By Jenifer Langosch and Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, the Cardinals added four players to their 40-man roster to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
St. Louis purchased the contracts of right-handed pitchers Michael Blazek, Keith Butler and Eric Fornataro and left-hander Kevin Siegrist. All four players ended the 2012 season at Double-A Springfield.
Major League Baseball’s deadline to protect players was Tuesday at 10:59 p.m. CT. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five years or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years old are to be protected within four years.
Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Rule 5 Draft, to be held on Dec. 6 at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings in Nashville. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
With the additions, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster is at 39 players.
Blazek, ranked by MLB.com as the Cardinals’ No. 13 prospect, spent the majority of the 2012 season at Springfield, where he posted a 4.16 ERA in 40 appearances (seven starts). He also made two appearances with Triple-A Memphis, including one start.
A 35th-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Blazek transitioned into a relief role this season after pitching primarily as a starter in previous years.
Fornataro, ranked No. 17, moved into a bullpen role in 2012. That helped boost his velocity into the upper-90s.
Fornataro, 24, made 57 appearances and posted a 2.39 ERA with Springfield. In addition to recording five saves, Fornataro collected 41 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings. He was particularly tough against right-handed batters.
Butler, 23, led Springfield with 25 saves, finishing second in the Texas League, and he was 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 53 appearances — all in relief. He was the Cardinals’ 24th-round selection in the 2009 Draft.
Siegrist just wrapped up a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he went 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in six games (five starts) for the Surprise Saguaros. The lefty struck out 27 and walked just six in 19 innings. The time in Arizona helped Siegrist make up innings that he missed during the regular season due to time on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
The 23-year-old Siegrist split the season between Class A-Advanced and Double-A and finished with a combined 2.77 ERA.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray would not trade 11 Clark Kents for one Superman.
Gray said the four turnovers the Titans forced by the Dolphins two weeks ago resulted from everyone doing their job.
“They didn’t try to do anything more than that,” Gray said. “That’s what you try to tell them all the time. A lot of times young guys think they have to put a Superman cape on to be a football player, and you don’t.
“If you just do your job to the best of your ability, nine out of 10 times, you’re going to be right, at that’s all we ask you to do,” Gray continued. “We’re not asking you to make great plays, just make your plays, and a lot of times, the mental part of the game gets a lot of young guys because they’re still thinking about the job other than going out and seeing what Miami is going to do to us.”
The commitment and focus that each player made to handling his own responsibilities in the defensive scheme also helped Tennessee prevent mental errors that had been costly in losses this season.
Jason McCourty forced and recovered a fumble by Reggie Bush that led to Tennessee’s first touchdown and Bush’s benching for the rest of the first half. Akeem Ayers stayed with his responsibilities and tipped a Ryan Tannehill pass at the line of scrimmage that Colin McCarthy intercepted and returned 49 yards for a touchdown, and Ayers and rookie linebacker Zach Brown added interceptions of their own.
Gray said he wants the turnover bonanza to reinforce to the young defenders that big plays are possible as long as you make sure to make the routine plays.
“I think a lot of guys seem to think the NFL is about making a lot of plays, but I tell them all the time, if you make a play that looks like (Bears linebacker Brian) Urlacher, you’re probably going to play a long time, and it doesn’t look flashy,” Gray said. “He doesn’t have the athletic ability of a lot of guys, but he’s been playing 13 years because he’s consistent. All any coach would ask you to do is be consistent, and if you’re in the 80 to 90 percentile every week, you’ll be a good football player in this league.”
Safety Michael Griffin said he hopes Titans defenders will take a similar approach Sunday when Tennessee (4-6) visits Jacksonville (1-9).
“Hopefully this week everybody will just do their job, what Coach Gray has been telling us,” Griffin said. “Stop worrying about what everyone else does and just do your job.”
CJ BUT NO MJD
Each of Chris Johnson’s eight games against the Jaguars has always invited a comparison with Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but that will change Sunday because Jones-Drew will be out with a foot injury.
After a slow start in the Titans’ first three games, their rushing attack has come together. Johnson has rushed for more than 90 yards in each of the past five games. He thinks the strides the offense has made won’t be adversely affected by last week’s bye.
“It’s the kind of thing where I wouldn’t have minded to keep on going week to week,” Johnson said, “but it was a situation with how my body was feeling and things like that, it was a week I needed a little bit.”
The Jaguars have recently been a team that likes to use power runs, but that has decreased a considerable amount this season, Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
The injuries to Jones-Drew and fullback Greg Jones have been part of why the Jaguars have attempted more passes than rushes in coach Mike Mularkey’s first-season at the helm. Jacksonville has 222 rush attempts this season, compared to 349 pass attempts, which is a departure from each of the past two seasons when the number or rushes was more than passes.
“We played them last year in the opener. It was all about stopping the run, knowing that they were going to run it quite a few times,” Munchak said. “Their mentality has changed a little bit there. It’s not to say that they won’t run if they think it’s working, it’s successful. But they have changed their look a little bit.
