From Comcast SportsNetPHOENIX (AP) -- Manny Ramirez found a taker in Oakland -- at a bargain price. The suspended slugger agreed on a minor league contract Monday with the Athletics that is worth approximately 500,000 if he's added to the big league roster. The A's announced the deal and said Ramirez is expected to report to spring training by the end of the week, in time for Oakland's first full-squad workout Saturday. He is a non-roster invitee. The 12-time All-Star is due to serve a 50-game suspension for his second positive drug test before he can play for the A's. Barring rainouts, his first game could be May 30 -- on his 40th birthday. But that didn't deter general manager Billy Beane and the Athletics. "I am very pleased Billy was able to add Manny to our team," owner Lew Wolff said in an email. "I look forward to welcoming him and the entire team that Billy and his people have assembled for the coming season." ESPN first reported earlier in the day that the sides had reached an agreement, speaking directly to Ramirez. The A's made public their interest in the enigmatic outfielder, who had been working out in Florida this winter. Starving for offense, Oakland finished third in the AL West last season at 74-88 and ranked 12th out of 14 American League teams in runs. For the small-budget A's, Ramirez presents little financial risk. They don't have to pay him during his suspension and will give him per diem money during the club's spring training stint in Phoenix, which is shorter than usual because of two season-opening games in Japan next month. Oakland sent representatives to Florida this winter to watch workouts by Ramirez, who retired from the Tampa Bay Rays last season rather than serve a 100-game suspension. For Ramirez, this could become a chance to help mend his reputation -- at least a little bit -- and serve as a positive clubhouse influence on a young team. The A's recently agreed to terms on a 36 million, four-year contract with highly regarded outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban defector who has expressed interest in playing with Ramirez. At baseball's winter meetings in December, it was announced that Ramirez had applied for reinstatement. He had his suspension for a second failed drug test cut to 50 games because he sat out nearly all of last season. MLB had announced his retirement on April 8, saying he was notified "of an issue" under the drug program. Ramirez ranks 14th on the career list with 555 home runs. He went 1 for 17 (.059) in five games last season for Tampa Bay, which had signed him to a one-year deal worth 2.02 million. This would be the 20th major league season for Ramirez, a career .312 hitter with 1,831 RBIs.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”
*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.
*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.
*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.
*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.
*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.
*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.
*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.
BOSTON – Opportunity.
Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.
That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).
That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.
“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”
And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.
A journey that by all accounts is far from over.
Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.
This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.
In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.
The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.
Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.
A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”
A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.
“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”
That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.
“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.
In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.
At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.
And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.
Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.
Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.
And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.
The Bruins came to a decision on their coaching staff more than a month after opting to retain head coach Claude Julien, and there will be new faces for next season. Both Doug Houda and Doug Jarvis won’t be returning to the Black and Gold, and will be replaced by Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and former Bruins winger Jay Pandolfo.
Houda was largely in charge of the defensemen group, and was fired in the days following the end of the season after a rough season for an overmatched blue line group. Jarvis did not have his contract renewed after replacing Craig Ramsay prior to the 2010-11 season, and working largely with the center and the penalty kill units.
The affable Houda has since been hired by the Detroit Red Wings to be an assistant coach for Jeff Blashill. That leaves Joe Sacco and Bob Essensa as the only two members of Julien’s staff from last season that will return again next year.
Cassidy moves on to Boston after a solid run with the P-Bruins over the last five years as head coach and eight years altogether, and Pandolfo moves to the NHL coaching from his role as Director of Player Development. So what does this mean for Julien?
Clearly, Cassidy is being brought on board to work with some of the younger NHL players he successfully developed in Providence, and whose growth hasn’t been quite as expansive in Boston under Julien over the years.
Those players developed by Cassidy are mentioned prominently in the press release from the Bruins: Noel Acciari, Tommy Cross, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Torey Krug, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Ryan Spooner, Malcolm Subban, Zach Trotman and Frank Vatrano.
The sense in hockey circles is that Cassidy is eventually looking for another shot as an NHL head coach after leading the Washington Capitals to a 39-29-8-6 record from 2002-2004, and that he would probably be the choice as “interim coach” in Boston if things don’t work out with Julien next season. Some of Cassidy’s coaching strengths counterbalance some of the weaker points in Julien’s coaching style, so perhaps it’s a group that can find chemistry behind the bench for the Black and Gold.
But this feels very much like moves are being made by the Bruins front office just in case things continue down the same frustrating path that they’ve ended in during each of the last two seasons.