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Miami ref replaced after photos in team's jersey

Published in Soccer
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:29

The referee for Saturday's MLS game between Inter Miami CF and Orlando City SC has been replaced by the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) after pictures emerged on social media of the original assignee, Guilherme Ceretta, wearing an Inter Miami jersey.

Ceretta has been replaced by Jaime Herrera, according to PRO's weekly announcement of MLS referee assignments. Ivan Cid Cruz replaced Herrera as the fourth official with Bruno Rizo and Regis Cardoso remaining as the match's assistant referees. The pictures were first revealed by the X account @MLSRefStats.

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A spokesperson for PRO, which assigns referees to officiate matches in MLS, confirmed to ESPN: "Referee Guilherme Ceretta was removed from the game due to a potential conflict."

The change comes at an awkward time for PRO, which is engaged in a lockout of referees belonging to the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA), the union attempting to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO. In the interim, PRO has been using replacement referees pulled from other professional leagues as well as the collegiate and youth ranks.

"As long as the focus stays on fighting organized labor rather than utilizing the most well-trained, experienced officials in the league, you will continue to stray from promoting the very best of the game," PSRA president Peter Manikowski said in a statement to ESPN on Saturday.

"Sporting integrity provisions are in our CBA and we take them very seriously. But when the league perceives these professional officials are asking for too much, the first thing to go is the sporting integrity backstops like rigorous fitness testing, medical checks, background checking and anti-doping.

"The sport will ultimately suffer."

Talks on a new CBA between PRO and the PSRA appear to be at a standstill. The previous CBA expired on Jan. 15, though the two sides agreed to extend the terms in a bid to continue negotiations. On Feb. 15, the PSRA membership overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement reached between PRO and the PSRA executive board, with 95.8% of the PSRA union membership voting against ratification. PRO responded the next day by locking out the PSRA referees.

The PSRA has since offered a counterproposal, which PRO not only rejected, but responded by saying that the terms of the tentative agreement amounted to its best offer. In a letter from PRO general manager Mark Geiger to the PSRA membership, Geiger added that if the PSRA didn't approve the terms contained in the tentative agreement by March 11, its next offer "will include less favorable terms in some areas."

Chaotic scenes as Liverpool seal 99th-minute win

Published in Soccer
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:29

Darwin Núñez headed in a last-gasp winner as Premier League leaders Liverpool snatched three points with a wild 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday.

Núñez's 99th-minute goal put Liverpool four points clear of second-placed Manchester City with 63 points from 27 matches -- although Pep Guardiola's side have a game in hand. The result left a shattered Forest four points above the relegation zone in 17th.

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"Most difficult game we played because of the circumstances," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. "Four games in 11 days is really tricky with the squad situation we have.

"It was super special. You could see it didn't go easy for us today in any part of the game. It's so hard. Wonderful feeling. I'm really happy. I can't ask for more than what the boys are doing."

There was bedlam after the final whistle with referee Paul Tierney surrounded by Forest's enraged coaching staff, with first-team coach Steven Reid being shown a red card.

A member of Nottingham Forest's coaching staff was sent off after the game ended.

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images


Liverpool dominated possession, but struggled in the final third against Forest's diligent defensive effort and the game looked destined for a draw.

Liverpool continued to press with Forest goalkeeper Matz Sels making some terrific late stop including a brilliant diving save of a Núñez header minutes before xthe substitute's late heroics on Alexis Mac Allister's cross that had the Liverpool bench leaping to their feet in celebration.

"In that moment I knew it was last minute and I just had to put it in," Mac Allister said. "Darwin is such an important player for us. There is no easy game in the Premier League. Very happy, very happy."

Klopp praised Mac Allister's poise.

"The goal was set up by a guy who was the calmest on the whole pitch," he said. "He was calm. He chips the ball there. Super assist and super important goal."

Darwin Nunez was Liverpool's matchwinner.

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images


Liverpool's hectic 11 days included a league win over Luton Town, a fifth-round FA Cup win over Southampton, and a victory over Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final.

