Is Danny Amendola visiting the Patriots?

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Is Danny Amendola visiting the Patriots?

There's a ton of smoke regarding Danny Amendola and the Patriots. Is there fire? Since free agency began on Tuesday, there have been consistent but unconfirmed rumors that the Rams restricted free agent wideout would be visiting New England. It's a possibility I broached before free agency opened, reasoning that Amendola's situation now is identical to the one Wes Welker was in back in 2007 before the Patriots ultimately traded for Welker. The first murmur of Patriots interest came Tuesday night from PFT poobah Mike Florio who said he'd heard a rumor Amendola was visiting. Amendola's agent, Erik Burkhardt, has steadfastly said that he "can't help."This morning,Scott Zolak of 98.5 The Sports Hub tweeted(@ScottZolak) that "Danny Amendola was at The Place last night...hmmm"Burkhardt, in turn,would not confirm or deny Amendola's presence in Boston. Meanwhile, in came another tweet from a follower that Amendola's aunt died and his father lives in Scituate. The Patriots are extremely cloak and dagger to begin with, but, in the case of Amendola, one could see why they'd be even more secretive. Hosting Welker's obvious replacement on a free agent visit will make things sticky with an invaluable player. The Patriots put the franchise tag on Welker and are committed to pay him 9.5 million. They have until July 15 to work out an extension or Welker will play 2012 under the franchise tag. The Patriots want Welker to stay and reportedly offered him a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth 16 million last fall. Welker's camp wants a longer term and -- with the money flung at free agent wideouts over the past 40 hours -- probably wants more than 8 million per year. And the case could easily be made that he deserves both. If there's no extension, the Patriots will be in the position next offseason of franchising Welker for even more money (likely around 11 million). Again, 20 million for two years of ridiculous production without the payout of a huge bonus isn't totally absurd. But it's not going to be the first option for either side. So now, if the Amendola rumors and purported sighting are accurate,the Patriots are looking at options. Amendola missed 2011 with a dislocated elbow suffered in the season opener but Josh McDaniels got enough of a look at Amendola in St. Louis to know what he's dealing with. And what he's dealing with in Amendola is a Welker clone. We'll keep you up to date on this as information comes in.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder