National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Red Sox fall 4-1 as Pineda, Ellsbury lead Yanks

NEW YORK (AP) David Ortiz looked at a cellphone photograph of Michael Pineda's right hand, one with a brown substance smeared across the palm.

"Was he hitting, or was he pitching?" Ortiz said.

Pine tar or dirt? It may never be clear.

Pineda took a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning, and Jacoby Ellsbury hit an RBI single off old roommate Clay Buchholz in his first game against the Red Sox, a 4-1 victory for the New York Yankees on Thursday night.

Ellsbury drew all the pregame attention after switching sides in the offseason. But it was the dark. seemingly tacky substance on the lower palm of Pineda's pitching hand that quickly became the focus.

Close-up camera shots clearly showed Pineda (1-1) pitching for the first four innings with something on his hand, and there was speculation it was pine tar to help him get a better grip on a chilly night. The game was never stopped for an umpire to examine him, and it was gone by the fifth.

"I thought he was great," Boston star Dustin Pedroia said. "I mean, I have pine tar on my bat, you know. That's a non-issue. I thought he was better than us tonight."

Pineda maintained nothing sinister was involved.

"It's dirt," Pineda said. "Between the innings, I'm sweating too much, my hand. I'm putting dirt - I'm grasping the dirt. ... I'm not using pine tar."

Buchholz and fellow Red Sox ace Jon Lester both attracted questions last year about substances they had on the mound, but nothing came of them.

"I became aware of it in the fourth inning through the video that someone had seen," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And then, when he came back out for the fifth inning, it looked, based on where it was told to me it was located, it looked like the palm of his right hand was clean."

Umpires weren't aware of the issue until after the game.

"The Red Sox didn't bring it to our attention, so there's nothing we can do about it," umpire crew chief Brian O'Nora said. "If they bring it to our attention, then you've got to do something."

And Yankees manager Joe Girardi essentially repeated the same answer five times during his postgame news conference.

"I never saw it. There's nothing really for me to talk about," he said.

Making his first Yankee Stadium start 27 months after he was acquired from Seattle, Pineda appeared completely recovered from the shoulder surgery that sidelined him for two years. Throwing at up to 95 mph, he allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked two.

Brian McCann ended an 0-for-14 slide with a run-scoring single that put the Yankees ahead during a two-run fourth that also included a run-scoring double-play grounder by Alfonso Soriano.

In just his third big league start after 554 games in the minor leagues, 27-year-old infielder Dean Anna homered as New York boosted its lead to 4-0 in the fifth, when Ellsbury had an RBI single.

"Playing with him so long and then you see him playing against us, it's definitely kind of weird," Pedroia said.

Daniel Nava led off the seventh with a home run into the second deck in right, and Xander Bogaerts' single chased Pineda.

Buchholz (0-1) was sharper than in his opening start against Milwaukee, giving up four runs - two earned - and seven hits in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks.

"It got a lot better in a five-day span, which usually doesn't happen that quick," Buchholz said. "I felt a lot more comfortable with each pitch out there tonight."

NOTES: Red Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr. sprinted into left-center to catch Carlos Beltran's two-out drive in the fourth with Derek Jeter on second. Nava sprinted in to make a sprawling grab on Yangervis Solarte's fly to right leading off the third. ... CC Sabathia (1-1) is slated to face Lester (0-2) on Friday night.

Old guys get it done in opening round at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) In a tournament packed with a bunch of young newcomers, the 50-and-over crowd made a bit of a stand in the first round of the Masters.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was leading the tournament for a time before stumbling on the back nine. Fred Couples was on the leaderboard himself before tying the 50-year-old Jimenez with a 1-under 71 that left both players three shots off the lead.

And former champion Bernard Langer managed to shoot even par in his 31st Masters.

"A 72 is not that shabby," the 56-year-old Langer said.

Not shabby at all, though the Masters is the one major championship where older players tend to do well. Jack Nicklaus finished in a tie for sixth here at the age of 58 in 1998, while Couples always seems to be hanging around the lead in the early rounds.

Power still counts, but sometimes the older players can make up for it by knowing where to put the ball and being crafty.

