National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

US Open under way on a new kind of Pinehurst

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) Daniel Berger hit the opening tee shot in the U.S. Open that illustrated the difference of Pinehurst No. 2.

He hit an iron just short of the sandy area filled with native plants - or weeds - and clumps of wiregrass bushes. In the two previous U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2, his ball might have been in thick rough that is typical of the so-called toughest test in golf.

Under cloud cover in North Carolina, the U.S. Open was off to a quiet start.

Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson made birdie on the opening hole. Birdies are expected to be hard to find at Pinehurst, even with its new look. It is reputed to be one of the tougher U.S. Open courses because of its turtleback greens designed by Donald Ross.

For now, the course is the story.

The resort hired Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to restore the natural look of more than a half-century ago to this Ross masterpiece. Some 40 acres of sod was removed, and now there are vast expanses of what appears to be sandy dunes. This U.S. Open effectively has no rough.

The amount of sprinklers was reduced by nearly 60 percent, and they are in a single row in the middle of fairways. So the course has a very brown look to it, especially around the edges. Players have been raving about it all week, even though they knew what was in store for them.

The one player getting plenty of attention is Phil Mickelson.

He teed off Thursday morning in his quest to finally win a U.S. Open. Mickelson holds the record with six runner-up finishes, and that takes on even greater significance because the U.S. Open is the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam.

As part of this major's tradition, Mickelson's victory in the British Open last summer put him in the same group as the U.S. Open champion - Justin Rose, who denied Mickelson the title last year at Merion. Also joining them was U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Rory McIlroy was among the early starters.

Trial will weigh if Sterling was properly ousted

LOS ANGELES (AP) A trial will be held next month to determine whether Donald Sterling, who opposes his estranged wife's planned sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, was properly removed as an administrator for the family trust that owns the team.

A probate court judge in Los Angeles Wednesday denied Shelly Sterling's urgent request to confirm her authority as sole administrator of The Sterling Family Trust so that she can unilaterally proceed with a $2 billion sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Instead, the judge agreed to an expedited hearing because of looming sales deadlines.

The development is the latest in a legal tug-of-war following the NBA's decision to ban Donald Sterling for life after racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. Donald Sterling is fighting the decision and suing the league for $1 billion.

The league has contended the comments were bad for business and damaged both the Clippers and the NBA.

The four-day trial was granted exceptionally quickly and will begin July 7. The deadline for the sale is July 15, which also is the date the NBA's owners hope to vote on whether they will approve the sale.

Court filings Wednesday indicated the NBA has set a hard deadline of Sept. 15. If the sale isn't completed then, the league will undertake proceedings to seize and sell the team on its own.

Donald Sterling's lawyer, Bobby Samini, left the courthouse without comment after a clerk announced the trial schedule. Neither Sterling was present.

"I just want to resolve this as quickly as possible," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Associated Press on Wednesday in Miami at an NBA Cares event.

The crux of the case will center on the question of whether the 80-year-old Donald Sterling is mentally competent to be a co-trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which gives him the authority to determine the team's future. According to the trust's terms, he can be ruled "mentally incapacitated" after being evaluated by two doctors, said Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly Sterling's attorney.

Shelly Sterling activated that clause in negotiating what would be a record-breaking deal with Ballmer as sole trustee. But Donald Sterling challenged the removal in a letter sent Monday to his wife's attorney said "any attempt to remove me as a Trustee of the Sterling Trust is invalid and illegal. Furthermore, any assertion that I am `incapacitated'... is false and without merit."

According to court documents, two doctors examined Donald Sterling in May and concluded that he suffers from "mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimer's Disease" or some other forms of brain disease after examining brain scans and having him undergo other tests.

"In my opinion he is substantially unable to manage his finances and resist fraud and undue influence, and is no longer competent to act as trustee of his trust," concluded Dr. James E. Spar, who is affiliated with the division of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA.

Sterling voluntarily went to the doctors at the request of his wife, according to a person with knowledge of the proceedings who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly.

A third doctor reviewed the two doctors' findings as well as Sterling's brain scans and concurred with their conclusions that he "lacks the capacity to function as trustee."

Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, contested the doctors' findings in remarks Tuesday to The Associated Press.

"Anybody at his age level on a brain scan would probably show some impairment. But that doesn't mean you forget where your car keys are and you're incompetent," Blecher said. "There isn't the slightest evidence he's incapable of managing his affairs."

Donald Sterling said in a statement that he's not just fighting for the Clippers but taking a stand against the NBA, which he called "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters" who want "to take away our privacy rights and freedom of speech."

"As I've said previously, if Donald chooses to litigate against us, so be it," Silver said. "So it's going to take longer than we had hoped for this transaction to close, but it'll get done ultimately. It's just a question of time."

Ballmer's attorney, Adam Streisand, said he was pleased with the trial schedule and "confident that after the trial the court is going to bless this transaction."

The NBA's general counsel, Rick Buchanan, warned in a court papers that if the judge didn't confirm Shelly Sterling's sole trusteeship and if her deal with Ballmer "is not promptly consummated, there will be substantial harm" to the Clippers, the NBA and even The Sterling Family Trust - the last of which would be responsible for the NBA's costs related to the legal proceedings that result.

Buchanan said a recent independent survey of more than 500 Clippers fans found the majority would be less likely to support the team if Donald Sterling remained its owner. Buchanan said thousands of NBA fans worldwide have contacted the league directly or via social media to say they're hurt or embarrassed by his views and aren't sure they'll continue supporting the league and its teams. He also cited NBA player worries about the impact for the team with the upcoming NBA draft.

"Mr. Sterling's continued ownership is damaging the Clippers' and NBA's relationships with existing and potential business partners and licenses," Buchanan wrote. He said nearly all of the Clippers' local sponsors have terminated or suspended their relationships with the team, including Adidas, Commerce Casino and Hotel, Red Bull, Mandalay Bay Hotel, Virgin America and Mercedes.

Shelly Sterling's court bid aims to have a judge confirm her authority as sole trustee to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward.

Blecher said that a representative for Donald Sterling would be at any hearing, and that the next step is to have other doctors evaluate Donald Sterling.

"I have no doubt at the end of the day the court is not going to say he's incompetent," Blecher said. "That's a very high burden in the probate court - otherwise people would get their sisters and wife and brother-in-laws and everybody declared incompetent."

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

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Tami Abdollah can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/latams

Donovan to analyze US team during World Cup

LOS ANGELES -- ESPN has hired Landon Donovan to offer commentary on the U.S. soccer team he was cut from just before the World Cup.

The 32-year-old Donovan, the American career leader in goals and assists, was dropped last month in a highly debated move by coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Donovan made his debut during ESPN's two-hour World Cup preview show Wednesday.

On Klinsmann's comments that the U.S. isn't ready to win a World Cup, Donovan said on air: "This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I disagree with Jurgen."

Donovan will work out of the company's Los Angeles studios, with a particular focus on his former team. He will provide analysis before and after the Americans' group-stage matches and during halftime. Donovan also will appear on shows such as "SportsCenter."

