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Thursday AP Sports Update

MLB-RED SOX-SIGN STEALING

NEW YORK (AP) — The Boston Red Sox have escaped the heavy punishment doled out to the Houston Astros in their separate sign-stealing scandals.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has stripped the Red Sox of their second-round pick in this year’s draft while also punishing former Boston skipper Alex Cora for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing maneuvers of 2017 and ‘18.

Manfred concluded Red Sox replay system operator J.T. Watkins broke rules by using in-game video to revise sign sequences provided to players. According to Manfred, Watkins was a “key participant” in the 2017 Apple incident, when the Red Sox used a smartwatch to relay decoded signs from the replay room to the dugout.

Watkins was suspended without pay through this year’s postseason and prohibited from serving as the replay room operator through 2021.

Meanwhile, Cora has been suspended through the 2020 postseason for his previous conduct as bench coach with the Astros. Cora became manager of the Red Sox in 2018 and left the team last winter.

Manfred found Boston’s conduct far less egregious than that of the Astros, whom he determined used video to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again during the 2018 season. Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended through the 2020 postseason on Jan. 13 and Houston was fined $5 million, the maximum under the Major League Constitution. The Astros were penalized their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The Red Sox also announced that Ron Roenicke is their new manager after giving him the job on an interim basis in March. He replaced Cora.

 

NFL-NEWS

UNDATED (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has become an official member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The tight end will be catching passes from Tom Brady again after the New England Patriots agreed to send him to the Bucs, along with a seventh-round pick in this weekend’s draft. The Pats receive a fourth-round selection.

Gronkowski earned four All-Pro selections in nine seasons while serving as one of Brady’s top targets at New England. Brady signed a two-year, $50 package with New England past month.

The 31-year-old Gronkowski has one year and $10 million left on his contract. He comes out of retirement following a one-year absence.

In other NFL news:

— On Saturday, Brad Lang, a Marine veteran who lost both legs in an explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011, will announce a draft pick for the Carolina Panthers. He was selected by the NFL to represent the new league that will play in Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Kansas City, Missouri.  Then Lang will continue preparation for the wheelchair version of America’s most popular sport. Disabled Sports USA, with funding from the NFL and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, plans to launch a league in the fall.

In other NFL news:

— Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams has signed his non-exclusive franchise tag. Williams will earn a salary in the 2020 season based on the average of the top five salaries from his position. The two sides can negotiate a long-term contract during the season. The Giants acquired Williams on Oct. 29 from the Jets for two draft choices.

— The head of the NFL Players Association says the new collective bargaining agreement does not have a similar clause to one that allows the NBA to start cutting players’ pay in mid-May. Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said Wednesday on a call with reporters that the CBA with the NFL does not have a provision that would prevent someone from fulfilling a contract because of unforeseeable circumstances. The NBA is using that clause to begin taking a 25% chunk out of players’ checks starting May 15 for a league that shut down March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL began its new business year March 18.

— The New Orleans Saints have canceled their offseason program because of the coronavirus shutdown and informed players they’ll not be required to report to club headquarters until training camp, whenever that may be. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said coach Sean Payton informed players of the decision today, adding that the club will remain in regular communication with players between now and the opening of training camp.

— Percy Harvin is planning an NFL comeback, nearly four years after his last game. The former Florida star and first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2009 expects to get invited to a training camp this season and show his 32-year-old body still has what it takes to be an elite playmaker. Harvin’s decision to resume his career comes after he underwent hip surgery last August. Doctors found a blockage he says may have been there since high school.

 

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL-NOTRE DAME-MCGRAW

UNDATED (AP) — One of the most successful coaches in women’s basketball history has stepped down.

Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw has abruptly retired after a Hall of Fame coaching career that includes 936 victories and two national championships in 33 seasons. The 64-year-old McGraw became the 13th woman inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame three years ago, one year before her second NCAA title.

McGraw is one of five Division I men’s or women’s basketball coaches with at least 930 wins, nine Final Fours and multiple titles. She logged 842 over 24 seasons with the Irish.

 

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