BC-FL--Florida Sports Digest, FL
The supervisor is Mike Schneider. All times are in Eastern Time unless otherwise noted. If there are questions about stories, photos or photo contributions please call the Miami bureau at 1-800-824-5498 or 305-594-5825. Ian Mader is the News Editor and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have other statewide stories or breaking news of interest to AP members in Florida, send them via email to email@example.com or fax to 305-594-9265. The AP’s general website is www.ap.org. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616) or from the Miami bureau.
JUPITER _ For a franchise that has been a perennial loser, Victor Victor Mesa sounds like a winner. The Miami Marlins can’t be sure, however, because they they’ve never seen Mesa play. They agreed to a $5.25 million signing bonus last October with the highly touted Cuban defector and can begin to assess the investment Saturday when their spring training season starts. By Steven Wine.
KISSIMMEE _ If Ronald Acuna Jr. is dropped down in the Atlanta Braves’ batter order, Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies could be the top candidates to lead off. “I’m going to wait and see where we’re at in a couple of weeks. I don’t think we have to set a lineup right now, and it could change,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I have different ideas but I don’t think right now or even a week from now we have to have anything set.” By Dick Scanlon.
WEST PALM BEACH _ As important as setting his pitching rotation, Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez will begin to determine his catching platoon when Grapefruit League games begin on Saturday. After two years of subpar play at one of the game’s most important positions, the Nationals elected to let Matt Wieters leave via free agency and fortified the position by trading for Yan Gomes and by signing Kurt Suzuki. By Chuck King.
CLEARWATER _ Third baseman Trevor Plouffe has agreed to a minor league contract to remain with the Philadelphia Phillies. If added to the 40-man roster, he would get a one-year contract with a $750,000 salary while in the major leagues.
FORT MYERS, Fla. _ Dustin Pedroia’s goal isn’t merely to come back from his knee injury. He’s done that before. By Jimmy Golen.
TAMPA _ Greg Bird is stronger, healthier and ready to challenge Luke Voit for the New York Yankees’ first-base job. After three injury-marred seasons, the 26-year old Bird reported to the Yankees’ spring training complex in early January and checked into camp at 230 pounds, up about 20 from the end of last season. By Mark Didtler.
FORT MYERS _ Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo, who covered the Red Sox and the rest of the sport for more than three decades, died Thursday after collapsing outside the team’s spring training clubhouse. He was 62. The newspaper said Cafardo appeared to have an embolism. The team’s medical staff responded quickly but was unable to revive him. By Jimmy Golen.
TEMPE, Ariz. _ Players’ union head Tony Clark says Adam Wainwright’s comments about a possible strike were in line with widespread concern he hears from his members about a free-agent market they claim has become dysfunctional. Starting his tour of spring training camps, Clark said he isn’t drawing conclusions about the market based on Manny Machado’s $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres, which would be the second-highest contract in baseball history. Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are among dozens of free agents still looking for a deal. By Jay Cohen.
NEW YORK _ The baseball players’ union is urging the sport’s exclusive cap supplier to keep open its plant in Derby, New York, and not move production to a nonunionized facility in Florida. New Era Cap Co. said in November it was planning to shut the site in March and reached a closing agreement with the union last month. New Era has been Major League Baseball’s cap supplier since 1993.
PHILADELPHIA _ The Miami Heat visit the Philadelphia 76ers. By Aaron Bracy. UPCOMING: 650 words, photos. Game starts at 7 p.m.
NBA-ONE AND DONE
MIAMI _ The NBA and its players are continuing to move forward on plans to eliminate the “one-and-done” rule in college basketball, something that the sides have been working toward for months. The league has sent a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association on lowering the minimum age for entering the NBA Draft from 19 to 18, and the union discussed the contents at a meeting in the Bahamas earlier this week, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither side released the proposal publicly. By Tim Reynolds.
CORAL GABLES _ The job is done. The United States is going to the FIBA World Cup, which makes its last two qualifying games ahead of that tournament seem irrelevant. Players and U.S. coach Jeff Van Gundy see it differently. By Tim Reynolds.
TAMPA _ The Tampa Bay Lightning try to extend their winning streak to eight games when they host the Buffalo Sabres, who’ve lost two in a row. By Erik Erlendsson. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos. Game starts at 7:30 p.m.
SUNRISE _ The Florida Panthers try for their fourth consecutive victory Thursday when they host Carolina. By Paul Gereffi. UPCOMING: 500 words, photos. Game starts at 7 p.m.
CINCINNATI _ Lou Anarumo was working on the New York Giants’ offseason plans when he got a call from an old friend from Miami. Zac Taylor wondered if he would be interested in discussing the job as the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator. A week later, he got the job, ending the Bengals’ lengthy search for someone to handle the defense. By Joe Kay.
DELRAY BEACH _ Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, playing his first event after missing four months because of a knee injury, will face American Reilly Opelka in a second-round match Thursday night at the Delray Beach Open. UPCOMING: 130 words. NOTES: Del Potro match scheduled to begin not before 8 p.m.
MEXICO CITY _ Tiger Woods is skipping the Honda Classic next week as he tries to figure out a busy Florida schedule leading to the Masters. Woods has played the Honda Classic at PGA National the last four times he has been healthy dating to 2012. He finished 12th a year ago, but that was when it followed the West Coast swing and Woods was not eligible for the Mexico Championship.
The AP, Miami