"Clearly he knows the team," ESPN President John Skipper said in Sao Paulo. "We're going to have him concentrate on the day before the U.S. games, the day of the U.S. games. It is not our expectation to put him on the spot."

A veteran of three World Cups, Donovan can provide inside analysis of the Americans.

"We're much more interested in tactics and his reaction to how they are playing," Skipper said. "He knows the team."

Donovan scored a U.S.-record five World Cup goals, including a stoppage-time goal against Algeria sent the Americans to the second round four years ago.

Former teammate Jozy Altidore said in Sao Paulo he wasn't too surprised by the move.

"He's a smart guy. He knows the game very well," Altidore said. "It was always going to going to happen - right? - him to be a commentator."

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya agreed that "I don't see any problem with it."

"I feel like people are probably going to want to tune in on that, yeah," he added.

US Open to start its 2-week experiment

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) Too bad the USGA couldn't get Ernie Banks on the first tee Thursday to announce, "Let's play two!" Banks was known as "Mr. Cub," and he loved baseball so much he wished there could be a doubleheader every day.

That's effectively what awaits the USGA at Pinehurst No. 2.

For the first time in history, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open will be held on the same course in consecutive weeks. USGA executive director Mike Davis is excited about the grand experiment, though he's making no promises.

"Let me just stay that for the two weeks, our intent is to try to test both groups of golfers in a like manner," Davis said Wednesday. "Whether we're actually able to pull that off or not is another story that I think a lot of us - including me - are still waiting to see, although we're confident we can get pretty good at it."

The idea is to have men and women approach the greens with roughly the same type of shot.

Pinehurst will play 7,562 yards for the men and 6,649 yards for the women.

"If it happens to rain a lot in week two versus week one, we will take that under consideration in terms of how the golf course is set up," Davis said.

The comparison with men and women in golf is always the speed of the green. Davis said he intends to keep the putting surfaces at 12 on the Stimpmeter for both weeks. The difference is the greens for the Women's Open will be less firm.

"So if a male hits a 6-iron in, it reacts the same way as a 6-iron hit by the female," he said.

The big question has been divots that 156 players take over two days, and then roughly 70 more players take on the weekend. Davis doesn't expect that to be a problem. Playoff from divots is part of the game, anyway.

Davis thinks it will be a great week. If nothing else, he expects it to showcase women's golf. But he can't make any promises.

"I will acknowledge, this sounds swell on paper," Davis said. "Trying to execute it perfectly, I can almost guarantee you we won't do that."

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PEBBLE FUTURE: LPGA Tour players celebrated when the USGA announced nearly a decade ago that Pebble Beach would host a U.S. Women's Open. Seven years ago, when the U.S. Women's Open was at Pine Needles, former executive director David Fay said of the Women's Open going to Pebble, "We know the year - it's 2014 - but we have not finalized the date."

The year is 2014. The women are at Pinehurst No. 2.

As for Pebble Beach? That's no longer in the picture, at least for now.

USGA President Tom O'Toole said when the U.S. Open was at Pebble Beach in 2010, it was announced that the course along the Pacific Ocean would celebrate its centennial by hosting the 1918 U.S. Amateur and the 1919 U.S. Open.

"In those discussions, we mutually withdrew the concept of going there for `14 for the women," O'Toole said. "We will continue to advance the idea of taking the Women's Open to Pebble Beach.

"The conventional thinking was, `OK, we won't burden them in `14,"' he said. "We'll go there in `18, `19, and we'll talk of a future Women's Open thereafter."

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NEXT UP FOR PINEHURST: Pinehurst No. 2 is hosting its third U.S. Open since 1999, the most any golf course has hosted an Open in such a short period of time in more than a century. It also had the U.S. Amateur in 2008.

The next USGA championship is right around the corner for the resort.

USGA president Tom O'Toole said Wednesday that Pinehurst has been selected to host the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship the last weekend in May.

Because there will be 256 players - 128 two-man teams - Pinehurst No. 2 and Pinehurst No. 4 will host the qualifying in stroke play, and then No. 2 will take the 32 teams who qualify for match play. Fourballs is also referred to as "better ball" in America.

The new championship starts next year at Olympic Club. It replaces the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

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MICKELSON'S BEEF: Phil Mickelson said Pinehurst No. 2 was simply awesome. At least 17 of the holes.

His only complaint is how the USGA switched up the par 5s on the front nine. The fourth hole played as a par 5 the last two times at about 565 yards. The fifth hole was a par 4 that measured about 480 yards.

For this year, No. 4 is a par 4 at 529 yards, while No. 5 is 576 yards and a par 5. Mickelson loves the change - he just doesn't like the extra length on No. 5

"When they made No. 5 a par 5, I thought it was the greatest decision because that green is the most difficult green out here and I thought it sure would be exciting to see us hitting long iron shots into a par 5 trying to make birdies and eagles," he said. "But when the tee boxes were moved so far back to where it's not reachable, now the shot we're hitting into that green is a 50-yard pitch shot.

"That's just not exciting, challenging, and won't have the same type of drama that it would have if those back tees were removed and the green was reachable in two."

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WHAT, NO FOOT WEDGE?: Rory McIlroy isn't one to tinker with his clubs, but he's swapping out one of the four wedges he usually carries to make room for a 3-iron in the bag this week.

With Pinehurst No. 2 stretched to 7,562 yards this week, the former U.S. Open champion expects to use the 3-iron off several tees to keep the ball in the fairways on tight par 4s.

"I played, last Tuesday, I played one ball around here, tried to keep score, and I only had three wedge shots into greens," McIlroy said.

He's also planning to use the long shot on the par-5 10th.

"I'll play that as a three-shot hole. The par-3 sixth hole is another one that a 3-iron is going to be needed," he said. "I just felt like there's a few more 3-irons needed on this course."

Column: McIlroy gets some tips from the old master

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) The one thing Rory McIlroy won't lack heading into this U.S. Open is advice. In the few weeks since his breakup with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, only some of it has been worth much.

Gary Player told him to lay low. Jack Nicklaus told him not to be afraid to change the way he plays, even in the middle of a round. Smartly, he only followed up with one of them.

"Do you just ring him up," a reporter asked about McIlroy's budding relationship with Nicklaus, "and say, `I'm popping in?"'

"I don't ring him up," McIlroy chuckled, "I ring his secretary up and say, `I'd like to schedule a meeting, please.' But it's been great to spend some time with him. I feel like I've got a really good rapport."

The two had lunch in Florida a week after the Memorial, the PGA Tour stop where Nicklaus plays the gracious host but isn't shy about asking tough questions. Not about relationships, mind you, unless you count questions about where to slot the club at the top of the backswing.

"He said to me, he goes, `How the hell can you shoot 63 (in the first round) and then 78 (in the second)?"' McIlroy recalled. "I said, `I wasn't meaning to, Jack. I'm trying not to."'

That began a conversation between the two on the subject of trust. Nicklaus told him the moment he sensed his swing was sliding off the rails in that second round, he would have made a change "right then and there."

