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Sport Opinion: AL keys to winning: Team-by-team outlook

06:50  13 march  2018
06:50  13 march  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

US women's hockey team looks to continue momentum after gold

  US women's hockey team looks to continue momentum after gold Twenty years after a cereal box changed her life, Meghan Duggan is pictured on one. When the United States won the gold medal in 1998 at the first Olympics with women's hockey, an 11-year-oldWhen the United States won the gold medal in 1998 at the first Olympics with women's hockey, an 11-year-old Duggan met Gretchen Ulion and got the forward to autograph her Wheaties box and still has it in her parents' house and a copy of their photo together with sister Katelyn on her phone.

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Poland sets world indoor record in 4x400-meter relay, US 2nd

  Poland sets world indoor record in 4x400-meter relay, US 2nd Poland set a world indoor record in the 4x400-meter relay on Sunday at the world indoor athletics championships, with the United States also inside the old mark. The Polish team of Karol Zalewski, Rafal Omelko, Lukasz Krawczuk and Jakub Krzewina won in 3:01.77. That shaved 0.36 seconds off the previous record of 3:02.13, which was set by the U.S. in 2014."It is a big shock and surprise for us," Omelko said. "We were targeting the European record but really did not expect a result like this and never dreamed about the world record."The U.S. team of Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry, Aldrich Bailey Jr. and Vernon Norwood finished 0.

USA TODAY Sports takes a closer look at each American League team and their key to a winning, successful season.

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles

Start off well: Given the uncertain future of Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton and Brad Brach, who all become free agents after the season, the Orioles need to win early and a lot. Otherwise, the quartet could be gone by the July 31 trade deadline.

Boston Red Sox

David Price returning to form? In his second season for Boston, Price battled injuries, starting only 11 games and pitching 74.2 total innings. However, he did make an impact down the stretch as a reliever, proving there were no aftereffects of his injury. Now that he’s fully healthy, Boston is looking for him and Chris Sale to set the tone at the top of the rotation and form one of the better 1-2 punches.

Grief-stricken basketball team commemorates fallen teammate

  Grief-stricken basketball team commemorates fallen teammate The William Penn University men's basketball team is grappling with the death of one of their own. Teammates say it's surreal that 22-year-old Marquis Todd, of Woodridge, Illinois, is gone. Police found Todd stabbed to death Thursday night in Oskaloosa. "Never would a kid die on my watch, and it happened," said John Henry, whose been the head coach of the men's basketball team for 17 years. There's a growing memorial outside the south doors of Penn Gymnasium to remember Todd, No. 22. The team suffered a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to Peru State Friday night during the conference tournament, but they kept playing. It's what Todd would want them to do, teammates said. "He wasn't a kid looking for trouble," senior Brandon Trotter said. "He really just wanted to make it. He wanted a chance, but he got robbed of that chance." Freshman Lowden Rockweiler said Todd was as close as family. "You see people like that and they affect you whether you know it or not," he said. "For them to be taken from you, there's a little piece of you missing after that." Assistant head coach Blake Sandquist said Todd lit up the room with his vibrant smile and exerted positive energy to everyone around him. "He just opened up right away," Sandquist said. "He had an amazing personality, something I'm really going to miss seeing on a daily basis.

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New York Yankees

The rotation: The Yankees hope Luis Severino can repeat his breakthrough 2017 season and Masahiro Tanaka can return to form after a regular-season ERA that hovered near 5.00. They have a full season of Sonny Gray, but they’ll also be hoping CC Sabathia’s arthritic right knee will hold out. As injury insurance, Chance Adams is the closest prospect to the majors.

Tampa Bay Rays

Replacing Evan Longoria: Evan Longoria is the Rays’ all-time leader in games played, home runs and RBI, so his departure leaves a hole. After missing the season because of injury, Matt Duffy is penciled in at third. Duffy’s best season was in 2015, when he had 12 homers and 77 RBI. It doesn’t match Longoria’s 2017, with 20 homers and 86 RBI, but it’s not bad.

Toronto Blue Jays

Joey Bats' incumbent: Randal Grichuk is slotted to replace Jose Bautista in right field, and the former Cardinals player outproduced Bautista in 2017. If Toronto wants to contend, Grichuk likely has to approach Bautista’s 2016 production.

