Valentine impressed with Brentz

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Valentine impressed with Brentz

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- If the job of a young minor leaguer is to capture the attention of the big-league manager in spring training, Bryce Brentz has already succeeded.

Brentz, playing Wednesday in just his second Grapefruit League game as an extra outfielder, grabbed Bobby Valentine's manager with his only at-bat of the afternoon -- a single in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Speaking about some of the younger players who filled out the lineup in a 3-3, nine-inning tie, Valentine, unprompted said: "I can tell you this, one kid is a little different: the Bryce kid, when the ball comes off his bat, it's a little different.''

Valentine said it was the second time this spring that Brentz had managed to stand out. Earlier in camp, he had noted Brentz in a group of young hitters taking batting practice.

"That means a lot,'' said Brentz afterward. "It's my first game to come up here with the big boys and for him to make a generous statement like that, it makes you feel good as a young player.''

A sandwich pick in 2010, Brent was named co-offensive player of the year in the Red Sox minor league system. He split time between Low A Greenville and High A Salem last year and hopes he might be ready to try Double A this year.

"They told me I'm competing for a spot at a higher level,'' said Brentz. "It depends on how hard I work and what I do. I think I'm ready to get up to Double A. Last year was a good seaso (at Salem), but it wasn't really that big of a difference (compared to Low A), talent-wise. I'm ready for a higher challenge, personally.''

Brentz hit 30 homers between his two stops, a huge number for the lower minors where seasons are shorter and the quality of pitching can vary greatly.

"I always had power in BP,'' said Brentz, "but in my first (pro) season, I struggled. So last year was more (a matter of) toning it down a little and getting back to basics. I didn't miss the fastball and went from there. I stayed focused and stay through the middle and not trying to hit a ball 700 feet when 400 does a pretty good job.''

Hogan 'feeling good' as he recovers from thigh injury

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Hogan 'feeling good' as he recovers from thigh injury

FOXBORO -- Patriots wideout Chris Hogan indicated after Saturday's divisional round win over the Texans that he'd be OK, and he doubled down on that stance when meeting with reporters Tuesday. 

The veteran receiver, whose first season with the Patriots has brought his first career postseason experience, injured his thigh against Houston. He left in the third quarter and did not return. 

"Feeling good," Hogan said. "Just had a little minor setback in the game. I'm working back every single day and feeling better every day."

Hogan had an awkward collision with Texans defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney at the end of the first half on a play at the goal line. To that point, he had reeled in four passes for 95 yards as the team's primary deep threat. With Hogan out, Brady relied upon Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd as wideouts.

Hogan explained that he was expecting to practice this week.

"I'm just gonna go day by day," he said. "Come in here tomorrow. Everything's been feeling better day by day. I'm looking forward to getting out there and practicing this week."

Strahan picks Steelers to upset Patriots in AFC Championship

Strahan picks Steelers to upset Patriots in AFC Championship

Michael Strahan saw the Patriots lose a Super Bowl first-hand, but he doesn’t think they’ll lose Super Bowl LI. That’s because he doesn’t think they’ll be participants. 

Appearing on The Tonight Show, the former Giants defensive end and current Person Who is Frequently on Television said that he expects the Steelers to upset the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

“I think in the AFC, I think Pittsburgh might pull the upset this year,” Strahan said. 

When Jimmy Fallon objected, Strahan said Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ pass rush would be enough to beat the Pats if New England plays the way it did in the divisional round. 
 
“If you watched the Houston Texans, they had a shot; they just turned the ball over,” he said. “And the Houston Texans offense is in no way, shape or form near what Pittsburgh has. They don’t have the quarterback that [Pittsburgh has]. Defensively, Houston had the really good defense, but Pittsburgh [puts] the good pressure on the quarterback. And from my Super Bowl experience, Tom Brady does not like pressure. I’m just saying I feel like if there’s anybody who’s going to pull an upset, it will be them.” 

As for any rooting interest, Strahan said that he hopes the Falcons win the Super Bowl, citing Matt Ryan being overdue for a title and Julio Jones having a Brady-like quality of putting team goals before his own legacy.