"It's hard for anyone. There are a lot of young guys that can hit the ball a long ways," said Jimenez, who was 4 under and in the lead before making bogey on No. 11 and double on 12 after hitting it in the water. "I don't hit the ball that far, but I hit it and it goes straight to the flag, you know. It's nice to see that I'm being competitive with all the guys."

Couples, who won the 1992 Masters, said he feels like he can still play Augusta National and compete with younger players, though he concedes he would have to get some breaks to put on another green jacket on Sunday.

"Can a 50-year-old win here?" the 54-year-old Couples asked. "I think so. I'm one of them."

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FAMILY TIES: Bill Haas didn't let blood get in the way of work. He fired his brother last month and picked up a new caddie for the Masters.

"I needed to switch it up," Haas said. "My brother has been on the bag a bunch for a few years, and I think I needed a change."

Jay Haas Jr. has been hired and fired before - just like any other player-caddie relationship - and Bill, his younger brother, is known to be tough to work for at times. Plus, Bill didn't just go find anyone from the caddie yard.

He is using Scott Gneiser, who was with David Toms when he won the 2001 PGA Championship. Gneiser started this year working for PGA Tour rookie John Peterson until getting fired, about the time Bill put his brother on the bench.

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TOUGH 12: The tricky little Par-3 12th at Augusta National played tougher than it has in years.

The 155-yard hole, which has water and a bunker in front, proved to be the second-hardest on the course in the opening round Thursday. Nicknamed "Golden Bell," the hole yielded six birdies, 56 pars, 26 bogeys, six doubles and three triples. The only hole tougher was the par-4 No. 11. The last time the 12th played as hard was 2009.

It was the only blemish on defending champion Adam Scott's scorecard.

Scott doubled the 12th after his tee shot caught the bank in front of the green and hopped back into Rae's Creek.

"I had just received the most incredible ovation as I came to the 12th tee - and I hit my worst shot of the day," Scott said. "I think that's my first-ever trip into Rae's Creek."

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IKE'S TREE: Three former champions who have combined for 13 wins in the Masters have different ideas about what should happen to the 17th hole now that the Eisenhower Tree is gone.

"I think I would probably put a tree right back where the tree was try to get it about as similar as it was when it was taken out," Arnold Palmer said.

Jack Nicklaus, the six-time champion who is most heavily involved in golf course design, said he would pay closer attention to the hole beyond where Ike's tree was.

"It does look a little naked," Nicklaus said. "It's not only Ike's tree, but Little Ike and a couple other trees were gone. But they really had no effect on the play of the golf tournament as it relates to the tournament. ... Sure, you could put a tree back. But I personally think that the hole needs definition a little further up, not back."

Gary Player said no other tree has had greater significance on a golf course. That said, Player is not a big fan of trees that come into play off the tee.

"As much as I had for the name attached to the tree, I think it's best that the tree does not be put back," Player said.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said the club would move slowly in figuring out the best change, if any.

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DONALD PENALTY: Luke Donald's 7-over 79 - his highest score ever at the Masters - included a two-stroke penalty.

After Donald left his third shot in a green-side bunker at par-4 ninth, he grounded his club before his next stroke. That incurred a two-stroke penalty that left him with a quadruple-bogey 8. He rebounded with seven pars and a bogey over his next eight holes, but ended the round with a bogey that left him just shy of 80.

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DUFNER'S DUFF: Jason Dufner carded the highest score of the day, a quadruple-bogey 9 at the 13th. Things unraveled in a hurry, too, after reaching the green-side rough in two. Dufner's third shot slid past the hole, just missing the pin by a few inches, and didn't stop until it rolled off the green, down an embankment and into a creek.

With part of his ball above water, Dufner tried to chip out from there, but the shot came up short and rolled back in. He dropped from there, then chunked his sixth shot well short. He chipped on and two-putted for his highest score by far in 13 rounds at the Masters.

Dufner finished at 8 over.

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DIVOTS: Eight players shot 80 or higher: amateur Chang-woo Lee (80), Hideki Matsuyama (80), Jason Dufner (80), Graham DeLaet (80), amateur Jordan Niebrugge (81), Craig Stadler (82), Ben Crenshaw (83) and Branden Grace (84). ... Bubba Watson (3-under 69) had the only bogey-free round of the day. ... Of the six amateurs in the field, three of them - Matthew Fitzpatrick, Oliver Goss and Garrick Porteous - shot 76.

