Cardinals make a major roster move


Cardinals make a major roster move

From Comcast SportsNetWASHINGTON (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals removed Jaime Garcia from their NL division series roster Tuesday, a day after he lasted only two innings in his Game 2 start because of an ailing shoulder.An MRI revealed that the left-hander has a strained rotator cuff and inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He'll be replaced by rookie right-hander Shelby Miller.Garcia's health was a concern after he missed two months this season with shoulder fatigue, but he had pitched well since returning in mid-August and won his last three regular season starts. He said he had experienced some "normal stiffness" from those late-season games, but the feeling in the shoulder was different when took the mound Monday against the Washington Nationals."We're in the playoffs," Garcia said. "I want to be there for my team. I want to be able to help out, but I just realized that once the game started it never got better. I never got warm, and I had to say something. I made the decision. I said something at the right time, and we still won the game. It was a really hard decision for me to say something."The Cardinals' 12-4 victory evened the series at one game apiece, with the series moving to Washington for Game 3 on Wednesday.Manager Mike Matheny dismissed suggestions that Garcia should have spoken up about a possible problem before starting such a crucial game."He went back and forth just like every guy does," Matheny said. "You don't know exactly how you're going to feel until you get out there. There are times you don't feel good, and I know that we have had some pitchers wondering if they can make pitch one, and next thing you know they are standing on top of the mound in the eighth inning."I respect these guys' preparation that they have going into a game, how they push through things, and try and make something out of nothing at times. If you waited around until you felt perfect, you would never play this game."Garcia was scheduled to have a second opinion later Tuesday.Lance Lynn, who pitched three innings in relief and picked up the Game 2 win, will take Garcia's spot in the rotation if the Cardinals advance to the next round.Miller, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, appeared in six games this season as a September call-up. He worked 13 2-3 innings with a 1.32 ERA.

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win.