Klopp has also wrestled with an injury crisis that has sidelined key players including talisman Mohamed Salah -- who sat out again Sunday with a hamstring injury -- forcing him to plug holes with young players.

"If you'd told me 12 days ago we would win all four games I would have said no chance, it was impossible," Klopp said. "In the circumstances winning the games is ridiculous."

Substitutes Núñez and Dominik Szoboszlai returned from injury on Saturday, and their impact was immediately felt.

Former New Zealand allrounder James Franklin will replace Dale Steyn as the bowling coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2024. ESPNcricinfo has learned that Steyn, who was appointed in the role by Sunrisers in 2022, has pulled out for personal reasons.
For Franklin, who played for Mumbai Indians in 2011 and 2012, this will be his first coaching stint at the IPL. At Sunrisers, Franklin, a former left-arm seam-bowling allrounder, will link up with Daniel Vettori, who was appointed as the head coach by the franchise after the 2023 season. The pair has previously worked together at both Middlesex (county cricket) as well as Birmingham Phoenix (the Hundred). Franklin had also served as a head coach at Durham, and currently is at the PSL as an assistant coach at Islamabad United.

Sunrisers have a host of quicks in their ranks including Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pat Cummins, Marco Jansen, Umran Malik, T Natarajan, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Jaydev Unadkat and the uncapped Indian Akash Singh. The spinners' lot include Wanindu Hasaranga, Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Ahmed.

Vettori and Franklin will be confronted with a stiff challenge considering Sunrisers had finished eighth in 2022 and slid further to tenth last year. One key contributing factor for the team's regression has been the frequent change in leadership. Former Australia allrounder Tom Moody was replaced last year by former West Indies captain Brian Lara, who was dropped after just one season.

Heading into the 2023 player auction, Sunrisers released one of their most senior players in Kane Williamson, who had led the franchise since David Warner was released in 2021. Williamson played for Sunrisers for eight seasons, including the title-winning run in 2016 and was retained in 2022 as their most expensive player. Since last season, South Africa batter Aiden Markram has held the captaincy.

Mumbai Indians 133 for 3 (Kerr 40*, Bhatia 31, Patil 1-15) beat Royal Challengers Bangalore 131 for 6 (Perry 44*, Wareham 27, Vastrakar 2-14, Sciver-Brunt 2-27) by seven wickets

Mumbai Indians continued their rich vein of form in WPL 2024, running Royal Challengers Bangalore ragged with both bat and ball to seal a seven-wicket win. This despite missing a couple of their frontline players - Harmanpreet Kaur and Shabnim Ismail.

Ismail's replacement, Issy Wong, set the tone with the new ball, key India allrounder Pooja Vastrakar left her imprints in the middle phase with the ball, Saika Ishaque was back among the wickets after a quiet start to the competition, all while stand-in captain Nat Sciver-Brunt left her stamp on the field, with the ball and later with the bat. All these meant that RCB were kept to a mere 131 - despite an unbeaten 38-ball 44 from Ellyse Perry who returned to the XI - a total which Mumbai overhauled with little fuss.

In doing so, Mumbai not just went to the top of the points table, but also maintained a clean slate in run-chases in the competition.

Perry good and the not-so good

Teams batting first have had a tough time in WPL 2024. Even so, RCB are one of the two teams to have a win while defending a score. But on Saturday, they couldn't get a strong start and lost Smriti Mandhana and S Meghana inside five overs. Which brought Perry, who was ill for the past few days, to the crease. On a brownish surface, where run-scoring was not the easiest, she took time to get going, scoring only three off her first nine balls.

A shortish ball from legspinner SB Keerthana in the tenth over allowed her to score her first boundary - a pull through square leg. In fact, all of her five fours came off deliveries that were on a length or short. That the illness had sapped her energy was becoming evident as the innings progressed. Mumbai's stand-in captain Sciver-Brunt rotated her bowlers such that no bowler bowled back-to-back overs. And they also rarely erred in lines and lengths, which handicapped Perry.