Minkah Fitzpatrick: I could bring Alabama's winning culture to Browns

  Minkah Fitzpatrick: I could bring Alabama's winning culture to Browns Alabama standout Minkah Fitzpatrick spent his college career with the nation's top powerhouse, and now the defensive back wants to bring his winning experience to the NFL's worst team - which holds the first and fourth overall picks in the draft - the Cleveland Browns. "I think it's just an issue with the culture around there and I'm just going to have to go down there and use what I learned at Alabama and apply it to the Browns," Fitzpatrick said Sunday, according to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox

Yoan Moncada: Moncada is the face of the White Sox rebuild thanks to being the main piece in the Chris Sale trade. The second baseman had a solid rookie year, hitting eight homers with 22 RBI and a .750 OPS, but enters his first full season looking for improvement.

Cleveland Indians

Jason Kipnis: The Indians second baseman spent half of last season on the disabled list, and even when he was healthy he struggled to produce. In fact, the Indians got into their groove when Kipnis was injured, forcing the veteran to play center field when he was healthy for the playoffs.

Detroit Tigers

Staying healthy: Miguel Cabrera had the worst season of his career in 2017 and must find a way to regain his form. Victor Martinez enters what could be his final season after having cardiovascular surgery for an irregular heartbeat in September, so it’s unclear how he will perform after recovery. Michael Fulmer had a strong first half but struggled mightily in the second half, partially because of an elbow injury.

Kansas City Royals

Replace the free agents: In Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals lost two of their best players this offseason. Lucas Duda was signed to be Hosmer’s replacement at first, but he last played in 2016. Free agent signee Jon Jay will start in center for Cain, but he hit .198 last year.

Auburn players at Combine say Alabama is national champion, not UCF

  Auburn players at Combine say Alabama is national champion, not UCF <p>Despite more than 28 million people having watched Nick Saban and Alabama lift the College Football Playoff national championship trophy in January, UCF's undefeated season has caused some debate on whether the Knights' claim is legitimate.</p>Thankfully, Auburn is here to provide some insight.

Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton: He finished 2017 with a .253 average, 16 home runs and 51 RBI. While Buxton is a sure thing to play tremendous defense in center field, he can really make a difference at the plate as a five-tool player.

AL WEST

Houston Astros

Keep hitting: By OPS+, which adjusts for a team’s era and hitting environment, the 2017 Astros tied the 1927 Yankees as the best offensive team in MLB history. The majority of Houston’s lineup will return, so it will only need to avoid regression to repeat as the league’s best hitting team.

Los Angeles Angels

Ohtani magic: Lost amid the hype, excitement and curiosity over two-way player Shohei Ohtani is the fact that the Angels really need him to perform, especially on the mound. A debut season ranging from consistent to dominant would be a significant boost for a team relying on several injury-plagued pitchers. Ohtani’s season high for innings came in 2015, when he struck out 196 batters in 160 2/3 innings for Nippon Ham. So 33 starts likely won’t happen, but 25 mostly excellent ones would be huge.

Oakland Athletics

Young starters emerge: Kendall Graveman performed fairly well but served two stints on the disabled list. Jharel Cotton had a 5.58 ERA. Only Sean Manaea (12-10, 4.37 ERA) performed up to expectations. Those three return, and at the back end of the rotation, unproven pitchers including Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn and Daniel Gossett will get a shot.

Norwegian musher wins Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska

  Norwegian musher wins Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska Joar Ulsom of Norway won the world's most famous sled dog race Wednesday after a grueling dash across Alaska's rough terrain, but he earned tens of thousands of dollars less than last year's top musher at the struggling Iditarod. "It's pretty unreal I pulled it off," Ulsom told reporters at the finish line in Nome, Alaska.After nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers), Ulsom and the eight dogs on his team came off the Bering Sea ice onto Nome's main street. He slapped hands with fans who lined the streets and went under the finish line at 3 a.m. local time Wednesday."I don't know what to say about it.

Seattle Mariners

A healthy King: Any path to the playoffs for the Mariners involves a healthy Felix Hernandez. While he was limited to a career-low 16 starts and 86 innings in 2017, the rotation listed, posting an overall 4.36 ERA and fading badly down the stretch. While a 200-inning season out of James Paxton would help, King Felix still sets the tone here — and anything less than his career standard of 34 starts would create an uphill climb.

Texss Rangers

Rotation experience: Matt Moore, Mike Minor and Doug Fister — all reclamation projects — join Cole Hamels in the rotation. All four have won at least 10 games and made at least 30 starts in multiple seasons. Then there’s Bartolo Colon, who at 44 is trying to make the club as a non-roster invitee. Matt Bush, who was used as a closer and setup man last season, is also wild card. The club is also expected to get Martin Perez back for the second half of the season.

Contributing: Ted Berg, Scott Boeck, Pete Caldera, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, Daniel Chavkin, Gabe Lacques, Jorge L. Ortiz

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