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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stories by Grey Papke:

5 MLB stars off to poor starts

Every season, a few big-name Major League Baseball players find themselves scuffling out of the gate. Some guys are prone to bad months of April and need time to re-acclimate themselves to big league hitting or pitching, some are just going through a slump, while others find that the skills that once made them so great are starting to erode.

Here is a look at five MLB stars who have gotten off to very poor starts in 2017.

5) Alex Gordon, OF, Royals

The Kansas City Royals’ offense has struggled so much this season that even Eric Hosmer could have found himself on this list. But based on the way he’s played in April, Gordon secures the spot instead.

Gordon is batting just .188 with just three extra-base hits this season — all doubles. His OBP (.270) and slugging percentage (.225) yield an OPS below .500. That’s well below what he would like to do and what the Royals need out of him.

Between 2011-2015, Gordon batted anywhere from .265-.301, posting an OPS over .800 three times. That helped him become a three-time All-Star and earn a four-year, $72 million contract extension from Kansas City prior to last season. But the 33-year-old slipped to hitting .220 last season, though he did have 17 home runs.

Is this the start of a decline for the former No. 2 overall pick? Gordon’s prime may have spanned his age 27-31 seasons, which is fairly typical of an MLB player, and this could be a sign of his aging.

The Royals better hope Gordon bounces back enough to give them some quality production over the remainder of his contract.

4) Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers


Emmanuel Sanders: Paxton Lynch looks ‘more relaxed’ in second season

Paxton Lynch

Paxton Lynch will be trying to take the Denver Broncos quarterback job away from Trevor Siemian, and he has one positive review so far.

Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had praise for both quarterbacks, noting that Lynch has lost the “deer in the headlights” look that plagued him during his rookie season.

“I was just watching Trevor [Siemian] walk around and he’s walking around with that same confidence,” Sanders said Wednesday, via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. “You put him in the shotgun, and he can sling it around. You see Paxton [Lynch] and you see an opportunity at hand being a young guy last year.

“Paxton was like that deer in the headlights, walking around big-eyed. Now, he’s more relaxed. It’s going to be interesting to see how Paxton takes his second year. Hopefully he gets that Memphis swag back. [We’ll] see those two guys compete and see who wins the job.”

Lynch has faced some questions, albeit disputed ones, about his work ethic. He and Siemian are both getting good reviews from one of the team’s top receivers, though, and it seems he’ll have every chance to win the job before the season begins.

Blazers president rules out trading Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum

CJ McCollum

It’s safe to say that things did not work out the way the Portland Trail Blazers hoped they would this season, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to blow it all up.

Team president Neil Olshey admitted in an interview with Mike Richman of the Oregonian that he would not entertain offers for star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

“The odds of anything ever coming up of commensurate value is so hard to even fathom,” Olshey said. “I could give you the trite answer that nobody is untradable, but clearly they are.”

This isn’t exactly a shock. McCollum and Lillard are both under contract through 2021, with McCollum having just signed a max deal a year ago. Some teams probably dreamed that they may be able to pry one of them away to help Portland get more balanced, but it isn’t happening.

Report: Adrian Beltre not close to return to Rangers

Adrian Beltre Rangers

Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre does not sound close to a return to the field.

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News and T.R. Sullivan of, Beltre is still not working out on the field and is not progressing in his recovery from a calf injury.

Beltre suffered the injury before the season and had a setback about two weeks ago. His continued slow recovery is bad news for the Rangers, who are off to a slower-than-expected start at 9-12.

Mickey Loomis: No Malcolm Butler discussions ‘for quite some time’

Malcolm Butler

The New Orleans Saints continue to downplay their chances of getting New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler.

General manager Mickey Loomis didn’t rule out bringing Butler in on Wednesday, but he also made it clear it’s not a top priority.

“We haven’t really had any discussion for quite some time,” Loomis said, via Nick Underwood of the New Orleans Advocate. “Look, he’s their player. So, we’ll see how that evolves.”

Ultimately, the Saints would have to give up a fair bit in draft picks if they’re serious about acquiring Butler. Reportedly, they’re leaning against doing it. One can hardly blame them when seeing the potential asking price, and with the draft looming, this ship looks like it’s sailed barring an unexpected eleventh hour change.

Draymond Green, Drake troll each other on Instagram

Draymond Green

Draymond Green and Drake are at it again.

The Golden State Warriors forward and the rapper are mock-feuding on Instagram once again, trading memes on Monday.

Drake started it with a joke at Green’s expense.

When she asks how much fun you're having without her…

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Green wasn’t going to take that lying down, mocking Drake’s Degrassi past.

When you get that text saying you no longer have to be an extra on Degrassi! @champagnepapi #WAR

A post shared by Draymond Green (@money23green) on

Drake and Green have a long-standing mock-feud, and they seem to love jabbing at each other. Who will have the last laugh here? Stay tuned. Maybe Drake will show up at a Warriors playoff game.

Lonzo Ball: Learning from Magic Johnson would be ‘a blessing’

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball has made it clear that he’d love to be a Los Angeles Laker, and part of the reason why is Magic Johnson.

Ball told Shams Charania of the Vertical that it would be a “blessing” to work under the new Laker president, and that he’d love to stay in L.A.

“I can learn a lot from Magic, and it would be a blessing for me to be able to take after him each and every day,” Ball said. “Magic is probably the best guard to ever play the game. The fact that he also played as a big guard, he can show me things. I would love to have that sit-down and learn to be the best player I can be.”

Ball has taken a lot of Johnson’s game and put it into his own.

“I watched tape on Magic when I was young, and it’s why you can see it in my game,” Ball said. “He liked to pass, I like to pass. He was a big point guard, I’m a big point guard. And I feel the way the game is played means a lot to him and me.”

Ball has made no secret of the fact that he would most like to play for the Lakers, but he’d be perfectly happy anywhere.

“I’ll play for anyone, all 30 teams,” Ball said. “I want the challenge of helping turn around any team in the league. Just making it to the NBA, that’s my goal.”

Ball feels very strongly about L.A., but there remains a chance they won’t even have the opportunity to pick him of the lottery doesn’t go their way.

Russell Westbrook has not considered ‘super-max’ extension

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook can sign a ‘super-max’ extension this summer, but he has yet to give it any thought.

Westbrook said Wednesday that he had yet to consider extension talks, but reaffirmed his desire to stay in Oklahoma City.

Westbrook signed a three-year, $85.7 million extension last offseason, so he showed his committment to the Thunder through that. However, the league’s new CBA made it possible for him to sign an even bigger extension this summer if he wants to. Ultimately, Westbrook wants to stay, so it seems like only a matter of time that he’d get something really long-term set up.

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