"The mental strength to be able to do that," McIlroy paused, still marveling at the idea.

"Hopefully," he added a moment later, "some of those little nuggets of wisdom that he passed on to me might help this week."

Success came so fast for the 25-year-old Northern Irishman it was easy to assume he'd mastered most of golf's lessons. But it took an old soul like Nicklaus to point out where some of the big gaps remained.

When McIlroy wins, he usually wins big, running away from the field the way he did at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional. What he has yet to prove is whether he has the patience and toughness to grind out victories, a trait that served Nicklaus and Tiger Woods well over decades. If nothing else, the back-and-forth with Nicklaus has put the idea in his head.

"It's going to be a test of patience," McIlroy said about Pinehurst No. 2. "And I think I am better equipped than I was a few years ago. The U.S. Open I won was a very ... was abnormal. It was wet. It was low scoring. I haven't won a tournament whenever it's been like this. That's why I'm relishing the challenge.

"It's conditions that I haven't won in before and I'd love to be able to prove to myself, but also prove to other people that I can win in different conditions. It's a great opportunity to do that this week."

While Nicklaus will be McIlroy's model this week, he hasn't ignored Player's advice altogether. In the wake of his very public breakup with Wozniacki, he has lowered his social media profile and already won once. He concedes that balancing his public life he has with the private one he wants is an act he's still working on.

"It's nice when you get out on the golf course because you've got five hours of you're just out there with your clubs, with your caddie, trying to shoot the best score possible," McIlroy said. "That's the approach that I'm sort of adopting from now until whenever."

The conversation with Nicklaus appears to be taking hold. Much harder to learn will be the desire that catapulted Nicklaus to 18 major victories - the stubborn pride that made him back off a 4-footer on the last hole of a tournament he wasn't going to win even in the final years of his career, because it mattered to him to shoot 77 instead of 78.

"Golf has sort of been a nice release for me the past few weeks. I just want to try to keep focused on that," McIlroy said.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at http://www.twitter.com/JimLitke

Letarte gets Earnhardt in a groove in final season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) It took Steve Letarte 51 races to return Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Victory Lane, where the duo celebrated at Michigan in 2012 a turning point in their pairing.

Letarte, a career Hendrick Motorsports employee, had been tasked with rebuilding the confidence in NASCAR's most popular driver and teaching him how to win again. The confidence part wasn't difficult - it took discipline, raised expectations and a schedule Earnhardt was expected to follow.

The winning? Well, it didn't come as often as driver and crew chief would like.

Earnhardt didn't win again in 2012 or all of 2013. His next victory didn't come to this year, the season-opening Daytona 500. But, he added a second win last Sunday at Pocono, and now heads his weekend back to Michigan International Speedway, site of his first victory with Letarte two years ago, in the midst of his first multi-win season in a decade.

The irony is that the success is finally coming as he and Letarte are set to split.

Letarte announced in January this year would be his last with Hendrick Motorsports and as Earnhardt's crew chief. He's moving into an analyst role with NBC and will be in the television booth when the network takes over a portion of the NASCAR schedule next year.

Letarte, despite the success he's finally achieving with Earnhardt, is at peace with the decision.

"You guys only get to see the great stuff, which is a win at Daytona and a win (at Pocono)," he said. "But Saturday of Kansas, my little girl had her first communion and I was in Kansas. When moments like that happen it reaffirms why I made my decision."

Letarte was 15 when he became a part-time employee with Hendrick Motorsports in 1995. In the 20 seasons since, he progressed through the organization and became one of the team's veteran crew chiefs. He also got married and had two children, but the demands of his job prevented him from being the husband and father he wanted to be.

"This is my life, this is how I was raised, but I chose ... to have a family, and when I made that decision, that was not a casual decision, that was a decision for forever," he said. "As much as I love my job, they have to come first."

Earnhardt understands that Letarte must move on for his own personal reasons, and he's genuinely happy for his crew chief - "he's going to be able to spend a ton of time with his kids, play as much golf as he wants to play. He's getting a steal compared to what he's doing right now."

But he didn't feel that way last November when Letarte told him after the season finale that he was leaving the team at the end of 2014.

"I broke down," Earnhardt admitted. "It was the hardest thing to have to hear, but at the same time, I thought, `Well, we've got one year together, and as much fun as we have and as good a friends as we are, I feel lucky to have one more year."'

So their goal is to put together the strongest season possible, to win races and make a run at the Sprint Cup title.

"It would be very disappointing and sad if this was his last year and we struggled," Earnhardt said. "But we've won two races, and I won my first Pocono race, he won his first Daytona 500. It seems a bit storybook, and we're having a real thrill."

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NO TIME TO PARTY: Ed Carpenter got very little time to celebrate following his IndyCar Series victory at Texas last Saturday night. The owner/driver returned to Indianapolis early Sunday morning, and was back to work a day later.

Carpenter and his Ed Carpenter Racing crew were on the road first thing Monday, headed to Iowa Speedway for the first of three test sessions in nine days. The team was also scheduled to test at Milwaukee and Pocono.

"I guess there is no rest for us right now," said Carpenter, who led 90 laps at Texas in grabbing his first win of the season. "We need to use this break to get ready for the next oval races. It's tough on the whole team after more than a month of work. But that is why we love to go racing."

Carpenter turned over his car this season to Mike Conway for races on road and street courses. Conway took the team to Victory Lane in April at Long Beach, and Carpenter made his season debut as driver at Indianapolis, where he won the pole for the Indy 500.

A crash ended his race early, but he rebounded two weeks later to score his first career victory at Texas.

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LE MANS COVERAGE: Bob Varsha will lead Fox Sports coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of10 on-air personalities and analysts assigned by the network to the race.

Varsha, a veteran race broadcaster, will be host and play-by-play announcer when coverage of the world's most famous sports car endurance race begins Saturday morning. Brian Till will take over for Varsha when the on-air teams rotate in multi-hour segments in similar fashion to the multi-driver entries.

Analysis will be provided by Calvin Fish, Dorsey Schroeder, Tommy Kendall and Darren Law. Fox Sports has tabbed Justin Bell, Jamie Howe, Andrew Marriott and Greg Creamer to report.

"Some events need no hype whatsoever; think The Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Tour de France," said Varsha. "Le Mans is one of those. Dale Earnhardt once told me it was the one race he wanted to do outside of NASCAR, and I'm sure Mario Andretti would tell you that, for all he achieved, Le Mans was the one that got away. That's how the drivers see it. It's that big a challenge, and that rewarding."

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MUSTANG TO PACE FIELD: Ford will continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mustang this weekend when the iconic pony car makes its debut as an official pace car in Sunday's race at Michigan.

The field will be led to the green flag by a 2015 Mustang GT fastback driven by Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co. president of The Americas.

"With its proximity to the Motor City, Michigan International Speedway is a showcase for the auto industry," said Chantel Lenard, Ford's director of U.S. marketing. "To have Mustang, a brand born of racing, in this special anniversary year, leading some of the world's best drivers to the green flag, is special."

