team safeties, and Tracy Howard and Artie Burns the first-team cornerbacks.

### Al Golden said Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois, both potential starters, are still recovering from knee surgery last season. McDermott will return to practice in mid-March, Golden said. Gadbois is out for the spring.

### Sunny Odogwu was listed as the first team left-tackle, ahead of early enrollee Jahair Jones. Right tackle Trevor Darling is also getting work at left tackle.

### Golden expects Rayshawn Jenkins to return at some point this spring from an injury.

### Defensive tackle Calvin Heurteleu will miss spring ball with a knee injury. Anthony Moten and Michael Wyche were listed as the starting tackles, with Courtel Jenkins on the second team.

### UM, which plays both a 4-3 and a 3-4, listed its depth chart as a 4-3, as it did last spring. Golden said nothing should be read into that.

### Gus Edwards was listed as the first team running back, ahead of Joe Yearby. “Both performed really well today,” James Coley said.

### Golden said Trayone Gray “is a different guy” from a year ago. “Now he’s starting to look like a running back.”

### Braxton Berrios is listed as the first-team punt returner, but Golden said six players will be competing for that job.

### James Coley, on Rayshawn Scott, who is back after being sidelined last year with a shoulder/clavicle injury: “When I first got here, I thought he was one of the most talented guys here. Fired up about him.”

Scott, Stacy Coley and Berrios are listed as the first-team receivers. Coley is the first-time kickoff returner.

### Golden said walk-on receiver Garrett Kidd has "retired" from football.

MARLINS CHATTER

The offseason trade to Miami was a surprise for Martin Prado, but also a pleasant one.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, Prado said Saturday he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”

The Marlins believe they upgraded at third by replacing Casey McGehee (a career .264 hitter) with Prado (a career .291 hitter).

“He’s a consummate professional, gives us professional at-bats, above-average defender and we have him for two years,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said.

Prado said he’s fine after an offseason appendectomy.

### If the Marlins again keep 12 pitchers, that would leave room for five backup position players. Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Baker and backup catcher Jeff Mathis figure to be three of them, with Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas, Justin Bour and a bunch of non-roster invitees (including Reed Johnson, Jordany Valdespin and Don Kelly, among others) competing for two others.

All can play multiple positions –- which the Marlins say they value -- except Bour, who said Saturday that “first base is where I belong.” That could hurt Bour’s chances even though he impressed late last season, hitting .284 in 74 at-bats.

### General manager Dan Jennings said the front office has had internal discussions about free agent right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, who had 44 saves for Milwaukee last season. He reportedly wants a two-year, $10 million deal, and the Marlins aren’t inclined to approach those numbers.

If the Marlins make another bullpen move, the preference would be to add a left-hander. They remain interested in former Tigers lefty Phil Coke, but only if he’s willing to be a non-roster invitee to camp.

### The Marlins have been scouting highly-regarded free agent infielder Hector Olivera, whom they see as a third baseman, but it seems doubtful they would make a big offer because of their commitment to Prado. The Dodgers reportedly are the favorite.

### The lines for tickets were longer than the past two mid-February Winter Warmup events (previously known as FanFest). The top-selling games: Opening Day vs. Atlanta April 6 and series against the Yankees and Red Sox. The Marlins already have surpassed last year’s season-ticket sales count of 5000.

### Marlins president Davis Samson said he believes the Marlins will become “an internationally celebrated team” because of their popularity in Latin America and the addition of Japanese star Ichiro, which will result in at least 90 Marlins games airing on Japanese television, compared with one or two in past years.

### Left-hander Brad Hand is out of minor league options and likely would be claimed by another team if the Marlins try to send him to Triple A. Hand, who is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in four years for the Marlins (including 31 starts), likely would compete with David Phelps for a rotation spot only if one of the Marlins’ five projected starting pitchers is injured.

"We’re going to prepare Hand to start,” Hill said. “Hopefully we’ll have some tough decisions to make.” Hand said he would “much rather start” but is willing to do either.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 19, 2015

10 a.m. Bosh update; Dragic's agent on why Miami appealed to him and his future; Analysts, scouts weigh in; Dragic nuggets; Mike Wallace

10 a.m. update: Doctors have diagnosed Chris Bosh with blood clots on his lung, a condition that typically would sideline players for the duration of the season, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Bosh remains at a local hospital and is believed to be on blood-thinner medication. He is weak and fatigued, but the longterm outlook is good.

Erik Spoelstra said Bosh will see more specialists in the next day before a final diagnosis is given. Spoelstra said the condition is not life-threatening.

Though nobody has definitively ruled Bosh out for the season, it's difficult to envision him returning because of the nature of the blood-thinner medication and the toll such a condition takes on the body.

It is unclear if Bosh will require any surgical procedure.

Bosh had been feeling tired and fatigued, with some shortness of breath and pain in the rib area, over the past few weeks, but nobody suspected anything serious until Thursday, when he was sent home from practice and checked into the hospital. 

Last weekend, Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard mentioned that Bosh was dealing with a rib injury. Doctors suspect the pain was related to his current condition.

Last month, Brooklyn Nets guard Mirza Teletovic was diagnosed with a similar condition (pulmonary embolus) and will miss the rest of the season. Cleveland forward Andersen Varejao was diagnosed with a blood clot on his lower right lung in January 2013 and missed the remainder of the season.

"They told me stories like, 'Oh my God, I had a friend who died of a blood clot in their lung," Varejao told Cleveland reporters at the time. "A week after surgery, I was at home thinking about how I could be gone right now."

Bosh is obviously a big loss; he ranks 13th in the NBA in scoring at 21.1 points per game. If he misses the rest of the season, that means that Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside will have played just 44 minutes together all season.

Without Bosh, Udonis Haslem could move into the starting role at power forward. He has played mostly backup center this season. The Heat's backup power forward, Shawne Williams, was shipped to New Orleans, through Phoenix, in Thursday's Goran Dragic trade. And even if he's released by the Pelicans, league rules prohibit the Heat from signing him.