“They have different coaches, especially on the offensive side,” Munchak continued. “Defense has stayed pretty much the same for the most part. The offensive side has a different philosophy for sure, more like Atlanta. We played the Falcons last year with (Mike) Mularkey (as offensive coordinator). It’s more along those lines, so we’ll see.”
GET WELL WISHES
Johnson and quarterback Jake Locker took time during their weekly interviews to wish speedy recoveries to Jones-Drew and Jaguars second-year QB Blaine Gabbert, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.
“I’m not the type of guy who would be happy about somebody hurt or something like that, so hopefully he’ll keep working and get it better and get back,” Johnson said.
The Titans drafted Locker with the eighth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, and the Jaguars drafted Gabbert with the 11th overall pick, but the quarterbacks still haven’t played against each other.
“I wish him a speedy recovery and hope that it all works out well for him,” Locker said. “You hate to see guys injured anywhere across the league, and you just hope they have the opportunity to come back and be at full-strength at some point and it’s fast for him.”
The Jaguars are expected to start Jalen Parmele at running back and Chad Henne at quarterback. Parmele had 80 yards on 24 carries last week at Houston, and Henne was 16-for-33 for 354 yards and four touchdowns in relief of Gabbert.
Griffin said the Titans will place as much emphasis on stopping the Jaguars’ rushing attack as if Jones-Drew was in the game.
“When they get going, this is the NFL, so even if it’s not Maurice Jones-Drew, anybody that’s back there is an NFL running back, and anybody that’s back there can be dangerous at any given time,” Griffin said, “but we’ve got to go and stop the run.”
Sunday’s game will feature a pair of 2012 first rounders at the receiver spot, but it won’t be the first time in which Titans rookie Kendall Wright has been on a team that’s faced Jaguars rookie Justin Blackmon’s team.
Wright, who has a team-leading 43 catches on the season, played collegiately at Baylor, and Blackmon, who had 236 yards on seven catches last week, played for Oklahoma State. Wright said he talked to Blackmon in the time before the draft. He said he didn’t care as much about the renewal of the Big 12 rivalry as he did about the opportunity to return to action.
Titans coaches and veterans have worked to instill to younger players this week how good Jacksonville is despite their record and how hungry they will be to record their first home win of the season against their AFC South rival.
Coaches have told the young players to treat this game as they would their games against their biggest college rival. The Jaguars were up 34-20 at Houston last week before the Texans rallied in the fourth quarter and won 43-37 in overtime.
Nate Washington said the closeness of that contest is a “true testament to this league.”
“At the end of the day, there’s going to be a man lined up across from you that has pride and he understands that he’s getting paid to do a job,” Washington said. “This is a prideful type of gladiator sport. You can’t come into this league and expect to win a game because of an opponent’s record.”
SAN ANTONIO – Austin Peay women’s basketball team let a first-half lead slip away and could not recover, falling 69-67 to host UTSA, Friday, in the UTSA Thanksgiving Classic’s opening game at the Convocation Center.
After missing its first five shots of the game, Austin Peay (1-3) used a 9-for-14 shooting stretch to post a 23-9 run and build a seven-point, 24-17, lead with 7:13 left in the first half. Senior Meghan Bussabarger scored all 10 of her first-half points during the burst, including a pair of three-pointers.
However, one of the season’s early storylines has been stretches of cold shooting plaguing the Lady Govs at inopportune times. In Friday’s game, Austin Peay closed the first half by missing its final 12 shots. That drought allowed UTSA to close the half with a 15-1 run and a seven-point, 32-25 halftime lead.
UTSA (4-1) built its lead to 12 points midway through the second half courtesy a 15-10 run over the opening 8:26. Austin Peay roared back with the game’s next 11 points – seven coming at the free-throw line – to slash the deficit to one point, 47-46, after freshman Jennifer Nwokocha’s free throws at the 7:52 mark.
The Roadrunners battled back with the game’s next four points and led by eight points with 3:27 left. Austin Peay’s Nicole Olszewski showed up big in the closing minutes, scoring 10 of her 15 points in the final three minutes to keep APSU in the hunt.
Nicole Olszewski’s two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds cut the lead to two points and later one point with six seconds left. However, those were the only shots Austin Peay could get to fall during the closing moments and UTSA would convert five of its final eight free-throws to forestall the comeback attempt.
One of the other early storylines has been rebounding, and UTSA kept the early trend going against the Lady Govs as they won the battle of the glass by a dominant 46-27 margin. Nwokocha’s five-rebound outing led Austin Peay while five UTSA players finished with five or more rebounds.
Bussabarger led Austin Peay with 20 points, making 8-of-17 from the floor, and played 37 minutes before fouling out. Sophomore Kristen Stainback and senior Leslie Martinez also added seven points each.
Kamra King led UTSA with 10 points as 11 players scored for the hosts.
Austin Peay will have less than 24 hours to think about Friday’s loss as they will turn around and play William & Mary in a 7 p.m., Saturday contest to wrap up their San Antonio stay.