Built in Flat Rock, Michigan, the 2015 Mustang is all-new from the ground up. The sixth-generation, rear-wheel-drive car has the long hood and short rear decklid proportions of its most iconic predecessors, as well as a low, wide stance.

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SPIRIT AWARD: Lynda Petty, the late wife of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, was named the first quarter recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association's Spirit Award.

Petty was one of the founding members of the Racing Wives Auxiliary, a charitable organization that provided assistance to those in need within the racing community. The group is now known as the Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports, and seeks to enrich the lives of women, children and families through various education and wellness programs.

Petty died in March at 72 after a long illness.

The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are chosen, and an overall winner is selected by a vote of the NMPA membership.

Also, The Petty Family Foundation this week announced it will use the numerous donations made in Petty's memory to contribute to four organizations.

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THEY SAID IT: "Some of the stuff the haters say is the funniest stuff. The real short ones, like `You suck,' those are the best ones. I just favorite them and block them," Dale Earnhardt Jr., who joined Twitter in February, on how he handles hateful tweets.

LSU S Mills indefinitely suspended after arrest

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU starting safety Jalen Mills has been indefinitely suspended from the football team by coach Les Miles after the junior's arrest on a battery charge early Wednesday morning.

A probable cause document states that a woman says Mills punched her in the mouth on May 4 in his apartment. She says she fell to the ground and was briefly unconscious.

Mills was contacted by police on May 29 and he told them he was in Houston and would return to Baton Rouge on June 9, the first day of summer school and football workouts. A June 10 appointment was set for Mills to meet with the police, but he did not make the meeting.

After police were unsuccessful in contacting Mills by telephone, a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Cavs taking close look at Kansas prospect Embiid

CLEVELAND (AP) As they search for a new coach, the Cavaliers are taking a close look at an intriguing player.

Kansas center Joel Embiid worked out Wednesday for the Cavs, who are trying to decide what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in this month's NBA draft. The 7-foot Embiid, who has only been playing basketball for a few years, arrived in Cleveland on Tuesday night for his visit, the team confirmed. The Cavs are eager to put Embiid thorough medical physical as there have been concerns about the 18-year-old's back.

Embiid missed the tail end of his freshman season with the Jayhawks because of what was described as a stress fracture in his lower back. Embiid did not attend the league's pre-draft combine last month in Chicago, and his medical records were not released by the school. The Cavs don't want to take any chances with a selection after last year's top pick, forward Anthony Bennett, struggled during his first year after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Embiid is the first of the top prospects to visit the Cavs, who are expected to meet with Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker.

"Having fun in Cleveland," Embiid wrote on his Twitter account, with a photo of a Cavaliers' T-shirt.

In the meantime, the Cavs are in the fourth week of their coaching search. The team has had interviews with at least six known candidates, the most recent being former Cleveland All-Star guard and current Charlotte assistant Mark Price. The Cavs are expected to have a second meeting with Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry, who previously worked with Cleveland general manager David Griffin in Arizona.

Ideally, the Cavs would like to have a new coach in place by the June 26 draft, but have not put a timetable on hiring their third coach in three years.

Griffin has said he would be open to listening to trade offers for the top pick.

Wainwright wins 9th, sends Rays to 3rd straight shutout

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Adam Wainwright became the NL's first nine-game winner, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat Tampa Bay 1-0 on Tuesday night, the Rays' third straight shutout loss.

The Cardinals have three consecutive shutouts for the first time since April 2013. St. Louis, with 13 shutouts this season, was coming off 5-0 victories over Toronto on Saturday and Sunday.

Tampa Bay has been shut out an AL-leading 10 times this season. The Rays, who have lost 14 of 15, have not scored a run in 28 innings.

Wainwright (9-3) scattered seven hits over seven innings. Trevor Rosenthal got the final four outs, including a base-loaded pop fly by Matt Joyce in the eighth, for his 17th save.

Matt Holliday put the Cardinals up 1-0 with his fourth homer this season, a long drive to left center with two outs in the sixth off tough-luck loser Jake Odorizzi (2-7).

Odorizzi, a Cardinals' fan who grew up about 30 miles from Busch Stadium, had a strong performance in his first game against St. Louis. The right-hander gave up one run and three hits in 7 1-3 innings.

Holliday and Kolten Wong both returned to the Cardinals lineup. Holliday was scratched Sunday due to a sore lower back, while Wong sat out three games with left shoulder soreness.

Odorizzi had allowed one baserunner, a fourth-inning walk to Holliday, before giving up consecutive two-out singles in the fifth to Jhonny Peralta and John Jay. The inning ended on a fly ball by Peter Bourjos.

The Rays threatened in both the first and fourth innings. Ben Zobrist hit a fly ball with two on to end the first. Logan Forsythe lined out to second with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth.

NOTES: Former Cardinals manager and Tampa native Tony La Russa will throw the ceremonial first pitch before the finale of the two-game interleague series Wednesday night. La Russa will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on July 27. ... Tampa Bay C Ryan Hanigan (right hamstring tightness) says he is ready to be activated Wednesday from the 15-day DL. ... The Rays signed 2014 first-round draft pick Casey Gillaspie, a first baseman out of Wichita State. ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams (strained left calf) has started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis. ... This was the third time that Tampa Bay C Jose Molina and his brother, Cardinals C Yadier Molina, have played against each other in the majors. ... Rays LHP Erik Bedard (3-4) and St Louis RHP Michael Wacha (4-4) are Wednesday's scheduled starters.

Shelly Sterling heads to court for right to sell Clips

LOS ANGELES (AP) Shelly Sterling's attorney will be in probate court on Wednesday to seek an emergency order for a hearing so a judge can confirm her authority to sell the Los Angeles Clippers, according to an individual familiar with the matter.

The individual was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Shelly Sterling brokered what would be a record-breaking $2 billion deal with former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell the team after her husband and co-owner Donald Sterling made racist comments to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved swiftly to oust him as an owner.

But Donald Sterling has vowed not to sell and is suing the NBA for $1 billion.

Donald Sterling said in a statement released by his attorney on Tuesday that he's fighting for the fundamental rights of Americans against the NBA which he calls "a band of hypocrites and bullies" and "despicable monsters."

His statement is titled in caps and underlined: "WHY I AM FIGHTING THE NBA? THE NBA WANTS TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRIVACY RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH."

Shelly Sterling contends she is the sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team. Donald Sterling was stripped as co-trustee after two neurologists last month determined he was suffering from dementia and "mentally incapacitated" under the trust's conditions, according to a person who is familiar with the trust and the medical evaluations but could not speak publicly.

The aim of Sterling's court bid is to have a judge confirm provisions of the family trust to ensure the Ballmer sale moves forward without a hitch. Donald Sterling has the right to present his side at any hearing and appeal any decision.

His attorney Maxwell Blecher said a representative for Donald Sterling will be at the hearing, and that the main issue to be decided is whether Donald Sterling is mentally competent.

"There isn't the slightest evidence he's incapable of managing his affairs," Blecher said. He said the next step is to have other doctors evaluate Sterling.