As stated below, power/small forward Michael Beasley has interest in returning to the Heat, but Miami hadn't called him as of Thursday evening. Rashard Lewis also is available, having recovered from knee surgery. Another option is veteran power forward Andray Blatche, who recently completed his season in China. The Heat had not reached out to Blatche as of this morning, but he would make a lot of sense as a replacement.

9:45 p.m. Thursday update: I was told tonight that Chris Bosh was admitted to a local hospital this evening to try to get to the bottom of a chest/lung issue. As of this evening, the Heat was awaiting a diagnosis.

###########################################################################################

Heat chatter on the Goran Dragic trade:

### The Heat fully intends to re-sign Dragic when he can exercise an opt out this summer, and Dragic is interested in that. One of his agents said Thursday it’s likely Dragic will be in Miami for the long-term.

So why did Dragic include the Heat as one of his few preferred destinations (with the Knicks and Lakers)?

“First, because it’s one of the best organizations in the NBA," Rade Filipovich, one of Dragic’s two agents (with Bill Duffy), said Thursday evening.

“Second, they have a tremendous leader in Pat Riley and a tremendous coach in Erik Spoelstra. And they’ve got a pretty good team. He thinks this team can accomplish a lot. No question he likes playing with Dwyane Wade, one of the best players in the NBA, and playing with great players like Wade and Chris Bosh.”

He also relishes being able to play point guard again; Phoenix was playing him primarily at shooting guard.

“It’s a great fit,” Filipovich said. “Goran and Wade to bring the ball up, create offense, very good shooters –-- very interesting team. A playoff team. He feels lucky he ended up in Miami. He’s very happy.”

Dragic could command a five-year, $100 million deal with the Heat this summer, and Miami wouldn’t have made the trade without plans to keep him.

“It’s not difficult to cut a deal [when] you’re talking about Pat Riley,” Filipovich said.

### Dragic tweeted within the past hour: "NOW it's #heatnation time and I'm excited to bring the Dragon's fire to Miami!!!"

### TNT's Charles Barkley said the Heat is now a legitimate contender to win the East.

"Are they as good as Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta? They're in the conversation. Yes, they are," Barkley said. "They added an All-Star point guard. That was the one thing they were missing. They went from irrelevant [to relevant]. They got a lot better today. The two big winners today were Oklahoma City and Miami."

Said Shaquille O'Neal: "I agree with Chuck. I played with Goran Dragic. What it does for Miami is it gives them the ability to get back to running. The point guards weren't really running point guards. One was more of a shooter [Mario Chalmers, presumably]. The other [perhaps Norris Cole], I don't know what he did. Goran Dragic can penetrate, dish, can start the fast break, is a great passer. What he does best is, he loves getting people involved."

### Spoke or texted with several analysts tonight. Some reaction: ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, by text: “Great trade by the Heat. Really think he is a very good player. Love his game and mental makeup.”...

ESPN’s Doug Collins, by text: “A Winner! He upgrades them but still behind Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and probably Toronto and Washington. If healthy, I love their starting team.” But Collins has concerns about Miami’s bench….

NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas, by phone: “I love the move. If your point guard can’t score in today’s NBA, you are not going to win. It’s a point guard driven league now, and Dragic can penetrate, stretch the floor from the three-point line, and he scores. And he’s someone you have to game plan for. I’m sure Miami will loosen the reins a bit and play faster. If they can come together and Wade is healthy, they can beat Atlanta, Washington or Toronto in playoff series. I don’t think they’re good enough to win a playoff series against Cleveland or Chicago.”

### One Eastern Conference scout said Dragic is at his best playing at a fast pace and said the Heat, which averages the league’s fewest possessions, must quicken the tempo because “Dragic can really push the ball. They won’t flourish as they should with him if they don’t.”

Said another scout: “This helps Luol Deng, because Deng gets a lot of his stuff on the move and Dragic can penetrate and dish. He's a very good pick and roll player and they can run that with Hassan Whiteside. He’s not great defensively, but he’s one of the top 10 point guards in the league and he’s in his prime. For what they gave up, are you kidding me? They gave up nobody for a star.”

### Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, a guest in TNT's studio tonight, said "Goran helps Miami, takes a load off Chris Bosh. Now you've got to focus on a point guard who's driving the basketball. You've got D-Wade running the wing. You've got shooters on the wing. You've got Chris Bosh inside. Miami definitely got a steal with this one. Usually, you had to prepare for D-Wade and Bosh. Now you've got a guy pushing it 94 feet and getting to basket, getting layups, getting free throws."

### The Heat needs a stretch-four to replace Shawne Williams, and Michael Beasley would love to come back, a close associate said Thursday. Rashard Lewis, recovered from knee surgery, would be open to that, too. But Miami hadn’t called either as of Thursday.

### The Heat now has the high-percentage shooting backcourt. Dragic is second in the league among shooting guards, behind Kyle Korver, at 50.1 this season. Wade is third at 48.7 percent and shot an absurd 54.5 percent last season. And this is no anomaly with Dragic; he shot 50.5 percent for Phoenix last season, when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists and was all-NBA third team.

### What’s more, Dragic is the most accurate guard in the league, percentage-wise, in the basket area among qualifiers, shooting 68.2 percent within five feet.

### Wade and Bosh both expressed concern in the past month about Riley waiting until 2016 to make a big move, wondering if the gamble would pay off as it did in 2010. “You don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” Bosh told me earlier this season. Now they won’t have to worry about that.

### Dragic wanted to go back to playing point guard, and this illustrates his value there: During his minutes when he was at point guard and not playing with Phoenix’s other two point guards this season, Dragic averaged 27.9 points and 9.8 assists per 48 minutes. (ESPN projected the numbers over 36 minutes earlier this week.) Only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook could match those numbers.

### Dragic’s assist to turnover ratio of 1.85 to 1 is only 59th in the league, but he’s a creative passer and would have more assists if he had been the Suns’ primary ball-handler this season. He was 2.1-to-1 last season, which was 44th in the league.

### The Heat is now the NBA’s only team with five players in the top 90 in efficiency rating, as ESPN noted. Dragic is 88th this season and was 20th last season.