Only Georgia Wareham offered a bit of support to Perry - the duo were involved in a 52-run sixth-wicket partnership - which allowed RCB to get to a respectable score. Apart from them, only Meghana and Sophie Molineux entered double digits and RCB finished their innings without a single six.

Bhatia, Matthews swift in chase

Yastika Bhatia and Hayley Matthews began in a manner that would dispel any doubts over the tricky nature of the 132-run chase. They are one of the most prolific pairs in terms of partnership runs in the WPL - 431 runs with four fifty-plus stands - and started off in dominating fashion. Bhatia punched the first ball she faced down the ground, Matthews played a short-arm jab through midwicket off her first - both off Renuka Singh's opening over. The left-arm spin of Molineux was greeted with a six and a four by Bhatia as Mumbai began their hunt in the fourth gear.

Renuka went the distance in her second over too, the third of the innings. Matthews capitalised on an overpitched one and then on the width for two fours. Bhatia played one of the most gorgeous pick-up shots over midwicket for a six in between.

Sophie Devine was called upon with Mumbai 37 for 0 in three and she struck on her fifth ball. Bhatia hit successive fours before getting a thick outside edge that was snaffled by a diving Richa Ghosh to her left. Matthews then greeted Wareham's legspin with a six but soon fell to Shreyanka Patil for a 21-ball 26. Mumbai had already reduced 69 from their target by then.

Sciver-Brunt, Kerr apply finish touches

In the absence of Harmanpreet, Kerr continued to bat at No. 4 and proved to be the perfect foil for Sciver-Brunt. She began with a couple of shots through the leg side off medium-pacer Simran Bahadur. The first was a pristinely-timed flick through midwicket while the other was a back-foot clip between deep square leg and deep midwicket. She also feasted of the spin of Patil and Asha Sobhana, even as Sciver-Brunt steadily accumulated the runs. Kerr and Sciver-Brunt added 49 off just 35 runs together for the third wicket.

Despite not playing the fancy scoops and reverse sweeps, Kerr finished with a strike rate of 166.66, while staying unbeaten on 40 off 24, and saw Mumbai through.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Sudarshanan7

Last-gasp Madrid winner denied as ref calls FT

Published in Breaking News
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:46

Real Madrid were left furious when a late Jude Bellingham goal was ruled out after the referee blew the full-time whistle to end an ill-tempered 2-2 draw with Valencia at the Mestalla on Saturday.

Vinícius Júnior has earlier scored a brace to help Real Madrid fight back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw in the LaLiga clash.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

It was the first time Madrid and Vinícius have been back to Mestalla since the Brazil forward was racially abused by fans on May 21 last year, before being sent off in a game that Madrid lost 1-0. 

While there were no immediate reports of more racial insults at him on Saturday, a large group of spectators did chant "Vinícius is stupid" and booed him loudly throughout.

Hugo Duro gave the hosts the lead with a header in the 27th minute and Roman Yaremchuk made the most of a bad mistake from Madrid defender Dani Carvajal to extend Valencia's lead three minutes later.

However, Vinícius reduced the deficit with a close-range finish in first-half stoppage time and scored the equaliser with a towering header in the 76th minute.

But the game ended in hugely controversial fashion as Bellingham headed in a cross but referee Jesús Gil Manzano blew the whistle for full-time moments before, sparking a tussle between the teams as Madrid's players surrounded the official.

Bellingham was shown a red card by the referee for his reaction.

Madrid moved to 66 points in the standings, seven points ahead of second-placed Girona who have a game in hand at Mallorca on Sunday. Barcelona are third on 57 points. 

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Capitals waive former star forward Kuznetsov

Published in Breaking News
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:46

The Washington Capitals have placed forward Evgeni Kuznetsov on waivers.

News of the decision came down Saturday, just hours after the center was cleared to resume practicing as he entered the follow-up care phase of the NHL/NHLPA assistance program. Kuznetsov entered the program Feb. 6 and has missed Washington's past 12 games.

It's unclear why Kuznetsov, 31, entered the program. Teams are not told details of a player's absence because of confidentiality rules.