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AP Sports Writer Tim Dahlberg and AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

Giants' Eli Manning has surgery on left ankle

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is going to start the offseason training program with a surgically repaired left ankle.

The Giants announced that Manning had arthroscopic surgery Thursday to relieve some lingering discomfort in the ankle he sprained in the regular-season finale against Washington.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP has been rehabbing the ankle for more than three months, but it was still bothering him.

Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C., performed a debridement, removing dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue.

Manning expects to be able to run in six weeks.

Manning is coming off one of his worst seasons. The 33-year-old who will be entering his 11th season threw a career-high 27 interceptions playing behind a decimated offensive line that allowed him to be sacked 39 times. He completed 317 of 551 passes for 3,818 yards and 18 touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 69.4 was his lowest since a 55.4 in his rookie season in 2004.

"I'm looking forward to the start of the offseason program on the (April) 21st," said Manning, who has started 151 consecutive games. "I will be in the weight room and in the meeting rooms so we can all learn the new offense. I got some good work in this week at Duke, and I think it's smart to get this procedure done now so the ankle isn't an ongoing issue. I'm eager to get to work with our new offensive coaches and system."

The Giants will hold organized team activities May 28-30, June 2-3, June 5, June 9-10, June 12-13, and a mandatory minicamp June 17-19.

Coach Tom Coughlin hired Ben McAdoo as the new offensive coordinator after Kevin Gilbride retired after last season. There also is a new quarterback coach, Danny Langsdorf.

The Giants (7-9) scored 294 points, the lowest total of the Tom Coughlin era. They finished 28th in the NFL in total yards (307.5 a game), 29th in yards rushing per game (83.3) and 30th in yards per carry (3.5).

New York has missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Task force: Niagara Falls possible home for Bills

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Don't rule out Niagara Falls as a potential future home of the Buffalo Bills.

Several officials told The Associated Press that a newly formed Bills stadium task force of public and private leaders seeking to bolster the team's long-term viability is considering sites that would put it closer to the team's burgeoning Ontario fan base.

"We're looking at Niagara County," Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy told the AP this week. "We're open to looking at a number of venues."

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster confirmed Niagara County was discussed as an option during the inaugural meeting last week of the newly formed New Stadium Working Group committee.

Duffy made clear "that all options should be on the table," Dyster said, adding that includes Niagara County and even Batavia, about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester.

That goes beyond the group's initial directive, which was first limited to seeking potential stadium sites in Erie County, where Buffalo is located.

Another idea is having the Bills relocate their headquarters to the University at Buffalo campus in the Erie County town of Amherst, where a new practice facility would be built and shared with the school's football team. That proposal would satisfy a long-term need for a Mid-American Conference program seeking to broaden its profile.

Though not a member of the working group, New York state Sen. Tim Kennedy told the AP he is aware of the preliminary discussions tying the Bills and the school. A person familiar with the discussions confirmed the Bills/UB plan has been raised. That person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the subjects raised in the private meeting and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Duffy and Dyster are among 20 members of the stadium group, which was established to make recommendations on whether the Bills require a new facility or should continue playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium, their 41-year-old home in Orchard Park. The group was formed as part of a 10-year, $271-million lease agreement the team reached with the state and Erie County in December 2012.

The group's role in helping determine the Bills' future took on more significance after Ralph Wilson, the team's owner and founder, died on March 25. Wilson's widow, Mary Wilson, is now overseeing the team until the franchise is sold, which raises the possibility of the Bills relocating under a new owner.

The Bills are essentially locked into playing at their current home through the 2019 season, because the lease features a $400 million penalty in the event the team broke it. In 2020, the Bills have a one-time opportunity to opt out of the lease for about $28 million.

Toronto and Los Angeles are regarded potential suitors.

The new owner will have final say on any stadium proposal.

It's incumbent upon the working group, which includes U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, to present a framework of viable options that provide the best chance of keeping the team in western New York.

"We have many very good tools to help that happen," Schumer told the AP. "I think there is a view that us showing early interest and the potential of a new home for the Bills is very helpful, because we want to show an owner that we want to do what it take to keep the Bills in Buffalo."

Ralph Wilson Stadium is currently undergoing $130 million in upgrades. The work includes structural upgrades and adding fan amenities to bring the facility up to modern-day NFL standards.