### Addressing point guard, the Heat’s biggest weakness, was vital because the 2016 free agent class has only one high-end point guard (Mike Conley), with Brandon Jennings and George Hill the second- and third-best options.

### As far as what the Heat gave up, no great loss. Riley has little use for draft picks, so parting with picks in 2017 and 2021 wasn't a concern. According to the Arizona Republic, the 2017 pick is top-seven protected for two years and unprotected in 2019...

The Heat was pleased to dump the $2.2 million due next season to Danny Granger, whose game had greatly diminished.... Miami likely would not have extended a $3 million qualifying offer to Norris Cole this summer.... The Heat didn't consider Justin Hamilton a rotation player. And though Shawne Williams led the Heat in three-pointers, the staff had concerns about his defense. 

### The Heat also gets Goran's brother, Zoran Dragic, who was standout player in Spain and Slovenia. He played just 13 minutes all season for the Suns, shooting 2 for 8. At 6-5, he can play shooting guard or small forward.

### Riley, on the trade: “Goran is an All-NBA player, including the Most Improved Player last season, and we felt that once he became available, we would do all that we could to acquire him. We feel he is the perfect complement to the players we have on the team. We are also pleased to bring his brother, Zoran, into the HEAT family. He had a great summer during international play and it’s great to have a brother-brother duo and someone that can help us in our rotation.”

DOLPHINS NOTE

The Dolphins are open to making it work with Mike Wallace but his future could hinge on his receptiveness to taking a pay cut/restructuring. Discussions were expected this week. Wallace is due $9.9 million next season, but none of it is guaranteed at the moment. Of that $9.9 million, $3.3 million becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year, which starts March 10. So Miami has some time to reach a resolution.

If the Dolphins don't keep Wallace, UM's Phillip Dorsett is one receiver with elite speed who would love to end up here. He said being drafted by the Dolphins would be a dream.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz             

February 18, 2015

Wednesday night report: Heat trade talk; Hurricanes, Marlins news, notes

Some Heat, Marlins and Canes talk on a Wednesday night:

### Pat Riley has said he does not want to make a lateral move at the trade deadline, that if he does something he wants it to be something that makes a genuine difference.

That’s why a bid for disgruntled Phoenix guard Goran Dragic makes by far the most sense of anything potentially available. But here’s the problem: Yahoo! reported tonight that, in return, the Suns want a young player with significant potential and one or two first-round draft picks.

The Heat, by league rule, cannot trade a first-round pick until 2017 (unless it acquires one from another team first). And the Heat obviously doesn't have a can't miss young player, excluding Hassan Whiteside, who can't be traded by league rule (within three months of signing his contract) and isn't available anyway.

But keep this in mind: Though rookie point guard Shabazz Napier wouldn't be remotely close to equal value for Dragic, the Suns raved about him before the draft last June.

"We place a value on winning, and I think of the guys in the draft he's probably one of the most ready to come in and make an impact right away," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said last June.

And after Napier's Suns workout last June, coach Jeff Hornacek said: "Shabazz, with his speed, quickness, condition, I thought was really good for as much as we do running. He kept pushing the ball, which is our style. That's what we want to see." Hmmm. Purely hypothetical, but Luol Deng, Napier and a 2017 first-rounder for Dragic and Gerald Green would work within cap rules.

According to Yahoo, the Celtics, Kings and Rockets have been among teams aggressive in pursuing a trade for Dragic. But Dragic does not wish to go to any of those teams, according to multiple reports, and it’s questionable how much any of them would be willing to give up with the knowledge that Dragic could bolt as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Heat apparently is willing to put nearly all its chips on the table in an attempt to make a significant move. As Yahoo’s Marc Spears noted, every player on the Heat roster is available except Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside.

But Luol Deng or Josh McRoberts likely would be moved only for a high-quality starter.

As for Dragic, he made it clear today that he wants out.

“I don’t trust them anymore,” he said of Suns management in an interview with the Arizona Republic and other Phoenix reporters. “I want to be a point guard, like I was in the past, all my life. To be a point guard to run the team, to have the ball in my hands and try to make plays for others. That’s who I am.”

ESPN reports the Knicks are offering Jose Calderon and Tim Hardaway Jr. for Dragic.

Besides Dragic, what else available would qualify as a significant upgrade? Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson has asked for a trade, according to Yahoo, but Oklahoma City might not accommodate him because he will be a restricted (not unrestricted) free agent this summer.

ESPN mentioned Indiana, Boston, Houston and Denver as suitors. But Jackson reportedly rejected a four year, $48 million contract from the Thunder and it would be somewhat risky to offer substantially more to a player who has averaged nine points and three assists in his career with just 49 career starts.

### Washington and Detroit reportedly have inquired about Norris Cole, but ESPN said the Heat is insisting Danny Granger’s contract (worth $2.2 million next season) be included in any deal.

If the Heat doesn’t trade Cole on Thursday, it would stand to lose him this offseason unless it makes him a $3 million qualifying offer.... Denver has interesting assets available (Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler), but the Nuggets want first-round picks (which the Heat lacks), and Lawson's deal --- with two seasons left --- is too burdensome.

CANES TALK

UM did what it needed to do over the past 72 hours, beating ACC doormats Boston College and Virginia Tech to move to 17-9 and 7-6 in the conference. Tonye Jekiri had 15 points and 15 rebounds and Sheldon McClellan scored 21 in tonight’s 76-52 shellacking of the Hokies.

This would be the most logical way for UM to make the NCAA Tournament: win at home against FSU, win at Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale and win one of these three (Saturday at Louisville, the following Saturday at home against North Carolina on CBS or at Pittsburgh on March 4), which would leave the Canes at 10-8 in the conference. Then win at least one game in the ACC Tournament just to be on the safe side.

UM entered tonight 62nd in RPI. Jim Larranaga said a team lower than 60 has “no shot” at making the NCAA Tournament and a team between 40 and 60 “better pray.”

### Though none of this should be taken too seriously because we’re nearly a year from National Signing Day, it’s (mildly) interesting that the Hurricanes keep adding oral commitments for 2016. UM is up to 18 now after procuring a pledge today from Fort Pierce Central three-star linebacker Greg Simmons.