He is in the penultimate season of his eight-year, $64.5 million contract that includes a no-trade clause.

If Kuznetsov clears waivers Sunday, it will allow the Capitals to reassign him to the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. Kuznetsov was once a top-tier forward but has struggled to produce offensively in recent years and has just 17 points in 43 appearances this season.

"It's about a fresh start for Kuzy, first of all," Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said Saturday. "He's been looking for a change in environment and this might set the wheels in motion for that to be accomplished."

At his peak, Kuznetsov was Washington's leading scorer on its run to a Stanley Cup championship in 2018, putting up 12 goals and 32 points through 24 playoff games. In 2019, the Russian-born skater was suspended without pay for three regular-season games by the NHL for "inappropriate conduct," less than a month after he was banned from playing for Russia internationally for four years because of a positive test for cocaine.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Ex-Steelers LB Russell, 7-time Pro Bowler, dies

Published in Breaking News
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:46

Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Andy Russell, a two-time Super Bowl champion, has died. He was 82.

Russell died Friday, according to the Steelers. A cause of death isn't immediately known.

Russell was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection while part of the famous Steel Curtain defense. The Steelers won Super Bowl IX and X during Russell's tenure.

He was part of a star-studded trio of linebackers featuring Jack Lambert in the middle and Jack Ham on the other side.

"If you want to be a great linebacker, you also have to be smart out there, and he taught me the mental part of the game," Ham told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think that's what set him apart and made his career such a great career here in Pittsburgh."

Russell was a 16th-round pick in 1963 and played 12 seasons with Pittsburgh, beginning in 1963 before serving a two-year military stint. He returned to play from 1966 to 1976 and put together a streak of 168 consecutive games played, never missing a game during his career.

His teammates voted Russell the club's Most Valuable Player in 1971, a season in which the roster included future Hall of Famers Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Ham and Terry Bradshaw.

In the 1975 postseason, Russell set a playoff record for longest fumble return when he picked up the ball and ran 93 yards for a touchdown against the Baltimore Colts. The record stood until Sam Hubbard of the Cincinnati Bengals had a 98-yard return against the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 15, 2023.

"We are saddened by the news of the passing of Andy Russell," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement. "Andy was part of the foundation of the great Steelers teams of the 1970s. He was one of the few players kept by Coach Chuck Noll on the team after he became our head coach in 1969. Andy was the team captain and his leadership was a critical part of Coach Noll's development of the 1970s Steelers, which paved the way to 4 Super Bowl Championships. We were excited to induct Andy into our inaugural Steelers' Hall of Honor class in 2017.

"Andy went on to have a very successful career in business after his playing days and was a constant presence in the Pittsburgh Community. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Cindy, and the Russell Family."

Before his NFL career, Russell played linebacker and running back for Missouri. He was inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame in 1993.

A two-way star during his collegiate career at Missouri, Russell was discouraged from playing in the NFL by his father, who told him it would be an "embarrassment to the Russell family" if Andy went to the NFL.

Russell followed his father's orders. When NFL teams sent him a questionnaire that included a query on whether he wanted to play professional football, Russell checked the box marked "no."

The only team that didn't mail him a survey was the Steelers, who made the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Russell the 220th pick and then offered him a $12,000 contract and a $3,000 signing bonus.

Russell's initial plan was to play one season for the money, then pursue an MBA. An injury to linebacker John Reger in the season opener against Philadelphia led Russell to enter the lineup to fill in and he never left.

"You talk about luck," Russell said. "If that hadn't happened, I would have played one year, got my MBA and gone into business. I just got an enormous break."

Russell hit pause after his rookie year, missing the 1964 and 1965 seasons while completing the military commitment required as a ROTC member.

When he returned, the Steelers were still mired in the standings, winning a combined 11 games over the next three seasons, with Russell's stellar play often lost amid all the losing. He did fulfill his goal, earning an MBA in finance in 1967 and launching a series of businesses, including an investment firm tied to Wall Street, and starting an investment bank.

