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Sports Briefing

OSU trio makes Big 10 team

(AP) — The preseason all-Big Ten team released Thursday includes three Ohio State players among 10 players selected by a media panel.

Offensive left tackle Thayer Munford and wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are cornerstones for a Buckeyes program that has won four consecutive conference titles and qualified for the College Football Playoff the past two years.

Each were 2020 first-team All-Big Ten selections.

Olave returns for his senior year with 87 receptions for 1,435 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons. In two seasons, Wilson has 73 receptions for 1,155 yards and 11 TDs.

Clarke, Kingston share Open lead

BERKSHIRE, England (AP) — Darren Clarke shot a 5-under 65 on Thursday at Sunningdale for a share of the Senior British Open lead with James Kingston.

Clarke had six birdies and a bogey on the Old Course in the final senior major championship of the year. The 52-year-old from Northern Ireland won the British Open in 2011 at Royal St. George’s.

“I played smart around here,” Clarke said. “I hit away from the flags to the middle of the greens and gave myself some chances, and kept giving myself chances there in the last few holes. Didn’t make anything at the end, but just played smart. I think the winner is going to have to play smart this week.”

Kingston, from South Africa, had a bogey-free round.

He was recently hospitalized because of COVID-19.

“I feel like I’ve been a little unprepared,” Kingston said. “I was down with COVID and in hospital or whatever, so I don’t think my preparation coming into this week is exactly what I would have liked. But when you get to a place like this and you like the golf course, it seems to just sneak into your game, and I love what I see out there.”

Defending champion Bernhard Langer was a stroke back with Ricardo Gonzalez and Stephen Dodd. The 63-year-old Langer won in 2019 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for his fourth victory in the event. The 2020 tournament was canceled.

Ernie Els was at 67 with Jerry Kelly, Jose Coceres, Wes Short Jr., Robert Allenby, Peter Fowler and Phillip Price.

Jim Furyk, the U.S, Senior Open winner two weeks ago in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a double bogey for a 70.

Rays acquire All-Star slugger Cruz from Twins

CLEVELAND (AP) — Nelson Cruz packed up his big bat and joined a contender.

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Cruz, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one. I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship,” Cruz said.

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind first-place Boston in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

The 41-year-old Cruz has 436 career homers and 1,202 RBIs. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

The seven-time All-Star also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBIs in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBIs this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

“He may be the best teammate I’ve ever seen in terms of the way he goes about his business, the way he puts his arm around people, the way he helps us become better in our front office jobs and coaching staff jobs,” Falvey said. “This guy is beyond special.”

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with Baltimore and Texas. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham’s rotation.

Ryan, who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. The 25-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. The 24-year-old was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

The 25-year-old Faucher had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

Pelicans hire Suns assistant Willie Green as new coach

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have hired Phoenix Suns assistant Willie Green as their new head coach.

Green, a former NBA player who turns 40 on July 28, is a first-time head coach after serving as an NBA assistant coach the past five years — first with Golden State and then with Phoenix, which lost to Milwaukee in the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

He arrives in New Orleans at a time when pressure is rising to give young star Zion Williamson faith that he can find long-term satisfaction with the club that drafted him first overall two years ago.

“Willie has established himself as one of the most respected assistant coaches in the NBA. In large part, this is due to a tireless work ethic and authenticity of character,” David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations, said Thursday. “He brings a vast amount of basketball knowledge and experience to our team as both a coach and former player, along with exceptional leadership qualities and an innate ability to connect with players, staff and fans alike.”

Green was a member of two NBA title-winning staffs with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018. He moved to Phoenix two seasons ago to join the staff headed by Monte Williams, who also was the head coach in New Orleans when Green played there in the 2010-11 season on a team that guard Chris Paul led to the playoffs.

With the Suns, Green has been widely credited as the architect of the team’s defensive system. Phoenix had the NBA’s sixth-best defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), while high-scoring New Orleans missed the playoffs in part because of its 23rd-rated defense.

“It’s a blessing and an honor to get this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family into the local community,” Green said.

Beyond his well-regarded acumen for on-court strategy, Green appears to command respect from NBA players. He had a 12-year playing career as a combo guard with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, the Los Angele Clippers and Orlando.

This is not the first time Griffin has hired a first-time coach with the expectation of quick success. Griffin was Cleveland’s vice president of basketball operations in 2016 when he gave Tyronn Lue his first head coaching job. The Cavaliers, with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving leading the club on the court, won the NBA championship that season.

Bear sighting at Olympic baseball stadium

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (AP) — A bear appears to have ignored the ban on spectators at the Olympics.

Japanese media reported a bear was seen by guards early Wednesday at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium before Japan and Australia’s softball teams met in the opening event of the Olympics.

Fukushima is about 150 miles north of the main Olympic sites in Tokyo. Local media reported it was an Asian black bear.

“I woke up to text messages asking, is this real? There’s a big black bear, saying that it got on the field, it got in the area and it’s on the loose. And I felt, what? This is crazy. No way,” shortstop Amanda Chidester said after singling in the run in the Americans’ 1-0 win over Canada on Thursday.

“And then one of the girls on our team said: `Yeah, did you hear about the bear? It was on the news.’ So I was able to report back to my family and say it was, in fact, true, that there was a bear in the area.”

There was no sighting of the bear during either Wednesday or Thursday’s tripleheader.

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