247sports.com ranks UM’s 2016 class the best in the country, and 11 of the 18 commits are from South Florida’s tri-county area. Of course, UM needs to win next season to hold onto at least some of these prospects.

### UM baseball lost 5-3 at FAU tonight to fall to 4-1.

MARLINS TALK

We’ll have a lot on the Marlins in the coming days, coinciding with the opening of camp on Friday, but here are a few items culled from their charity golf tournament today:

Despite a report linking former Yankees and Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain to the Marlins, Miami isn’t pursuing him. The Marlins would have interest only in lefties (primarily Phil Coke), and only if he’s willing to accept a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, which he hasn’t been willing to do to this point.

"If there is opportunity to bring someone in as a non-roster invitee, we’ll look at it,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “But we don’t have to do anything at this point.”….

Unlike nearly all of his teammates, Dan Haren wasn’t at the golf tournament today and he made clear earlier this offseason that he preferred to play closer to his Southern California home. Hill has spoken with Haren and is convinced he will come to camp with a good attitude. Hill said there are no plans to trade him and expects him to be in the rotation in April.

He said, ‘I’m good. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to help this team win ball games. I couldn’t be happier,’" Hill said. "I’m very happy where we are with our rotation."...

Hill said Jose Fernandez, returning from Tommy John surgery, is expected to throw off a mound early in spring training. WINZ-940’s Andy Slater reported that will happen on March 1.

“We’re cautiously optimistic with him,” said Hill of Fernandez, who’s expected to return between mid-June and mid-July.  “His rehab has gone great.”…

Mike Redmond said he’s not sure whether Giancarlo Stanton will bat third or cleanup but mentioned the upside of getting him a guaranteed at-bat in the first inning. In that scenario of Stanton hitting third, Christian Yelich would bat second, and Michael Morse could hit cleanup, with Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna behind him. But Redmond wants to experiment in spring training before committing to a lineup. Yelich said today he would be happy whether he hits second or third.

The Marlins have added former Marlins infielder Lenny Harris as assistant hitting coach, a No. 2 of sorts behind Frank Menichino.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

February 17, 2015

10:30 p.m.: Heat/Dragic; UM confronts issue of replacing top playmakers, hopes for elite front seven talent to emerge; Pouncey news; Ichiro

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM football, coming off a 6-7 disaster, began spring practice Tuesday without six of its best players from a year ago but with several interesting issues. Among them:

### Can UM adequately replace its much dangerous playmakers (Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett) and will running back and receiver remain the team’s strengths?

The staff believes the by-committee group of Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and summer arrival Mark Walton – with some Trayone Gray and Walter Tucker --- will keep the running game humming at a high level. And new receivers coach Kevin Beard is determined to get Stacy Coley back to his freshman form.

Yearby, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 86 attempts, is so determined to be the next great UM back that he said he studies tape of his legendary predecessors at night --- “Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James. I see similarities with Willis in my running style.” (So does his position coach, Tim Harris.)

Yearby said he’s ready to assume the lead role because “I’ve improved on being more patient and seeing the holes more.” But “I need to get better period. I can be much better running away from people and breaking tackles.”

Yearby said he needs to get stronger in his upper body to carry a bigger load. Harris agrees: “If he continues to keep getting stronger, he’s going to be real good. That will help him deal with the physicality of being a college player.”

Duke Johnson loves Gray’s big-play potential, and offensive coordinator James Coley said: “We’ll find out [about Gray] in the spring and we’ll try to get him the ball and see what he can do in space as a receiver. He’s a little more natural in the backfield than at wideout.”

Said Harris: “Trayone can turn into a big time running back. He’s very strong physically. Learning a new position coming out of high school, there’s a transition. Once he gets knowledge of everything, he can turn into something really special.”

Recruiting guru Larry Blustein predicts Walton will emerge as UM’s best back in August.

As for receiver, Dorsett's blazing speed will be sorely missed. But Beard is determined to get more out of Coley, who slipped from 33 catches for 591 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman to 23-184-0 as a sophomore.

"He had so much success [initially], he felt he was good where he was," Beard said. "Everyone else got better around him. He understands he has a lot of work to do.”

UM’s likely top five receivers: Coley, Rashawn Scott (redshirted with a collarbone/shoulder injury), Herb Waters (20 for 277 last season), Malcolm Lewis (25 for 248) and Braxton Berrios (21-232).

Berrios started strong (17 catches in the first six games) but had just four receptions for 47 yards over the final seven. Brad Kaaya and Berrios have a chance to be one of UM’s prolific quarterback/receiver combos in many years, in terms of number of catches, but Dorsett said Berrios needs to improve route running and “getting in and out of breaks” faster.

Beard said he wants Berrios to “be a playmaker, get yards after the catch” and “not just be a possession guy.”

Beard said he has to get Scott “to understand that football is not just when the time says it’s football. You should be able to do this for the next 10 years” if he’s genuinely committed.

And Beard wants Waters, whose numbers declined, “to dial in more on the technical side of the game because he’s exceptionally fast and explosive.”

Four receivers looking to crack the top five: Darrell Langham, Tyre Brady, D’Mauri Jones (one catch, 13 yards last season) and freshman Lawrence Cager, who arrives this summer. Brady is 6-3, Langham and Jones 6-4 and Cager 6-5. So one of those four could emerge as a red zone threat.

### Extracting more from this defensive line, and hoping elite players emerge.

So much of UM’s hope defensively rests on the optimism that at least three among Chad Thomas, Al Quadin Muhammad (off a semester suspension), Demetrius Jackson and Trent Harris will become clearly above-average rush ends, complementing Tyriq McCord and end/tackle Ufomba Kamalu.

Most were top recruits, but whether there’s a Calais Campbell or Olivier Vernon in this group remains highly questionable.

Thomas, a five-star recruit, didn’t have a sack as a freshman but coordinator Mark D’Onofrio is effusive about him.

"The sky is the limit for Chad,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s really smart, has a great frame, has shown his versatility. We move him around quite a bit. For a freshman to have multiple roles and do that shows you his football intelligence. You will see him get bigger and stronger.”