The Bills' presence has been regarded as key in helping an economically hard-hit region maintain a national identity. As the NFL's only New York-based franchise, the team generates about $20 million in direct annual tax revenue for the state.

Niagara Falls is 30 minutes closer by car than Orchard Park to a growing southern Ontario fan base. The Bills estimate Canadians make up about 18 percent of their season-ticket base.

Kennedy favors the proposal of linking the Bills and the university but is against a stadium site outside of Erie County.

"The Buffalo Bills were born in Buffalo and should stay in Buffalo," Kennedy said. "At least in Erie County. If we're talking about a new stadium I'd like to see it built in Buffalo proper."

Kennedy said a new stadium with a dome or a retractable roof could be part of a larger development, including a new convention center. The new facility would boost efforts to re-energize downtown Buffalo, he said, and could even make the city a contender for hosting the Super Bowl, he said.

Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra said the southern Ontario market is critical to the Bills' future. Giambra said Wilson discussed with him the possibility of the team playing home games in St. Catharines, Ontario, while maintaining its headquarters in New York.

"They were aggressively trying to figure out how to tap that Canadian marketplace because of the economics," Giambra said.

Dyster is aware of discussions regarding the advantages of Niagara Falls' location, but said it's premature to suggest what recommendations might emerge.

"The critical thing here is that we all have to come together as a region to make certain that we keep the Bills here," Dyster said. "If we lose the Bills, we're all losers."

Davis to miss last 4 games, Gordon having surgery

METAIRIE, La. (AP) The Pelicans say All-Star forward Anthony Davis will miss New Orleans' final four games this season.

The club also says guard Eric Gordon is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee next week.

Davis, who has averaged 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks this season, sat out Wednesday night's loss to Phoenix with back soreness. The club says team doctors have determined that Davis could use another week or two of rest to heal properly.

Gordon, who has averaged 15.4 points during 64 games, has missed 10 straight contests with left knee tendinitis. The Pelicans say he's expected to make a full recovery during the offseason.

New Orleans' season concludes with two games each against Oklahoma City and Houston, starting Friday night in Oklahoma City.

Kenseth looking for another Darlington win

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) Matt Kenseth hopes to get his season going and lock up a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Darlington Raceway.

Kenseth came to the Southern 500 last May as one of Sprint Cup's hottest drivers, winning twice in his first season driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. This time, Kenseth comes in winless through seven races under the new NASCAR format where a victory pretty much ensures a driver a spot in the 16-team Chase.

Kenseth added to his fast start a season ago with a Southern 500 win. He'd love to become the eighth different driver to win in as many races with his second consecutive victory here. Kenseth says he's not any more concerned about the winless start than he would be in any season.

A's take struggling Jim Johnson out of closer role

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Oakland Athletics brought Jim Johnson into their bullpen when they lost All-Star closer Grant Balfour in free agency.

Two weeks into the season, Johnson is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA and one blown save in five appearances for the Athletics. Manager Bob Melvin couldn't afford to wait while the former Orioles closer got into a groove, removing him from that role on Thursday.

Melvin will proceed with a closer-by-committee approach.

"There's no timetable," Melvin told A's beat writers before the team played their series finale against the Minnesota Twins. "Let's just get him straightened out. And we have plenty of options. That's the good thing about our team, our versatility. We'll play it by ear based on how the game's going, who's available on that particular day."

He's allowed at least two runs in three of his five appearances, his seven total runs allowed is tied for the most in the AL among relievers. He's allowed more walks and hits than any other reliever in the league.

It's a far cry from the dominant reliever who saved 50 games for the Orioles last season, tied with Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the most in the majors. The A's were in the market when Balfour, who had 38 saves last year to help Oakland win its second straight AL West title, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays over the winter.

Johnson is making $10 million and will be a free agent at the end of this season, but the A's can take heart that he has recovered from similar funks before to post solid seasons. Last year, he was charged with three losses and four of his nine total blown saves during a tough six-game stretch in the middle of May. He allowed 12 runs over five innings in that stretch, but posted a 1.52 ERA in his other 69 appearances.

Oakland will use Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, Luke Gregorson and Sean Doolittle in save situations, depending on the matchup.

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