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All-star third baseman Matt Chapman traded to Blue Jays from Athletics

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By John Chidley-Hill in Dunedin

The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten the infield help they have been seeking all off-season.

Matt Chapman was acquired by Toronto in a trade with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the Blue Jays have confirmed. Shortstop Kevin Smith, right-handed pitcher Gunnar Hoglund, left-handed starter Zach Logue and left-handed reliever Kirby Snead were sent to Oakland in exchange for the all-star third baseman.

Manager Charlie Montoyo said the Blue Jays were excited when news of the trade broke in their clubhouse at the team’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

“Our defence just got a lot better,” said Montoyo. “He’s one of the best third basemen I’ve ever seen in the big leagues and I’m really happy to have him.

“I’m also happy for the kids that got traded. When you get traded for somebody that that’s good it’s also good for you.”

The 28-year-old Chapman had a .210 batting average and 27 home runs for the Athletics last season while earning his third Gold Glove. He also had a .314 on-base percentage and a .403 slugging percentage last year.

All of Chapman’s 2021 numbers were actually below his 162-game average over five seasons in Oakland. He has averaged 31 homers, while hitting .243 with a .330 OBP and .478 slugging percentage in his career.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said that despite Chapman’s apparent regression at bat last season he is still a well-rounded player who is “extremely durable.”

“Last year we saw him a good bit and when I didn’t want to see him hitting against us, so I still feel like he’s a very viable offensive threat,” said Atkins. “He’s a big time threat on both sides of the ball and that’s hard to find.”

Chapman’s fielding is the real prize for the Blue Jays.

On top of his three Gold Gloves as the best defensive third baseman in the American League, Chapman has won Platinum Gloves as the best defensive player in the AL — regardless of position — in 2018 and 2019.

Montoyo said that adding Chapman’s glove to the left side of the field will help Toronto climb up the AL East standings.

“I mean that’s how you win in the big leagues: pitching and defence,” said Montoyo. “It’s tough to hit all the time so to win you need pitching and defence and we really just got better.”

Santiago Espinal, who will likely share second base with Cavan Biggio this season, said he was eager to learn from Chapman.

“When that trade happened, everybody was happy,” said Espinal, gesturing around the Blue Jays’ expansive clubhouse. “He’s going to be able to help us, especially us young guys.

“He’s already got that Gold Glove and he got a Platinum Glove too, so for us to have him and learn from him I think is a blessing.”

Atkins said that the learning in Toronto’s clubhouse may cut both ways.

“I think Matt will come in extremely open-minded and excited about this. opportunity,” he said. “Excited about tapping into the resources here.”

The trade came a day after Atkins said that adding a new position player was a priority. On Wednesday he said that the Blue Jays, who had been rumoured to be pursuing free agents like Canadian first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Carlos Correa, may not be done yet.

“I can’t imagine trying harder in terms of aggressiveness,” said Atkins, who gestured toward the bags under his eyes. “Maybe you can tell by my eyes that you know it’s around the clock and we’re spending a lot of time and energy on ways to make our team better, if that means in incremental ways or significant ways.”

That said, Atkins isn’t going to rush into anything.

“Nothing that is imminent or about to happen,” said Atkins. “It’s really just thinking about how we can improve on the run-prevention side and on the run-scoring side.”

Atkins said he expected Chapman to report to Blue Jays spring training camp on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2022.

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Alberta

Rookie goalie Jaxson Stauber in form as Blackhawks dump Flames 5-1

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By Darren Haynes in Calgary

Rookie goaltender Jaxson Stauber made it two wins in as many career starts by making 34 stops on Thursday to help the Chicago Blackhawks to a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Jason Dickinson, Sam Lafferty and Connor Murphy, into an empty net, scored for Chicago (15-28-4), which entered the game last in the NHL’s overall standings. Max Domi had an assist to extend his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists).

Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Calgary (23-17-9). The Flames sit outside of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after last season finishing atop the Pacific Division.

Markstrom had 24 stops for the Flames. Winless in his last four decisions (0-3-1), his record fell to 13-13-5. That’s 10 times this season Markstrom has received one or no goals for support.

With Alex Stalock (concussion) out, Stauber made his NHL debut on Saturday in a 5-3 win in St. Louis.

The undrafted 23-year-old is in his first pro season after signing as a free agent last March after playing the previous two years with Providence College. He began the season with AHL Rockford.

Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, Chicago seized control in the second period with three unanswered goals.

At 9:39, Katchouk one-timed a pass from Luke Philp past Markstrom, who was screened.

Chicago made it a two-goal lead at 15:37 when both Flames defencemen Nikita Zadorov and MacKenzie Weeger went to Patrick Kane, leaving the middle of the ice open. Kane’s pass sent Dickenson in alone and he beat Markstrom over his shoulder.

Just 30 seconds later, another defensive miscue from the Flames resulted in a two-on-one rush with Colin Blackwell setting up Lafferty for his eighth goal of the season.

The Flames outshot the visitors 18-6 in the third period, but couldn’t beat Stauber. The scattered booing from disgruntled fans throughout the stanza was at its loudest at the final buzzer as Calgary players left the ice.

In a listless first period from the home side, Chicago scored first at 17:47 when Raddysh beat Markstrom under his arm.

The Flames would tie it in the final minute. Huberdeau took a pass from Kadri and made a slick move to tuck the puck behind Stauber.

 

TOEWS AND TANEV OUT

Both teams were without key players. Calgary defenceman Chris Tanev (upper body) was out. His spot was taken by Connor Mackey, a healthy scratch the last 16 games.

Chicago was without captain Jonathan Toews (non-COVID illness). Philp was inserted into the lineup and recorded his first NHL point.

MILESTONE FOR TOFFOLI

Tyler Toffoli played in the 700th game of his career. He has played 86 games for the Flames.

Toffoli has also played for Los Angeles (515), Vancouver (10) and Montreal (89).

 

UP NEXT

Blackhawks: Wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday in Edmonton.

Flames: Are back in action Friday night in Seattle.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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International

Russia’s path to 2024 Olympics takes shape, Ukraine objects

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russia’s path to sending a team to the Paris Olympics next year became clearer on Thursday amid fierce objections from Ukraine.

The International Olympic Committee indicated on Wednesday it favors officially neutral teams from Russia and its ally Belarus at the 2024 Olympics despite a plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to exclude them entirely.

A day later, Russia and Belarus were invited to compete at the Asian Games, a key Olympic qualifier.

Russia typically competes as part of Europe but has a tense relationship with many of the countries set to host qualifying events there. Russia and Belarus have been barred from almost all international competitions in Olympic sports following the invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy has said he told French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is hosting the Olympics, that Russia should have “no place” there. Ukraine is seeking to rally support against the IOC-brokered plan.

“IOC has been disregarding Russian war crimes, claiming that ‘No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport’, while Ukrainian athletes continue to be killed by Russia because of their passports. I urge all sports figures to make their stance known,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Ukraine boycotted an Olympic qualifier in judo last year when Russians were allowed to compete as neutrals.

In Russia, there was praise from the IOC plan from Igor Levitin, an aide to President Vladimir Putin who holds influential government and sports posts.

“I think it is already a success. Olympic society understands that the Olympic Games cannot be staged without Russia,” said Levitin, who is the senior vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, in comments reported by state news agency Tass.

Some Russian officials expressed unhappiness at the IOC declaring it would not allow athletes found to be “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.” Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said on Wednesday he opposed “any restrictions, extra requirements or sanctions.”

The IOC statement on Wednesday referenced the civil war in the former Yugoslavia at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The country was under United Nations sanctions so Yugoslav athletes were allowed to compete individually only as “Independent Olympic Participants.” They didn’t take part in team sports such as soccer and basketball.

That would be stricter than previous IOC measures against Russia in the years-long fallout from one of the largest doping cases in sports history. Russians competed under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia” at the 2018 Winter Olympics and as ROC — short for Russian Olympic Committee — in 2021 and 2022, without their country’s anthem or flag but with national colors on uniforms.

The Asian Games will be in Hangzhou, China, in September and October, and function as Olympic qualifiers in several sports including archery and boxing. Some other sports host their own Asia-specific qualifying competitions.

“The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions,” the OCA said in a statement.

The long-time director general of Kuwait-based OCA, Husain al-Musallam, is also the president of World Aquatics, which is overseeing the core Olympic sport of swimming in the IOC home city Lausanne.

“The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games,” the organization said.

The OCA added it “remains on standby” until the IOC and the individual sports’ governing bodies finalize the conditions for Russia and Belarus to compete.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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