"I have no doubt at the end of the day the court is not going to say he's incompetent. That's a very high burden in the probate court - otherwise people would get their sisters and wife and brother-in-laws and everybody declared incompetent."

Though both Sterlings will have their own attorneys at the hearing Wednesday and they live apart, the couple remains "chummy," Blecher said.

"It's what I describe to people as a strange estrangement, they don't seem at all hostile to each other, and he's very solicitous of her," Blecher said. "They've been married 58 years. Each threatens the other one they're going to get a divorce but they never did and never have."

On Monday, Donald Sterling pulled his support from the Ballmer deal. He instructed his attorneys to prosecute the lawsuit against the NBA that alleges the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend.

It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.

Donald Sterling agreed to ink the deal and drop the suit last week assuming "all their differences had been resolved," his attorneys said. But individuals close to the negotiations who weren't authorized to speak publicly said he decided to not sign the papers after learning the NBA won't revoke its lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine.

"He never voluntarily said `Oh let's sell the team for $2 billion,' he didn't care about the money and he's walking away from it now. It's not about the money," Blecher said. "To him it's about the ownership of the team, the maintenance of his integrity, reputation and dignity. That's what he wanted from the league. He wanted to have them help him restore it and they wouldn't do it."

Donald Sterling's comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in outrage from the public and players and even President Barack Obama.

Mickelson trying to keep his focus on Pinehurst

PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) Phil Mickelson spent five hours in the stifling heat Tuesday at Pinehurst No. 2 with a lot on his mind.

He was trying to sharpen his game, figure out what it will take to finally win a U.S. Open and make enough putts with his claw grip to avoid losing to a pair of players whose combined age is younger than him.

This major has a reputation as the toughest test in golf.

It's every bit of that for Mickelson.

"I really believe that this week is testing a player's entire game," Mickelson said. "Because it forces you to make good decisions, to choose the right club off the tee, hit solid iron shots into the green and utilize your short game to save strokes. It's just a wonderful test ... the best test I've seen to identify the best player."

His definition of Pinehurst and its rugged, natural look would seem to require every ounce of concentration.

And that could be his biggest challenge.

On the golf course, Mickelson is trying to ignore the enormous expectations on him this week. He holds the worst kind of U.S. Open record with six runner-up finishes. He needs this major to complete the career Grand Slam.

And he's a sentimental favorite at Pinehurst No. 2, where in 1999 he played the entire week knowing his wife was on the verge of delivering their first child.

Payne Stewart made a 15-foot par putt on the final hole to beat him by one shot. Amanda Mickelson was born the next day. Stewart died in a plane crash four months later.

"Payne and I had this moment where we talked about fatherhood, but he also talked about winning future U.S. Opens," Mickelson said. "Although I haven't won one yet, I'm still fighting hard, and this would be a great place to break through and do it. The flip side is that I tend to do well when it's least expected.

"I don't want to put the pressure on that this is the only week that I'll have a chance," he said. "I think I'll have a number of great opportunities in the future years. But this is certainly as good a chance as I'll have."

Off the course, Mickelson has made headlines that threaten his clean image. He was linked two weeks ago to an insider trading investigation involving activist investor Carl Icahn and Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters over some timely trades of Clorox stock three years ago.

FBI agents even came to the golf course to try to interview Mickelson. He referred them to his attorney, said he had done "absolutely nothing wrong" and that "I'm not going to walk around any other way."

It would seem to be a major distraction for Mickelson.

Even though he hasn't won in nearly a year, and he has dropped to No. 11 in the world ranking, he is the center of attention in the sand hills of North Carolina - especially with Tiger Woods still out of the game while recovering from back surgery.

Then again, it could be to Mickelson's advantage to be at a place such as Pinehurst. The course doesn't allow anyone to think about anything but the next shot.

"We have so many players when they have a lot of stuff swirling around them that use that four or five hours on the golf course as a sanctuary," two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North said.

"You can focus sometimes even better, which sound crazy, but it's your place where no one can get to you. The phone can't ring. No one can ask you questions about whatever it is. And you get out there and find your little space. And sometimes that creates a situation where a guy can play exceptionally well."

The investigation has not been a big topic since Mickelson said repeatedly at the Memorial that he had done nothing wrong, was cooperating and would not talk about it until it was resolved.

There were no direct questions at his news conference Tuesday, only veiled references to coping with off-course distractions.

Barclays, one of his biggest sponsors, declined to comment on Mickelson. KPMG, another major sponsor, said in a statement, "We have had a very strong relationship with Phil for a number of years, and we fully expect it to continue. We have great respect for him."

While Mickelson's U.S. Open record is loaded with disappointment, he sees only opportunity. To have been the runner-up six times - not to mention other U.S. Opens where he had a chance to win in the final hour - means he must be doing something right.

And he hasn't lost his sense of humor.

"I feel as good about my game as I have all year," Mickelson said, pausing before he added, "That's not staying a lot because I haven't played well all year."

He also said an analysis of his close calls in the U.S. Open revealed that it rained during the week in five of those second-place finishes.

"So I'm pulling for rain," he said.

As for that other match? Mickelson carried the load as he and Rickie Fowler rallied from 3 down to tie the match, only for 20-year-old Jordan Spieth to make a 20-foot birdie on the 17th, and 21-year-old Justin Thomas to drill a tee shot on the 18th hole to set up a par for the win.

Another close call.

It's a U.S. Open.

Mickelson should be used to that by now.

Former Cy Young winner Bob Welch dies at 57

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Bob Welch, the 1990 AL Cy Young Award winner with the Oakland Athletics and the last major leaguer to win at least 25 games in a season, has died. He was 57.

Welch died late Monday night at his Southern California home in Seal Beach, the team said Tuesday. Police said officers responded to a call for medical aid and found Welch dead in the bathroom area.

Authorities have not released the cause of death. The coroner was awaiting toxicology test results, which can take eight to 12 weeks, said Lt. Jeffrey Hallock, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Welch was known best for his famous battles with Reggie Jackson in the World Series and alcohol addiction.

The two-time All-Star was an admitted alcoholic early in his career and spent time in rehabilitation. He later co-authored a book with George Vecsey about his addiction titled "Five O'Clock Comes Early: A Ballplayer's Battle With Alcoholism."

"The fact is, I'm crazy when I'm drunk," Welch said in the book. "There's every chance I would have been dead by now if I was drinking."

The right-hander played on five teams that reached the World Series - 1978, 1981, 1988, 1989 and 1990 - and won two titles, one in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and another in 1989 with the A's.

Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten called Welch "one of the greatest competitors to wear the Dodger uniform."

"Welchie was a special guy. We lost a really good friend," said Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a longtime teammate with the Dodgers.

In Oakland, Welch figured prominently on teams that won three straight AL championships from 1988-90, including the club that swept the San Francisco Giants in the earthquake-interrupted World Series.

"This is a sad day for the entire A's organization," general manager Billy Beane said. "Those of us who knew Bob as a teammate and a friend will miss him greatly."

