From Comcast SportsNetKANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals have slowly and methodically allowed their top prospects to climb through their farm system in recent years, piecing together a team they believe can compete in the wide-open American League Central.All that's been missing has been the pitching.They dipped into the farm system to solve that problem, too.The Royals sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night for former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis, making an aggressive move to bolster a rotation that was one of the worst in the major leagues last season."We have to start winning games at the major league level, and the way you develop a winning culture is by winning major league games," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It's time for us to start winning at the major league level."Kansas City, which hasn't had a winning season since 2003, has long had one of the best farm systems in baseball, and slowly the cream has risen to the big league level -- first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez form a fine nucleus. But there's been a dearth of starting pitching for years, and that's what Moore and the rest of the front office have been trying to fix this offseason.He's already re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a 25 million, three-year deal, and took on former All-Star Ervin Santana and 12 million of his contract from the Angels. But the trade for Shields and Davis is Moore's most aggressive move yet, giving Kansas City the ace it has been lacking since trading away Zack Greinke, along with another piece that could fit in the rotation or the bullpen."When you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields and Wade Davis, we have to do it, because that's what we've committed to our team -- we've committed to our organization," Moore said. "It's important that we start winning games."Along with giving up Myers, an outfielder widely voted the minor leagues' top player last season, the Royals also traded away Odorizzi, a talented right-hander who should soon compete for a spot in the Rays' rotation. Left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard also are headed to the Rays, while the Royals will receive a player to be named or cash."We're constantly working to balance the present and the future, and always trying to thread the needle," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "As an organization we rely more on the contributions of our young players basically than anyone else in baseball, and with this trade we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years."Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation the past seven seasons. He was an All-Star two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts last season, when he pitched 227 2-3 innings -- his sixth consecutive year of at least 200 innings pitched.The only other pitchers to log at least 200 innings in six straight seasons are the Jays' Mark Buehrle, San Francisco's Matt Cain, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and the Tigers ace Justin Verlander."If you're going to win consistently in the major leagues, you're going to need a rotation that gives you innings, competes, helps you win," Moore said. "That's what our goal is, to put together a very good rotation. We feel we've done that."Shields is due to receive 10.5 million this season. He has a club option for 12 million in 2014 with a 1 million buyout.The Royals suddenly have a glut of starting pitchers with Shields, Santana and Guthrie joined by Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, who are expected back from last year. Luke Hochevar is eligible for arbitration, while Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will return at some point during the middle of the season after having Tommy John surgery.Davis also could be thrown into the mix.The right-hander started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, but he was shuttled to the bullpen last season when the Rays had an abundance of starters. He flourished as a reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, creating some flexibility for him in Kansas City.Davis is due to make 2.8 million this season and 4.8 million in 2014, with the Royals holding options on the next three years.The jewel of the deal for Tampa Bay is undoubtedly Myers, who turns 22 on Monday.The power-hitting outfielder batted .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBIs in 134 games at Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, and eventually could help provide some protection in the batting order for Rays star Evan Longoria. Myers showed what he could do during the All-Star Futures Game hosted by Kansas City, when he had a pair of hits and drove in three runs at Kauffman Stadium.He'll finally get a chance to prove it at the major league level at Tropicana Field.Odorizzi was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA for Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, and made two late-season starts for Kansas City, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 7 1-3 innings. Montgomery was once considered one of the Royals' top prospects, but his stock slid last season, when he went 5-13 with a 6.07 ERA last season while getting demoted from Omaha to Northwest Arkansas.Leonard hit .251 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 62 games for short-season Burlington."We're excited to add these guys, anxious to get to know them beyond the information we have on them," Friedman said. "I think it's very possible that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi will help us win games in 2013, and Mike Montgomery as well."
FOXBORO -- There was not much room for debate as far as this was concerned: Derek Rivers was among the most physically-impressive defensive ends in a draft class loaded at that position.
That begs the question, then, how did the Patriots have the opportunity to draft Rivers at No. 83 overall in the third round?
The short answer is that he went to Youngstown State, an FCS school, and those players usually don't come off the board early.
But that answer only leads to more questions, as in, how did someone with the athleticism Rivers possesses end up at Youngstown in the first place? And why did he stay?
At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds Rivers was among the top defensive line performers at this year's combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, which was good for fourth at his position group. His 30 bench reps of 225 pounds were also fourth among defensive linemen, and tied him with Solomon Thomas (the No. 3 overall pick who weighed 273 pounds in Indy).
Rivers also checked in with the ninth-best broad jump for defensive linemen (123 inches), the fifth-best vertical (35 inches), and the third-best three-cone drill (6.94 seconds).
Those kinds of athletes don't typically end up at Youngstown State. They usually end up a couple hundred miles down the road in Columbus.
"Out of high school, I was a non-qualifier, so I didn’t get my SATs, and then I was just a late bloomer," said Rivers, who was 182 pounds near the end of his sophomore year in high school, according to Vindy.com. "I wasn’t very heavily recruited so I went to Fork Union [Military Academy] and then Youngstown came and they offered me. I was just ready to play ball."
Rivers may have been able to head to a bigger program after emerging for Youngstown as a sophomore with 14 sacks (fifth in FCS that year) and 17 tackles for a loss. But he stayed, and he continued to dominate. As a junior he had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. As a senior he had 14 sacks and a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss.
Feeling devoted to the program that gave him a chance, Rivers remained and had the opportunity to work under coach Bo Pelini for each of the last two seasons.
Pelini, a former Nebraska head coach and former Patriots linebackers coach under Pete Carroll (1997-99), may have in a roundabout way helped Rivers land in New England. Pelini and Bill Belichick seem to have a good relationship -- Belichick is now coaching two of Pelini's former players in Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead -- and Belichick referenced the coaching Rivers received under Pelini as one of the reasons why Rivers is ready for the NFL.
When asked about Pelini during his conference call with Patriots reporters, Rivers seemed to agree.
"Bo was awesome, man. He was like another father to me as far as when he came to Youngstown," Rivers said. "I mean, he took our team to another level. Just the little things that he focused on as far as accountability, doing all the little things right. I mean, those were the things that Bo emphasized, and those were the things that Bo instilled in me."
Rivers added: "The first thing that Coach Bo said in his first meeting with us when he got to Youngstown was that he was like, ‘What you do off the field is going to reflect on how you play on the field.’
"I was a non-qualifier in high school. At Youngstown, I’m probably going to graduate with a 3.0, and it makes sense. If you’re lazy off the field, you’re going to be lazy on the field. If you miss assignments in class, you may miss assignments on the field, so they translate."
Even though even though he's not coming from Alabama or Florida State, even though he took a bit of a circuitous route to get there, in his first night with the team Rivers sure sounded like someone who's been on the fast track to Foxboro for years.
The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards will begin their semi-final series on Sunday, April 30 at 1:00pm.
CSN will get you ready with Pregame Live at noon, and will wrap up the action on Postgame Live immediately following the game.
The complete schedule (all times Eastern)
GAME 1 -- Sunday, April 30 at Boston, 1:00PM (ABC)
GAME 2 -- Tuesday, May 2 at Boston, 8:00PM (TNT)
GAME 3 -- Thursday, May 4 at Washington, 8:00PM (ESPN)
GAME 4 -- Sunday, May 7 at Washington, 6:30PM (TNT)
xGAME 5 -- Wednesday, May 10 at Boston, TBD (TNT)
xGAME 6 -- Friday, May 12 at Washington, TBD (ESPN)
xGAME 7 -- Monday, May 15 at Boston, 8:00PM (TNT)