Russell's football fortunes turned when Noll came on board. The Steelers drafted Ham in 1971 and Lambert in 1974, the trio forming one of the greatest linebacking groups in NFL history. Pittsburgh won its first two Super Bowls after the 1974 and 1975 seasons.

Russell retired after the Steelers lost to Oakland in the 1976 AFC Championship Game.

Russell wrote three books about his career after his retirement and was an avid climber, reaching all 54 peaks in Colorado that reach an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. He remained active in the Pittsburgh community and launched the Andy Russell Charitable Foundation, which supported a variety of local charities across western Pennsylvania.

Russell, a member of the inaugural class of the Steelers Hall of Honor in 2017, is survived by his wife, Cindy, two children and seven grandchildren.

Field Level Media and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Manziel stiff-arms Heisman ceremony over Bush

Published in Breaking News
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:46

Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, said Saturday that he will not attend the annual Heisman Trophy ceremony until the NCAA returns former USC running back Reggie Bush's trophy, which was stripped from him following NCAA sanctions.

"After careful thought and consideration I will be humbly removing myself from the Heisman trophy ceremony until @ReggieBush gets his trophy back," Manziel posted on X. "Doesn't sit right with my morals and values that he can't be on that stage with us every year. Reggie IS the Heisman trophy. Do the RIGHT thing @NCAA the ball is in your court."

Bush and USC each returned their copies of his 2005 Heisman Trophy after a four-year NCAA investigation determined that during his Trojans career, Bush and his family accepted cash, travel expenses and a home in the San Diego area where Bush's parents lived rent-free for more than a year and for which they were provided $10,000 to furnish from agents hoping to sign the star.

Bush's NCAA sanctions were delivered in 2010, and they mandated that Bush disassociate from USC and included a two-year postseason ban for the school, 14 vacated victories (including the 2004 BCS national championship) and the loss of 30 scholarships. His 10-year disassociation period ended in June 2020.

In July 2021, on the day name, image and likeness (NIL) rights were granted to athletes by the NCAA, allowing them to profit in the same way Bush did, he released a statement requesting his Heisman and NCAA statistics be reinstated.

"It is my strong belief that I won the Heisman trophy 'solely' due to my hard work and dedication on the football field and it is also my firm belief that my records should be reinstated," Bush said.

The Heisman Trust said shortly thereafter that it would look forward to "welcoming him back to the Heisman family" if the NCAA opted to reinstate him. But the NCAA declined.

"Although college athletes can now receive benefits from their names, images and likenesses through activities like endorsements and appearances, NCAA rules still do not permit pay-for-play type arrangements," an NCAA spokesperson said in 2021. "The NCAA infractions process exists to promote fairness in college sports. The rules that govern fair play are voted on, agreed to and expected to be upheld by all NCAA member schools."

Bush sued the NCAA in August 2023 for defamation for that "pay-for-play" statement, saying he was given $1,000 a month for expenses, with none of it coming from USC or anyone affiliated with the university. The NCAA filed a motion for dismissal in November.

In the news conference to announce the lawsuit, held at USC's Coliseum, Bush said he had been asked by USC to lead the team out of the tunnel many times but would not do it until he was reinstated.

"I've got dreams of coming back in this stadium and running out of that tunnel with the football team," Bush said. "I've got dreams of walking back in here and seeing my jersey, my banner, right down there next to the rest of the Heisman Trophy winners. But I can't rightfully do that without my Heisman Trophy."

Manziel, who was suspended for one-half of a game in 2013 for taking money to sign autographs while at Texas A&M, recently spoke out about Bush's exile on Shannon Sharpe's podcast, "Club Shay Shay."

"What Reggie did then is legal now that somebody could do, right?" Manziel said. "It wouldn't make him ineligible now, even though it did at the time. And in the grand scheme of things, I probably did way worse than Reggie."

Manziel said former winners discuss Bush's situation at the ceremony every year.