Jackson, a four-star recruit, redshirted last season but was “really impressive on the scout team,” D’Onofrio said. He was an impact pass rusher as a senior at Booker T. Washington (12 sacks, 13 hurries).

At defensive tackle, UM knows it has decent players in Calvin Heurteleu, Courtel Jenkins and Kamalu. All still have room to grow. The question is whether Michael Wyche or Anthony Moten will live up to the hype. Miami badly needs an All-ACC caliber tackle, but it's questionable if there's one on the roster.

Wyche “was 30 pounds overweight when he got here, was coming off an injury and didn’t have any knowledge of our schemes. That’s about as far away as you can be,” D’Onofrio said.  But “he has made up a lot of ground” and if he commits himself this offseason, “I think he can be an impact guy. There’s a high ceiling.”

Still, a UM person who watched him in practice last year and wasn’t overwhelmed now wonders if the staff overestimated him coming out of East Los Angeles Community College.

Moten, the four-star prospect from St. Thomas Aquinas who spurned offers from FSU and others, arrived as the nation’s seventh-rated defensive tackle but played sparingly.

“Moten has flashed,” D’Onofrio said. “He’s continuing to improve. He shows he definitely has the ability to be the player we recruited.” The hope is that UM extracts more from Moten than it has from its other recent four-star defensive tackle, Jelani Hamilton.

Hamilton, Corey King, Joe Brown and two summer arrivals (Ryan Fines, Kendrick Norton) will try to crack the top four or push for whatever snaps remain.

### FYI: No media was allowed on campus for today's first practice of the spring and UM did not issue a news release with highlights. But a few pictures were posted on the school's web site, including one showing junior college arrival Jahair Jones lining up at left tackle. Jones, according to UM, picked the Hurricanes over Ohio State.

Please see the last post for part one of our two-part UM spring football analysis.

CHATTER

### Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, due $7.4 million in the final season of his contract, said Monday he was left with the impression that the Dolphins want to work out a multiyear deal this offseason. “I think I’ll be a Dolphin for a long time,” he said after playing Jason Taylor's charity golf tournament…

The Dolphins haven’t told him if he’s moving back to center, but he told them he wants to do that and everyone believes it’s likely…

Pouncey said he would like the Dolphins to sign “a really good veteran guard” and is recommending San Francisco impending free agent Mike Iupati. "Good player," he said. Pouncey said playing alongside a quality guard makes the game easier.

### Yahoo! reported tonight that the Heat is among preferred destinations for Phoenix guard Goran Dragic and USA Today said he informed the Suns that he won't re-sign as a free agent this summer, which could motivate the Suns to deal him before Thursday's trade deadline.

As we noted last week, Pat Riley really likes Dragic. The question is whether Riley would part with Luol Deng as part of a package for Dragic (a very strong case can be made to do so, even though it would leave the Heat bereft at small forward), and whether the Suns receive better offers elsewhere.

An interesting permutation (purely hypothetical at the time of this posting) could be a deal built around Deng and Josh McRoberts for Dragic and swingman Gerald Green. Green could replace Deng at small forward. For cap reasons, more money would need to be sent from Phoenix to Miami if the Heat included Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers in such a deal.

The Heat, Lakers and Knicks are the three teams on Dragic's list of preferred destinations and that has been conveyed to the Suns, Yahoo reports. But USA Today reports Dragic's list includes seven teams. Sacramento and Oklahoma City are among teams pursuing team, according to Yahoo.

A team trading for Dragic gets his Bird rights and could exceed the cap to re-sign him this summer to a deal for as long as five years.

Dragic is averaging 16.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds while playing a lot of shooting guard to accommodate point guards Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. He was third All-NBA last season playing both point guard and shooting guard, and he wants to go back to running a team, according to tonight's reports.

When I asked Pat Riley if he would sign a player in the next year to a contract beyond 2016, he made clear he would for a high-level talent, a "star." Dragic would qualify.

### Spoke to two NBA general managers in the past week and both said the Heat’s lack of assets is seriously limiting them in trade talks. One of the GMs said Monday that the Heat badly wants to make the playoffs and thus is not looking to trade veterans for prospects.

"They can’t get much for [Chris Andersen] or any of their point guards so I don’t see them adding anything of significance," that GM said.

Denver reportedly is listening to offers for point guard Ty Lawson, but he’s due $25.6 million over the next two seasons. Phoenix is listening on point guard Isaiah Thomas, but he has three years and $20 million left on his contract after this season and he's shorter (5-9) than the Heat ideally prefers. But remember, Riley said he wants to take on contracts past 2016 only for high-end players....

Among cheap point guard options, Sacramento's Ramon Sessions has been mentioned in trade talks, according to one of the GMs. But he's shooting just 34 percent this season and is a career 31 percent shooter from three-point range....

The Heat likes Denver shooting guard Aaron Afflalo, but as Yahoo! noted, doesn't have enough to entice Denver.

### Only Memphis is allowing fewer points than the Heat --- partly the result of Miami’s slow pace (the Heat has the fewest possessions per game) --- and former Heat forward Shane Battier said he “laughs” because Erik Spoelstra  is now trying some things defensively, on pick and rolls specifically, that Battier suggested but Spoelstra never agreed to do until Battier retired.

### Among the unusual things about new Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki: He has 10 Pilates machines, each for different parts of his body, and the team has agreed to make space for all of them at Marlins Park.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

February 16, 2015

Linebacker, O-line among issues of concern heading into UM spring; Dolphins draft talk

Some Canes and Dolphins on a Monday night:

UM starts spring practice in secrecy on Tuesday. The UM coaching staff had not planned to publicize (in advance) that spring practice was beginning Tuesday, but safety Deon Bush announced it on Twitter.

UM subsequently has confirmed it but the first two sessions of spring (Tuesday and Thursday) won't be open to the media and there will be no interviews of players or coaches until the weekend.

Positions of concern? As usual, the defensive line. But linebacker is also a major worry.

Miami's only high impact linebacker, Denzel Perryman, is departing, and the group wasn’t great to begin with.

