BC-FL--Florida Sports Digest, FL
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TAMPA _ The Tampa Bay Lightning go for their 12th win in 13 games when they host the Minnesota Wild, who lost two straight. By Erik Erlendsson. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos. Game starts at 7:30 p.m.
_ HKN--PANTHERS-BRUINS. Upcoming: 600 words, photos. Game starts at 7 p.m.
MIAMI _ The Miami Dolphins released defensive end Andre Branch and guard Ted Larsen, part of their effort to pare payroll in advance of free agency next week. Branch had only 1 1/2 sacks in 14 games last year, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2012. His departure clears $7 million in salary cap space.
JACKSONVILLE _ The Jacksonville Jaguars have re-signed veteran long-snapper Matt Overton, preventing him from becoming a free agent next week. The team announced the move Thursday.
KISSIMMEE _ Josh Donaldson plans to play in his first spring training game for the Atlanta Braves on Friday night against Philadelphia. After being slowed by injuries for two seasons, the 33-year-old third baseman signed a $23 million, one-year contract with the Braves and spent the first two weeks of the exhibition season strengthening his legs, feet and toes. He also tried to “to clean up some running technique issues that I’ve had in the past.” By Dick Scanlon.
CLEARWATER _ Bryce Harper homered for the second straight day in a simulated game against Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguers. Harper had an opposite-field homer to left in the first of 12 plate appearances Thursday at the team’s minor league complex. Harper also lined a double down the right-field line, singled up the middle, drove a deep fly to center and had a broken-bat flare to left center.
JUPITER _ Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander wants to see the remaining free agents find jobs. While Bryce Harper and Manny Machado reached big-money deals, Verlander’s former Astros teammates Dallas Keuchel and Evan Gattis remain unsigned along with Craig Kimbrel, Adam Jones and several dozen others. By Chuck King.
CLEARWATER _ Danny Farquhar pitched a hitless seventh inning in the New York Yankees’ 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday in his second spring training appearance. The 32-year-old right-hander made a high throw to first for an error on Sean Rodriguez’s comebacker. Lane Adams hit a flyout and Andrew Romine grounded into a 1-6-3 double play.
IMPROVED NL EAST
PORT ST. LUCIE _ For years, the NL East has been soft as a bunt single. Not anymore. By Mike Fitzpatrick.
PORT ST. LUCIE _ Carlos Gomez is back with the Mets, 3½ years after a trade fell through that would have sent him from Milwaukee to New York. The outfielder agreed to a minor league contract and will report to big league spring training, the Mets said Thursday.
SARASOTA _ Mike Yastrzemski finally made it to spring training with the Orioles after bouncing around the Baltimore organization since 2013. Though it was a brief stint, the 28-year-old outfielder known primarily for his last name departed on a high note. By Rich Dubroff.
FORT MYERS _ Dustin Pedroia’s first game in nearly 10 months couldn’t have gone much better — even if it lasted just one inning. Pedroia cleanly fielded a two-out grounder by Minnesota’s Jake Cave, then singled off Kohl Stewart leading off the bottom half of Boston’s 12-1 loss Thursday. By Bob Rathgeber.
SPRING TRAINING-THE GRIND
LAKELAND _ Earlier this week, Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire left several of his top players out of the starting lineup. It was a rainy morning, but that wasn’t the only reason. Gardenhire said some were dealing with aches and pains. “I talked to a number of our guys,” Gardenhire said Tuesday. “Because of these hard fields in spring training, they get little hips and groin soreness, and I just said — weather, hips and groin, that’s not good. So I just changed the whole lineup.” By Noah Trister.
CORAL GABLES _ Former Miami standouts DeMarcus Van Dyke and Joel Rodriguez have been promoted to new roles on Manny Diaz’s staff with the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes hired Andy Vaughn as director of player personnel and promoted David Cooney to director of recruiting, with Van Dyke as his assistant. Diaz also promoted Tyler Stevens to a coordinator in the player personnel department.
CORAL GABLES _ Football seasons at Miami and Florida will start earlier than ever this year. The season-opener between the Hurricanes and Gators has been moved up one week to Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., the schools announced Thursday. It will mark the earliest game date in the history of either program, and Aug. 24 will be the earliest start date for any major college football season since 2003. By Tim Reynolds.
ORLANDO, Fla. _ No. 25 UCF tries to enhance its chances of earning a NCAA tournament bid when the Knights face No. 20 Cincinnati in a key American Athletic Conference matchup. By Christopher Davis. UPCOMING: 500 words, photos. Game starts at 7 p.m.
GREENSBORO, N.C. _ No. 22 Florida State, the sixth seed, faces 11th-seeded Duke in the second round of the ACC Tournament. UPCOMING: 150 words from 8 p.m. start.
GREENVILLE, S.C. _ Missouri and Sophie Cunningham start their SEC Tournament against Florida on Thursday. UPCOMING: 150 words from 2:30 p.m. start.
GREENVILLE, S.C. _ Amber Smith scored 18 points, Hannah Schuchts added 16 and fifth-seeded Missouri cruised past 13th-seeded Florida on Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. Sophie Cunningham added 13 points and Haley Troup 10 for the Tigers (22-9), who play four-seed and 13th-ranked Kentucky in the quarterfinals on Friday.
ORLANDO _ Rafa Cabrera Bello had a Bay Hill debut to remember with a 7-under 65 for a two-shot lead while playing with Arnold Palmer’s grandson. The entertainment, as usual, came from Phil Mickelson. By Doug Ferguson.
TAMPA _ Just a bit of fine tuning and Megan Rapinoe should be ready for the World Cup. The outspoken 33-year-old winger with her shock of blond hair is not new to this process. She’s been to the last two World Cups, including the 2015 tournament in Canada that the United States won. By Anne M. Peterson.
ST. PETERSBURG _ Something about the city of St. Petersburg captured Sebastien Bourdais when he first moved to America to pursue his racing career. He made his debut racing through the streets in 2003, bought a house in the area while his wife attended college nearby and it seemed the right place to call home when he returned from Europe at the end of his Formula One career. The city has been good to Bourdais, the streets even better. By Jenna Fryer.
The AP, Miami