Welch finished 211-146 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 seasons with the Dodgers (1978-87) and Athletics (1988-94). He also was the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks when they won the 2001 World Series and had served as a special instructor for the A's in recent years.

"He had a great arm, but what made him so special at a young age was the way he could command the corners with his velocity," Scioscia said. "He was a great talent, but that wasn't really what he was about. Bobby was a guy who, every time there was a roadblock in the way, he got over it. He didn't take the easiest path, but he was a solid guy."

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, the former Oakland GM who acquired Welch for the A's after the 1987 season, said Welch would be missed.

"He was an interesting character, really sort of hyperkinetic," Alderson said. "He was a super guy and a very likable, if not loveable, guy."

Welch was drafted in the first round by the Dodgers in 1977 out of Eastern Michigan. His most memorable moment for Los Angeles was against the Yankees in the 1978 World Series, when the rookie struck out Jackson with two runners on base to end Game 2.

"I was stone sober, too," Welch said in his book. "I hadn't gotten around to drinking before a game, particularly a World Series game - although, given time, I would have."

Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes, a former teammate, recalled the battle with Jackson fondly before the team played in Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

"I don't know if it gets any greater than that," Lopes said.

Welch won the AL Cy Young Award after going 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 1990 for Oakland. His 27 wins tied him with Steve Carlton in 1972 for the most in a season since Denny McClain's 31 victories in 1968.

"He will always be a significant part of our franchise's history," A's President Michael Crowley said.

Several current A's players also offered condolences on Twitter.

"Devastated to learn of Bob Welch's passing," left-hander Sean Doolittle wrote. "The A's organization lost not only one of its best pitchers, but one of its best people."

No one answered the door at Welch's home Tuesday, which had been sealed with a sticker from the Orange County coroner.

Neighbor Alma Purcha said she woke up to find police cars outside the home several blocks from the Pacific Ocean. She said Welch divided his time between Arizona and Seal Beach. She last saw him with his son and daughter Friday, when they exchanged pleasantries.

Welch was born in Detroit and was lauded by the school he led to two trips to the College World Series. Eastern Michigan athletic director Heather Lyke called the pitcher one of the university's "greatest ambassadors."

"The one thing Bobby definitely loved is this game of baseball," Scioscia said. "He understood pitching, and I know he did a great job for the Diamondbacks, and working for the Oakland organization was a natural for him because he had so many tremendous seasons there. I know he really connected with the kids and had a lot to give."

The A's said Welch is survived by sons Dylan, 25, and Riley, 23; daughter Kelly, 18; and former wife Mary Ellen.

Falcons' Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon ruptured his Achilles tendon on Tuesday and will miss the 2014 season.

Weatherspoon suffered the injury while running under the supervision of the team's medical staff.

Weatherspoon had been held out of the organized team activities as he was continuing his recovery from a foot injury that limited him to only seven games in 2013.

The loss of Weatherspoon, the team's first-round pick from Missouri in 2010, is a blow to the Falcons, whose disappointing 4-12 finish in 2013 was marked by a string of injuries. Weatherspoon has eight sacks and two interceptions in his first four seasons.

Weatherspoon has managed to play a full 16 games in only one season, 2011, when he had 80 tackles and a career-high four sacks.

Coach Mike Smith said in a statement released by the team on Tuesday night Weatherspoon is expected to make a full recovery following surgery.

"During Sean's run today with our medical staff, he suffered an injury," Smith said. "We sent Sean to the doctor for some additional testing and evaluation and unfortunately the results showed that he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

"Sean had been working extremely hard to get back on the field, but regrettably he will miss the entire 2014 season. He will have a procedure done in the near future and we expect him to make a full recovery."

Weatherspoon's 2013 injury forced the Falcons to rely on two undrafted rookies, Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow. Worrilow led the team in tackles and Bartu was third.

Before Weatherspoon's latest injury was disclosed, Smith said Tuesday that Bartu and Worrilow have matured in the offseason.

"Two guys who ended up playing a bunch of snaps for us last year have improved and matured," Smith said, referring to Worrilow and Bartu.

"If you would have told me at this time last year that one was going to be our leading tackler and the other was going to play 70 percent of the snaps I would have said `I don't think so.'

"They are a much more mature group. We went through some growing pains with them last year that are going to pay dividends moving forward."

The Falcons added four linebackers late in this year's NFL draft.

Notre Dame's Prince Shembo was selected late in the fourth round. Syracuse's Marquis Spruill was the team's fifth-round pick. Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood and South Dakota's Tyler Starr were seventh-round picks.

Rockies OF Gonzalez has tumor removed from finger

DENVER (AP) Colorado Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez had a small tumor removed from his left index finger Tuesday during a procedure at the Cleveland Clinic.

Gonzalez underwent exploratory surgery with Dr. Thomas Graham and a growth was found beneath the sheath around the muscle.

Rockies head athletic trainer Keith Dugger said these type of tumors are common and the expectation is a biopsy will determine the tumor is benign.

"These little benign tumors, which we hope it is, is probably the second most common finding in the finger besides cysts," Dugger said. "Usually repetitive trauma causes it.

"They call them cell tumors. Pretty common within the sheath of these fingers. Usually benign. Occasionally you can come up with something."

Gonzalez had his left arm in a sling after the surgery. He is expected to return to Denver Wednesday.

"It helps explain some of the things that CarGo's been dealing with and why that finger kept blowing up on him," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It helps answer some of the questions we had about him.

Gonzalez has been experiencing soreness and swelling in the finger for a while. He was examined by Graham on May 29 in Cleveland. He continued to play but was placed on the 15-day DL on June 4 and is expected to miss a few weeks.

"Typically, it's a couple weeks for the tissue to heal," Dugger said. "Then he'll get back his strength and start swinging. It was a little bit more invasive, meaning they took out a larger piece than they thought - what the MRI revealed."

Gonzalez has dealt with finger issues in the past. Last season he played in just 19 games after the All-Star break due to a sprained middle finger on his right hand.

That injury did not require surgery.

Colorado has been hit hard with injuries in the last month. Third baseman Nolan Arenado (broken left finger) is expected to miss another month and outfielder Michael Cuddyer is out for at least six weeks with a fractured left shoulder suffered Thursday.

The rotation has been decimated as well. Jordan Lyles (broken hand), Tyler Chatwood (right elbow strain), Brett Anderson (fractured left index finger) and rookie Eddie Butler (right rotator cuff inflammation) are on the disabled list.

Left-hander Tyler Matzek, the team's first-round pick in 2009, will be the third Rockies pitcher in a week to make his major league debut when he starts Wednesday's game.

"It's something as a professional team we've got to push through, push forward," Cuddyer said.

Mets ace Matt Harvey's rehab is slowed

NEW YORK (AP) The next phase in New York Mets ace Matt Harvey's rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction surgery is being pushed back, and the All-Star right-hander is becoming more realistic about his chances of pitching in the major leagues this year.

Harvey was supposed to throw off a slope for the first time Tuesday but he was told last week while working out at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that the plan was being scrapped.