Mark D’Onofrio has said Raphael Kirby (two forced fumbles, two picks last season) will move to the middle to replace Perryman, backed up by Juwon Young. Darrion Owens (23 tackles in 12 games) or perhaps hybrid end/linebacker Tyriq McCord would potentially replace departed Thurston Ambrister.

Jermaine Grace --- who had 60 tackles and three sacks and is much improved –-- projects as a likely starter, also.

But there’s nobody elite in that group, and the depth is unproven: Young, converted safety Marques Gayot, redshirt freshman Mike Smith and three newcomers --- Charles Perry and summer arrivals James King and Jamie Gordinier.

Thoughts on a few other positions (this is part one of a two-part blog post):

### Safety: UM would love Deon Bush and Jamal Carter to become the dominant tandem that Vaughn Telemaque and RayRay Armstrong never truly became. But UM didn’t trust Carter enough in coverage last season to play him ahead of departed walk-on Nantambu Fentress.

Dallas Crawford and Rayshawn Jenkins (whose erratic play frustrated coaches before he sat out last season with an injury) should play a lot, and coaches can’t stop raving about the instincts and intelligence of early arrival Jaquan Johnson. Watching Johnson's development should be one of the interesting stories of the spring.

### Cornerback: Only Ladarius Gunter departs, leaving Artie Burns, Corn Elder, Antonio Crawford, Tracy Howard and probably Ryan Mayes as the top five.

A three-star prospect from Northwestern, Mayes didn’t get a lot of offers but is rangy and had some good moments last spring.

“He’s a guy we really like to be that long corner,” D’Onofrio said. “He can also play safety [but] I think he will stay at corner.”

Michael Jackson and Sheldrick Redwine arrive this summer. 

### Quarterback: Improving footwork and accuracy will be the top areas of focus for Brad Kaaya, coaches say. James Coley has told us he will push Kaaya very hard this offseason and will ask him to game-plan all of Miami's opponents. 

Malik Rosier, who’s playing baseball, said he will be available for most practices, but baseball is his priority during baseball season and the March 28 spring game at Lockhart conflicts with a UM baseball road trip.

### Tight end: Standish Dobard said he knows the tradition of the position at UM and takes very seriously the challenge of becoming the next great Hurricanes tight end. He has shown flashes as a receiver (21 yard average on seven catches in 2014).

UM believes Chris Herndon will be a solid No. 2, loves the potential of David Njoku (moved from linebacker to tight end) and hopes early arrival Jerome Washington will be much better than UM’s most recent highly-touted junior college tight end (Beau Sandland). Jake O'Donnell remains on the roster but hasn't shown much.

### Offensive line: Kc McDermott and Taylor Gabdois, both potential starters at tackle, are expected to miss the spring recovering from October knee injuries, Al Golden told The Herald in early January. That leaves right guard Danny Isidora as the only healthy returning starter.

But Art Kehoe said he’s high on his prospects, including potential starters Trevor Darling and Nick Linder.  He also speaks glowingly about 6-8, 312-pound Sunny Odugwu.

Junior college transfer Jahair Jones, who arrived last month, could emerge as a starting option at guard or tackle.

Hunter Wells and Alex Gall also will be in the mix for playing time.

Six freshmen linemen arrive this summer. “We are going to be fine up front,” Kehoe said.

Check back Tuesday for assistant coaches' comments and thoughts about players at other positions.

DOLPHINS DRAFT TALK

For those hoping Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton slips to Miami with the 14th pick, that might be wishful thinking, based on projections of analysts. 

"Shelton is a top-10 pick for me," Mike Mayock said today on a conference call. "I love him. Reminds me of Haloti Ngata. I think everybody sees that comparison."

As Mayock noted, the Dolphins badly need a cornerback, though it's quite possible that could be addressed in free agency.

If the Dolphins take a corner at 14, Mayock said the top three options at the position are Michigan State's Trae Waynes, Washington's Marcus Peters (has had off-field issues that could scare away the Dolphins) and LSU's Jalen Collins.

"Trae is very comfortable in press coverage," Mayock said. "He's got length. He jumps up there like all the Michigan State corners do. He understands the game. He's played through the field, he's played into the boundary. He tackles. I know when you get a Michigan State kid coming off that defense, he's got a tough kid that will tackle that's been well-coached. So that appeals to me first and foremost. His length, his competitiveness, and the fact that he can play press and will tackle.

"Beyond that, I am intrigued by the Jalen Collins kid at LSU who has nine or ten starts in his career. Came out early, but he's 6-2 and similar to Waynes in that he will compete in press coverage. They're the three top guys. P.J. Williams from Florida State is in the conversation, but I think he's a little later. And I think Trae Waynes make-up, and the fact that I trust that he'll come in and compete day one is kind of a difference maker for me."

### Though some have linked West Virginia receiver Kevin White to Miami at No. 14, Mayock said: "Kevin White's my No. 1 wideout. I think if he runs 4.5 or better, he's a top 10 pick."

Unlike most draftniks, Mayock has Alabama receiver Amari Cooper rated behind White. Louisville receiver Devante Parker projects for Miami's range.

### For more about the Dolphins and Canes from Mayock's call today, check out Adam Beasley's story on the sports home page (the story with the headline about UM's Ereck Flowers).

###  Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 15, 2015

Do Hurricanes really perform better in NFL? Exploring the criticism; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

When eight Hurricanes players audition for pro teams at the NFL Combine this week, you can expect to hear more of the narrative that inflamed the UM fan base recently.

The angry reaction began when Anthony Chickillo, after a dominating performance as a 4-3 defensive end in last month’s East-West Shrine Game, said he couldn’t display his athleticism much at UM because he was cast as a 3-4 defensive end/tackle. (Al Golden said Chickillo’s  comment was news to him.)

Then Fox college football writer Bruce Feldman tweeted that Chickillo “may be the next Cane in a long line that looks better in the NFL than at UM.”

So how much truth is there to that assertion? 

There were a few examples of this under Randy Shannon, primarily Jimmy Graham and Sam Shields. But Graham played only one year of football at Miami (17 catches, 213 yards) and Shields --- who has 15 interceptions in five NFL seasons – wasn’t moved to cornerback until his final season at UM, a position shift that should have happened sooner.