"There's chatter, there's chirp going around that nobody in this crew, in this Heisman fraternity, it [doesn't sit] right with us that Reggie ain't up there with us every year," Manziel said. "It makes every one of us sitting there -- Troy Smith, all these guys that I sit next to -- he deserves to be on that stage with us every year. Unequivocally, without a doubt, without a question, one of the best college football players to ever lace 'em up and a very, very good argument, to be the best ever in college football."

Sharpe asked Manziel if he thought there was a chance Bush could get the Heisman back.

"What I've been told is that Reggie can't get his Heisman Trophy back until the NCAA makes his records and his accolades on the field for that year reinstated," Manziel said. "As we know what the NCAA is now, what do you think the chances are that they're going to do the right thing? Not looking likely. It's sad. From the top down, from the NCAA, they've been so wrong with so many things that you would hope that one day they would do the right thing and do this.

"I'm going to continue to do everything that I can in my power, whatever that may be. ... But for what I can in my part, I will always stand on this table right here for Reggie Bush and do anything that I can in my power to make sure that it's possible for him to even get his trophy back."

Source: LT Smith unlikely to return to Cowboys

Published in Breaking News
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:46

FRISCO, Texas -- Tyron Smith is unlikely to play a 14th season with the Dallas Cowboys after initial discussions left the sides at different ends of the salary spectrum, according to a source who confirmed multiple reports.

The Cowboys met with Smith's agent on Friday during the NFL scouting combine to see what the chances were that their 2011 first-round pick would return in 2024. A door to potentially returning, however, is not closed if the demand for Smith does not materialize at the start of free agency.

Speaking Friday after the meeting, owner and general manager Jerry Jones struck an optimistic tone.

"We'll get in there in the right way and discuss his business and work out something that's good for both of us," Jones said. "He's had a great career. He's a Hall of Fame player. And not only that, his personal life is one of the great stories that I've been a part of with players, or coaches or anybody, commissioners or anybody in the NFL.

"So, where I'm going with this is to certainly get something that would have him on the field, I can't tell you how good shape I thought we were in with him as we got into the playoffs and his health and where he was. Thought we were just where you want to be. And I gave a lot of credit to coach Mike McCarthy, him getting it pushed up there to where we had him just right as we went into the playoffs."

While Smith played 14 games in 2023, he has not played a full season since 2015. He has dealt with serious neck, back, hamstring and elbow injuries, but last year, he and the team found a suitable practice plan that kept him game ready while limiting the amount of contact he would get during the week. He was named a second-team All-Pro after posting a season which he had an 89.1% pass block win rate and a 78.8% run block win rate.

Smith, who turns 34 in December, was the first offensive lineman the Cowboys had picked in the first round since 1981 when he was selected ninth overall in 2011. He played right tackle as a rookie before moving to left tackle and becoming one of the best in the league for nearly a decade. He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times and has been a four-time All-Pro.

A potential departure would move tackle to the top of the Cowboys' needs list in the upcoming draft. The Cowboys selected Tyler Smith in the first round in 2022 with the idea of him becoming the left tackle of the future, but he has played so well at left guard, earning a Pro Bowl spot in 2023, that the team could opt to keep him on the interior. In recent years, the Cowboys have drafted tackles Josh Ball, Matt Waletzko and Asim Richards, but none appear ready to take over as a starter.

The draft is considered strong at offensive tackle, with a number of options the Cowboys could use with the 24th overall pick.

Giants RHP Beck to have surgery on throwing arm

Published in Baseball
Saturday, 02 March 2024 14:56

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- San Francisco Giants right-hander Tristan Beck is scheduled to have surgery Monday to remove an aneurysm in the upper part of his pitching arm.

He will have the procedure at Stanford, where he was examined by a vascular specialist this week, and the timetable for his return to the mound is unclear until after the surgery -- but his availability for opening day is in doubt.

Beck was competing for a spot in the back end of the rotation for San Francisco, which has been out of the playoffs the past two seasons and hired new manager Bob Melvin to replace Gabe Kapler.

Beck, 27, went 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA over 33 appearances with three starts as a rookie last season.

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