"A little surprised," Harvey said before the Mets played the Milwaukee Brewers. "We kind of had that plan written up for quite some time and to hear four or five days before I'm making a milestone is a little disappointing."

New York general manager Sandy Alderson said there is nothing wrong with Harvey. In fact the 25-year-old's recovery might have been going too well.

"I think the realization that as we transition from long tossing to throwing off a slope that we were moving sort of inexorably to a conclusion that we wanted to avoid, which is pitching too soon," Alderson said. "After talking with our doctors it made sense to slow him down a little bit."

In a season in which Tommy John surgery has become a near epidemic - 22 pitchers had the operation so far, according to data provided from STATS via writer Jon Roegele - the Mets are basing their timetable for Harvey's return on a growing amount of data that shows pitchers have more success if they don't return before 11 months from the date of surgery. Harvey had his operation on Oct. 22.

"That's about the last week in September," Alderson said of the target date. "That's a very narrow window to try to hit from our standpoint."

Manager Terry Collins, who was given a vote of confidence from Alderson with the Mets on a six-game skid, said he wouldn't expect Harvey to pitch for New York in the final week of the season unless the team was in contention.

Harvey had been set on returning this season but understands the decision is out of his hands.

"I think I'm coming to realize that I can't write myself in the lineup is becoming more realistic," Harvey said. "I'm the one throwing the baseball. I haven't had one pinch of pain. I can only express how good I feel and how ready I personally feel."

Harvey will continue to long toss from 120 feet - sometimes 150 - and throw off flat ground for the time being. Alderson said a new plan has not yet been finalized.

Alderson, meanwhile, met with Collins after the team returned from an 11-game road trip a season-high seven games under .500 at 28-35 because he felt there was too much talk about Collins' status in the media.

"Every time we lose a few games in a row, there's speculation about somebody taking a fall and that's simply not the way to approach a long season," Alderson said.

Indians' Chisenhall giving bat to Hall of Fame

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Lonnie Chisenhall's bat is headed to the Hall of Fame.

He just hopes he doesn't break his other one.

The Indians third baseman went 5 for 5 and hit three homers while driving in nine runs in a 17-7 rout of Texas on Monday night. By the time he arrived in Kansas City for Tuesday night's game, he was told that the folks in Cooperstown wanted to retire his bat for posterity.

The only problem with the gesture? "I only have two of the model I use," Chisenhall said with a grin. "I'm going to have to make it through these next six games with one bat."

No worries - teammate Michael Brantley has offered to loan out some of his stock.

According to Major League Baseball, Chisenhall became the first player to go 5 for 5 with three homers and nine RBIs since the RBI became a statistic in 1920. The only other major league players to have at least five hits, nine RBIs and three homers in a game were the Dodgers' Gil Hodges, the Reds' Walker Cooper and the Red Sox's Fred Lynn.

It was also the first three-homer game by an Indians player since Shin-Soo Choo in 2010, and the second nine-RBI game in franchise history. Chris James accomplished the feat on May 4, 1991.

"I think it's kind of neat. I'm sure Lonnie got a huge kick out of that," said Indians manager Terry Francona, who has donated several items to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from when he managed the Red Sox to two World Series triumphs.

"He's got two kids, so one day he'll be able to take them and show them, `Hey, this is what your dad did,"' said the Indians' Mike Aviles. "That's pretty cool."

Chisenhall's big day started with a seemingly innocent RBI single in the first inning. He hit the first of his homers, a two-run run shot, in the second. He added another homer in the fourth, hit an RBI double in the sixth and capped it all off with a three-run shot in the eighth.

It was the first nine-RBI game since Carlos Delgado in 2008, and the first time a player hit three homers with that many RBIs since Alex Rodriguez did it in 2005.

The performance, the second five-hit game of Chisenhall's season, also boosted the 25-year-old infielder's batting average to .385. He'd also hit seven homers and driven in 32 runs heading into the opener of a two-game series against the Royals.

Chisenhall said what he had accomplished hadn't sunk in until he arrived in Kansas City.

"It was such a fast day," he said, pointing out that the team left Texas for Kansas City right after the game, and didn't arrive in town until the wee hours of the morning.

"Maybe I'll get a chance to sit back and watch the game myself someday and enjoy it."

Jury convicts suspect in Sean Taylor slaying trial

MIAMI (AP) A Florida jury has convicted a man prosecutors called the ringleader of a botched 2007 Miami-area burglary that ended with the fatal shooting of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor.

The 12-person jury deliberated nearly four hours Tuesday before finding 25-year-old Jason Mitchell guilty of first-degree felony murder and armed burglary. Trial testimony indicated that Mitchell hatched the plot for five Fort Myers-area men to burglarize Taylor's home near Miami after previously seeing large amounts of cash there.

The judge immediately imposed the mandatory life sentence for murder, plus 40 more years for the burglary conviction.

The man who authorities say fired the fatal shot, Eric Rivera Jr., was convicted last fall of second-degree murder and sentenced to 57 years behind bars.

Two other men await trial. A third has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary.

Stanley sweep? Rangers regroup after 0-3 start

NEW YORK (AP) The gravity of the situation was etched on the face of New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. One more loss Wednesday night to the Los Angeles Kings and his squad gets the distinction of being swept in the Stanley Cup finals.

No team has been swept in the finals since Detroit did it to Washington in 1998, completing a run of four straight Stanley Cup sweeps. So while the Kings are trying to close out the series, New York's focus is strictly on moving past disappointment and getting back to LA for Game 5.

"We're down 3-0. We're all lacking sleep. This is tough," Vigneault said on a day of optional practices. "I didn't expect my players today to be cheery and upbeat. We're in the Stanley Cup finals and we're down 3-0. You don't get a lot of these opportunities.

"Excuse us if today we're not real cheery, but tomorrow I can tell you we're going to show up."

The only levity expressed after the Rangers were beaten 3-0 at home by goalie Jonathan Quick and the Kings was when Vigneault was asked what his team could do differently at Madison Square Garden.

"Score," he said.

The packed room of reporters laughed. Vigneault didn't.

The present predicament makes it seem long ago that the Rangers led by two goals in the series opener, and then held a trio of two-goal leads in Game 2. Both of those ended with overtime wins by Los Angeles that sparked the Kings and demoralized New York.

Getting blanked in the first Stanley Cup finals game at the Garden since the Rangers last won the Cup in 1994 only made them feel worse.

"I do believe we can turn this around. I do," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said, "because we've been that close in every game."

Even in the shutout loss, the Rangers outshot the Kings 32-15. They haven't been dominated, but they also haven't found a way to win.

The Kings know both sides of a 3-0 series. They trailed by that margin in the opening round of this postseason to San Jose and then became the fourth NHL team to rally and win.

"We've been down a lot this postseason, we've been up, been in some exciting games, some long games," Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. "We just keep playing, trying to find a way to win. We've had some fortunate bounces."

Two years ago, the Kings went up 3-0 in the finals against New Jersey - the fourth straight series they built such a lead - but allowed the Devils to stay alive until Game 6. Premature celebrations, ticket requests from people close to the players and other distractions took players' focus away from the game and penetrated the Kings' insulated wall, the one no-nonsense coach Darryl Sutter worked hard to create.