How accurate is Feldman’s tweet during Golden’s tenure? We looked at the 19 Hurricanes who played for Golden and were either drafted or signed with a team and appeared in at least two NFL games.

Of those 19, three so far have had better pro than college careers: Seantrel Henderson, Olivier Vernon and Chase Ford. Vernon played only six games for Golden because of an NCAA suspension and had 1.5 sacks that season and one sack every 3.3 games in his college career. As a Dolphin, he has 21.5 sacks, or one every 2.2 games.

Vernon said he has “learned so much” about technique, hand placement and other nuances since turning pro, mostly from respected former defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers.

Henderson, once the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit, was a backup for part of his senior season at UM and never fulfilled his potential here, partly because of multiple suspensions for marijuana use and other maturity issues. A seventh-round pick, he started every game at right tackle for the Buffalo Bills; Pro Football Focus rated him 82nd of 84 tackles in 2014.

Ford, who caught 16 passes for 184 yards at UM (including one season under Golden), has 34 for 391 in two years as a pro.

A few other names are worth raising in this discussion: Brandon Linder, a solid offensive lineman at UM, was very good as a rookie third-round starter for Jacksonville; Pro Football Focus rated him 10th-best among 78 right guards. Mike James, a sixth-round pick in 2013, produced a much better per-carry average for Tampa as a rookie (4.9, on 60 attempts) than he ever did at UM before fading last season.

Some will mention undrafted UM backups Luther Robinson (who played in five games for Green Bay last season) and Asante Cleveland (appeared in six for the 49ers), but their NFL impact has been negligible. Ray Ray Armstrong, who was dismissed from the Hurricanes in Golden’s second year, made three starts for the Raiders at outside linebacker last season. Some NFL people believe UM played him out of position at safety.

Don’t include Allen Hurns in Feldman’s argument. He thrived as an undrafted rookie for Jacksonville (51 catches, 677 yards), but his numbers were better as a senior at UM (62-1162).

Bottom line: The majority of NFL players who played under Golden were more productive in their final season at UM than they were initially in the NFL, but there are exceptions. It will be interesting to see what happens with Chickillo and others from this class.

“It’s not college coaches’ job to prepare players for the NFL,” said one veteran NFC scout who has watched UM a lot. “It’s their job to prepare them to beat Florida State. But I do think Miami coaches do a good job of preparing kids for the NFL. Most who have the talent are NFL ready.”

So perhaps with this UM staff, the greater issue is schemes and strategy and how players are used, more so than if they’re being developed. “You’re going to see a lot of new looks,” Golden assured WQAM's Joe Rose recently when Rose asked him if there would be any offensive and defensive changes.

This will irritate UM fans who wonder how UM could have gone 6-7: ESPN's Mel Kiper now has three Hurricanes going in the first round: Ereck Flowers 16th, Denzel Perryman 28th and Phillip Dorsett 31st. No other school has more than two first-rounders in his mock draft.

That NFC scout raves about Dorsett (“he will be a good No. 2 receiver and could start as a slot guy now”) and said Duke Johnson, because of his size, will be no more than a third-down back. Kiper said Johnson could slip to the fourth round.

### Sunday's night UM-at-Boston College game in Chestnut Hill, Mass., has been postponed until Monday because of dangerous driving conditions in the region, caused by snow and wind.

CHATTER

### The Heat hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1990 and hasn’t bid for one in many years partly because the NBA takes too many premium seats for the Heat to be able to accommodate all its season-ticket holders. But Eric Woolworth, the Heat’s president/business operations, said “we are taking a fresh look at the possibility.”

A person who listened to Woolworth’s speech at a United Way function last week emerged optimistic that the Heat could get the game in 2019 or 2020. The Heat already has spoken to the Marlins about hosting an All-Star weekend entertainment event at Marlins Park. But Woolworth indicated it’s still in the exploratory stages.

### Of the five teams competing for the final two playoff spots, the Heat has the best chance (42.4 percent), according to ESPN’s complicated computer playoff formula. Boston is next at 38.2.    

### Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry is so driven that less than two weeks after the season ended, he already was at a training facility in Arizona (with Giants star and former LSU teammate Odell Beckham) working laboriously on improving his explosiveness.

“I had to beg him to take time off,” said his agent, Demarius Bilbo. “He wants to show people he’s an outside receiver, not just a slot receiver.”

### As of last week, the Dolphins still had not given impending free agent Jared Odrick any idea if they want him back.

### The Marlins discussed a three-year, $60 million deal with pitcher James Shields before he took a four-year, $75 million offer from San Diego, according to a person with direct knowledge. The Marlins initially were reluctant to get involved but made an attempt late. But Shields said the Padres and Cubs were his finalists. 

### Miami has spoken with Scott Boras about free agent Francisco Rodriguez, who had 44 saves for Milwaukee in 2014, but they’re asking for more than what Miami is willing to pay... As MLB.com noted, the Marlins have interest in free agent lefty Phil Coke (5-2, 3.88 ERA for Detroit last season) if he's willing to accept a minor-league deal.

### These closed-door arbitration hearings can get lively. For example, according to a source on the side of pitcher David Phelps, the Marlins said in his hearing last week that the former Yankees pitcher projects as a relief pitcher here (barring an injury to a starter).

The Phelps side objected, as they would in a courtroom, pointing out that only past performance, not future role, can be used in arbitration arguments. The Marlins won the hearing, making them 2-0 this year. (They also beat Mat Latos.)

### It was an odd visual to see Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who both vehemently opposed the Marlins stadium deal, standing alongside Marlins officials Friday, glowing about being awarded the 2017 All-Star game.

“Since we did build them a stadium, we deserve a team that wins, a team that eventually wins the World Series,” Gimenez told me recently. “If they are moving in that direction, I applaud them. I hope the ownership group has learned from their mistakes and become a better part of this community.... It's a beautiful stadium and we need to support the stadium and Major League Baseball.”

