Rangers tab Darvish to start playoff opener

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Rangers tab Darvish to start playoff opener

From Comcast SportsNet

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Yu Darvish will start the Texas Rangers' first playoff game -- and he finally knows all the details about who and when.

Manager Ron Washington announced Darvish as his pick before the Rangers lost their regular-season finale at Oakland 12-5 on Wednesday to wind up as an AL wild card.

"Of course I'm ready," Darvish said through an interpreter. "If I'm not ready I probably wouldn't be picked. I'm going to approach it like any other start. I'll try to pitch well and give my team a chance to win."

The two-time reigning AL champion Rangers will play in the new one-game, wild-card playoff on Friday at home against the Baltimore Orioles.

"He's finally Yu Darvish," Washington said of the club's prized offseason pickup. "I don't know the date, but it was Boston. He found Yu Darvish then, and he's been Yu Darvish since. He was searching to find what he was capable of doing over here. And I think he realizes now that competing in a relaxed, trusting and believing, that there was something he was searching for all year and he finally found it. Which is what he is when he's at his best, which is what all pitchers are when they're at their best. It's not just those adjectives I've described as Yu Darvish. That's pitchers, period, when they're at their best."

The 26-year-old is 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 29 starts and 191 1-3 innings in his first major league season after a stellar career in Japan. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has 221 strikeouts to just 89 walks and was an All-Star.

He won his final four decisions and hasn't lost in six starts since Aug. 17.

Washington met with Darvish after his Aug. 6 start at Boston, a 9-2 loss in which he was tagged for six earned runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings with nine strikeouts and four walks. Darvish has lost only once since, at Toronto on Aug. 17.

"Mainly, it's mental. I'm pitching with more of a strong mind and with confidence," Darvish said. "We had a conversation (in Boston). But we didn't talk in depth about pitching."

Darvish won his first four decisions under the huge hype of his first season in the big leagues. Before being selected an All-Star, the diplomatic pitcher insisted his numbers needed to be on par with the best in the game to earn consideration.

Darvish -- with his rock star status from Japan still ever present at spring training -- arrived at the team's Surprise, Ariz., spring site with his shaggy hair tinted orange and a dark goatee. His every move was monitored for months, and still is.

Darvish signed a 56 million, six-year contract, and the Rangers paid his Japanese club 51.7 million just to acquire him.

"I keep saying it, the guy was under tremendous pressure coming over here, learning everything, making adjustments," Washington said. "It took that point for him to find the adjustments he had to make to become what he always knew he was and we knew he was, and he found it. And that would be no different if it was any other pitcher who's a pretty good pitcher making adjustments."

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

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When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

Kelly Olynyk in Celtics starting lineup in Game 4

CLEVELAND – Amir Johnson’s right shoulder injury has him still in a state of limbo, which is why the Boston Celtics will start Kelly Olynyk tonight in Game 4 of Boston’s best-of-seven series with Cleveland.

Boston cut Cleveland’s series lead to 2-1 following their 111-108 Game 3 win.

Olynyk appeared in 75 games this season with six starts.

As a starter, he averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Olynyk said his focus tonight will be pretty simple.

“Just keep playing every possession like it’s the most important possession of the game,” Olynyk told CSNNE.com.