"Game 4 was at home. There was a lot of distraction," Sutter said of 2012. "That was a lesson learned, not just for our players but for our whole organization. We were trying to keep our players as a little inner circle, but the circle got a little bit of infringement."

The Rangers are hoping that kind of history repeats.

New York has never come back to win a series it trailed 3-0, but the Rangers rallied to knock out Pittsburgh in the second round this year after trailing 3-1.

"Today is a tough day," forward Brad Richards said. "Your mind is racing on a thousand different things you could've done. But you have to make the best of it. The series is not over. We all can't wait to get back on the ice. It's just the waiting and the thinking.

"We've just got to get back into the battle and see where it goes."

Where they hope it goes is back to LA for Game 5. One win can turn the mindset and the perspective on both sides: belief in one room, a sliver of doubt in the other.

Orioles' Machado suspended for 5 games, appeals

BALTIMORE (AP) Manny Machado figured he might be suspended for intentionally throwing his bat on the field while at the plate.

What the Baltimore Orioles third baseman didn't expect is that the punishment would be so harsh.

Machado received a five-game suspension and an undisclosed fine Tuesday for tossing his bat in Sunday's game against Oakland.

He has appealed the suspension, which was slated to start immediately. Machado was in the starting lineup Tuesday against Boston.

"I don't want to be down for five days," Machado said. "We're just going to go ahead and get that down, and that's it. Need to try to help out this team in any way."

Machado let his bat fly toward third base after swinging at a pitch from Fernando Abad in the eighth inning. The bat-toss came during a plate appearance in which Abad threw successive high-and-tight pitches.

After the bat went soaring, both benches emptied. Machado and Abad were ejected.

Abad was fined but not suspended Tuesday.

"I don't really care," Machado said. "He's part of the Oakland A's organization and I'm a Baltimore Oriole. I know what I did and he knows what he did. We both got to pay the consequences."

Machado, however, isn't prepared to sit out five games - yet. His hearing could take place next week in New York, or he could drop the appeal as soon as Wednesday.

"We'll see what tomorrow brings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday. "I think right now he's going to appeal and take 24 hours to think about the next step.

"Plus, probably the most important thing for him right now is make sure he puts the club in a position in case we make an adjustment in our roster. It's a little short notice to get somebody here if he started (the suspension) tonight."

Machado apologized to his teammates Monday for twice losing his temper during the three-game series against Oakland.

On Friday night, he yelled in the face of Oakland's Josh Donaldson after the third baseman tagged him on the chest, knocking Machado off his feet.

The dugouts also emptied after that confrontation.

"It's been a frustrating last couple days," Machado said. "We're just going to try to put this behind us."

Showalter agreed.

"He's a 21-year-old young man that made a mistake, and he's done the right thing since then to move forward with it the way it's supposed to be done," the manager said. "Now there are some more steps involved before we can put it behind us."

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis thought it might be prudent for Machado to accept the sentence and turn the page.

"Personally, I would kind of let it go away. I'm not in his shoes. It's easy to say that on the outside looking in," Davis said. "You screw up, you have to deal with the consequences. He'll deal with it and move on. We've already moved on."

Browns not worried about Manziel's partying

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns aren't worried about Johnny Manziel running out of bounds off the field.

Or floating on pool rafts.

After a weekend of partying in Texas, where he was photographed floating on an inflatable swan while drinking champagne in a nightclub pool, Manziel was on the field Tuesday as the Browns opened a mandatory three-day minicamp.

The team is not making their popular Heisman Trophy-winning rookie quarterback - or starter Brian Hoyer - available to the media this week.

Manziel has left Cleveland each of the past three weekends, first taking a trip to Las Vegas, then to Los Angeles for a seminar with other rookies and then to his home state, where in addition to having some fun, he got drafted by the San Diego Padres and attended Game 2 of the NBA finals in San Antonio, sitting near Miami's bench while wearing a retro Cavaliers' cap.

Following practice, Browns first-year coach Mike Pettine said he's not worried about how his young QB spends his free time.

"I'm not concerned," Pettine said. "I would become concerned if it was something criminal and I would be concerned if it affected his job. There's a lot of our guys, if when they leave here if they were followed around, you'd get some very similar pictures. I don't know about an inflatable swan, but you'd still get some pictures."

Manziel has said he intends to keep living his life to the fullest, and Pettine doesn't feel the need to monitor the 21-year-old's every move.

"The philosophy here is that we're not going to micro-manage the guys," Pettine said. "I was involved in an event this weekend, and if there were some cameras at certain times it probably wouldn't have been the most flattering. It was a group of coaches out and we had a good time, but we were responsible. When it becomes irresponsible or it becomes part of breaking the law or it's something we feel is a potential problem, we'll step in."

Manziel is currently listed as Cleveland's backup behind Hoyer. The two will compete during training camp next month, when each pass will be dissected.

The dueling QBS are already under scrutiny. During Tuesday's workout, Manziel took snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense as Hoyer continues to be limited as a precaution while recovering from offseason knee surgery.

When he was on the field, Hoyer showed his ability to read the defense and release the ball more quickly than Manziel, who is still learning the nuances of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's system and adjusting to the speedier pro game.

That's not to say Manziel didn't show progress.

"He's getting more comfortable in the huddle, calling the plays," Pettine said. "I think he's got a very nice touch with the deep ball. We've added some of the zone-read stuff that Kyle's run with RG3 in Washington and he's done a nice job handling that. He makes improvement every day."

As for Manziel's extra-curricular activities, his teammates seem to have his back.

Safety Donte Whitner was asked if there's a need to tell Johnny Football to tone down his act.

"Yeah, but I don't think he's out of hand with it," Whitner said. "If he's not out every weekend, he's just a young guy. So going to Vegas, I probably would've been there with Johnny too."

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins hasn't seen any reason to think Manziel isn't taking his job seriously.

"I don't know what Johnny does on the weekends. But it's none of my business," he said. "He's out here working his butt off. I'm not keeping tabs on where he goes Friday through Sunday. Johnny works hard, and that's all anybody cares about."

Pettine understands there's a bright spotlight on Manziel, who seems to relish the hype. In being so public with his actions, Manziel could be placing himself in precarious situations, but Pettine is confident the former Texas A&M star can handle it.

"I think it's something he's used to," Pettine said. "I think that he understands that that (publicity) comes with the territory, but I also think he's a young man that he doesn't want his lifestyle or how he lives it to be affected by social media. That he's not going to (say) `Hey, I'm not leaving my house.'

"I don't think he wants to be that way and it just goes back to we're not going to micromanage him until we feel that it is an issue, and if it's not affecting him on the field, then I don't think that it's anything we need to address at this point."

NOTES: Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon continues to practice as the team awaits word on a possible league suspension. ... LT Joe Thomas was full-go after being limited in recent OTAs. ... Pettine confirmed rookie LG Joel Bitonio injured his ankle but said he is expected to be ready for training camp.

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