### David Beckham’s group approached a Watson Island developer last week about building an MLS stadium across from Jungle Island but was rebuffed. Beckham so badly wants a waterfront site, but it seems unrealistic.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

February 13, 2015

MLB Commissioner speaks out on Marlins, A-Rod, pitch clock and more; Simms on Tannehill; Beard's UM impact felt

Some Friday night tidbits:

### Interesting comments from CBS Phil Simms today on Sid Rosenberg's talk show on WMEN-640:

"Can we just get off this, 'Is Ryan Tannehill the guy down there?'" Simms said. "Can we stop it? Quit worrying about the quarterback, Miami. Worry about everybody else. The quarterback is fine. You got me? The quarterback is fine.

"Man, he was ripping [it] every game. You can't complain about how he played the last 8 or 10 or 12 games, or whatever it was. He was absolutely ... I'm not going to say terrific ... He was very good. He's not the reason [the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs]. So, please, everybody move on to the next thing. Find something else to talk about down there; it's not the quarterback."

### Looks like new UM receivers coach Kevin Beard will be a real asset in recruiting. Beard said he will focus a lot of his efforts in Broward County, where the Canes need the help. UM had more players from New Jersey (two) than Broward (one) in this year's recruiting class. 

St. Thomas Aquinas' Sam Bruce, a UM oral commitment who's rated the No. 4 receiver in the 2016 class, told 247sports.com that he was very pleased UM hired Beard: "I loved it. I'm very excited not only for me as an incoming player but also for him. He's been a great mentor ever since my eighth grade year [at University School].

"Ever since I met him he's been nothing but real to me. Coach Beard is a phenomenal coach and person. I'm just going to wait until I take a couple of visits and see a couple of schools and hopefully after the season I'll be able to make my decision."

Bruce said he ranks UM first, UF second and Oregon third.       

WORDS WITH ROB MANFRED 

Baseball’s new commissioner is bullish about the sport in South Florida, ready to give Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez a fresh start after his year-long drug suspension and open to someday deciding whether to lift Pete Rose’s lifetime ban.

Rob Manfred, only the 10th commissioner in MLB history, is just 20 days into the job as the successor to Bud Selig, who served 22 years, second-longest behind Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

There’s a lot on Manfred’s plate. Though he takes over at a time of labor peace and rising revenue, he faces challenges keeping the sport appealing to the younger generation. An ESPN poll last spring found that among young people ages 12 to 17, as many called themselves avid fans of Major League Soccer as Major League Baseball (18 percent), compared with 39 percent for the NFL and 23 percent for the NBA.

So it’s no surprise that Manfred has discussed innovative ways to speed up the game, including a pitch clock, and creative ways to increase scoring, including the possibility of eliminating defensive shifts.

The 8.14 runs per game last season were the lowest in the majors since 1981. And the 3 hour, 2 minute average length for nine-inning games was 27 minutes longer than 20 years ago.

Manfred, who has worked full-time for baseball since 1998 and was MLB’s chief operating officer since 2013, addressed those and other issues during his Friday visit to Marlins Park for the awarding of the 2017 All-Star Game:

### On the Marlins: “I’m optimistic about baseball in Miami. They’ve got a great facility. They’ve got a great young team and I think this market will support a winner.”

He said the Marlins’ All-Star “bid was compelling across the board. The facility is absolutely fantastic. They delivered a great [Miami Beach] Convention Center site for our Fanfest. It was time for baseball to recognize and pay back South Florida for what they did in building this stadium… It was time for us to be in Florida.”

### On Rodriguez, with whom he met last month: “I’m very proud of the drug program that we have negotiated. One of the important aspects is there are very, very severe penalties. Mr. Rodriguez was out for an entire season as a result of his involvement.

“I think the flip side of those penalties is once a player has served out his time, baseball has to make every effort to allow him to resume his career. I have had a number of conversations and a meeting with Mr. Rodriguez in an effort to help him be in the best possible position to resume his career.”

Just 16 months ago, after Rodriguez criticized Selig, Manfred blasted Rodriguez, calling it the “latest, sad chapter in Mr. Rodriguez's tarnished career [and] yet another example of this player trying to avoid taking responsibility for his poor choices.”

### On Rose: “I’m sure there will come a point in time when I’m going to have to make a decision with respect to Mr. Rose. It would be inappropriate for me to say anything about the substance other than that.” Manfred told ESPN recently: “I fully intend to decide it."

Rose, who was banned from the sport for gambling on baseball, told USA Today last week that he has never met Manfred and wants to be on the writer’s ballot for Hall of Fame voting, which cannot happen under the Hall’s current rules unless he’s reinstated.

Asked about that on Friday, Manfred said: “With respect to who votes for Mr. Rose being in the Hall of Fame, those rules are controlled by the Hall of Fame, not by Major League Baseball.”

### MLB experimented with a 20-second pitch clock in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago; any violation resulted in a ball call. I asked him today if the big leagues will implement a pitch clock at some point.

“I’m positive about the experiment in the Arizona Fall League, positive enough about it that we’re going to use it in Double A and Triple A this year,” Manfred said. “I think [it’s] too early to make a prediction about whether it will become in effect in the big leagues…. Pace of game is an issue for us. We’re working hard with the players’ association. I think we’ll have some changes that will be applicable for this year but it’s going to be an ongoing topic.”

### Manfred said last month that banning defensive shifts could boost offense, and Yahoo! reported Friday that the strike zone, which has seemingly expanded in recent years, could be constricted.

“I started quite a furor with the defensive shift comment,” Manfred said Friday. “This is a topic that we’ve had some internal conversation about. We have not made any decision if it’s something we want to pursue. We’re still looking at the data, trying to decide whether we’re going to make any change in order to increase the offense and whether this change makes sense. It’s way down the road…

“We really haven’t been to the clubs on this issue. Baseball wants to be pro-active in making sure it’s thinking about issues that may be emerging in the game and this was one of those issues.”

### The United States and Cuba are moving toward normalizing of relations, and Manfred said that’s “we’re monitoring closely exactly what that change in policy is going to be because we do have interest in getting the best possible talent from anywhere around the world. Cuba is a great source of talent.”

### Baseball has no international draft but Manfred said he believes there will be one “over the long haul. As of right now, Cuban players will be treated like other international players.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz