Month: September 2019

Until they met up with the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks had been enjoying a banner 2014-15 campaign. The team won a franchise-record 60 games during the regular season, and made its way to the conference finals for the first time ever. Then LeBron James and the Cavs dismantled the Hawks in a lopsided series sweep. Now Cleveland is in Atlanta’s path again, with the teams’ second-round series beginning Monday night, and we have to ask: Is there any reason to expect anything different?Broadly speaking, things don’t look good for the Hawks. Since the NBA expanded its playoff structure to eight teams in 1967, there have been 141 instances of teams facing off in the postseason two years in a row,1Not including this year’s Hawks-Cavs rematch. and the previous year’s loser has won the rematch only about 41 percent of the time. Teams that were swept flipped the script only about 30 percent of the time, versus a 44 percent success rate for teams that avoided the brooms. And if the previous year’s loser doesn’t have home-court advantage — which, unlike last season, the Hawks won’t — it tends to win just 30 percent of the time, compared with 62 percent for teams that lost the year before but came to the rematch armed with a home-court edge.Statistically, though, the Hawks are hotter on the Cavaliers’ heels now than when the two clubs faced off last season. Going into Game 1 of their series a year ago, our Elo ratings — which estimate a team’s “form” at any given moment based on its wins, scoring margin and strength of schedule — considered Atlanta to be about 2.3 points per game worse than Cleveland. Now, Elo thinks the Hawks have sliced that difference down to about 1.3 points per game in the Cavs’ favor.But although Atlanta has shrunk the gap, it hasn’t erased it completely — and, historically, that’s been an important distinction for previous-year losers trying to flip things around in the rematch. Teams who trailed in Elo and lost one year, but managed to surpass their opponent in rating before they met in the playoffs again, won the rematch 54 percent of the time. Teams who lost the first time around and failed to pass their opponent’s Elo in the intervening year — even if they, like the Hawks, reduced the gap between the teams — got their revenge only 23 percent of the time.2Weirdly, teams that saw their Elo deficit widen actually won more rematches (27 percent) than teams who narrowed the Elo gap but failed to pull ahead (19 percent), although that difference is probably just noise.So the big-picture indicators say the Cavs are relatively strong favorites to win again. But then, you probably knew that. According to Elo, the Cavs have a 67 percent probability of winning the rematch — though just an 8 percent chance of another sweep — and none of the factors above provide much reason to think Atlanta will be able to defy Elo and tell a different tale against Cleveland this time around.Stylistically, though, the Hawks have changed quite a bit since last season. During the 2014-15 season, Atlanta was an evenly balanced machine — sixth-ranked in both offensive and defensive efficiency.3i.e., points scored and allowed per 100 possessions. This year’s Hawks have struggled on offense, ranking in the bottom 10, but they propelled themselves to a four-seed with lockdown defense, holding teams to just 101.4 points per 100 possessions. That was good for second best in the league, trailing only the Spurs.If the Hawks are to upend the odds and beat the Cavs, that defense is going to have to do something special, particularly against James. In the sweep over Atlanta last year, James nearly averaged a triple-double — 30 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. And the Hawks have a new wrench to throw at LeBron: Thabo Sefolosha, who was absent for last year’s series after suffering a broken leg in a confrontation with police in New York City. In 74 possessions where Sefolosha was matched up with James, he held him to 22 points per 100 team possessions, the third lowest among players with at least 50 matchups against LeBron. (Granted, the Cavs as a team generated 1.19 points per chance against Atlanta with Sefolosha and James on the floor, versus 0.82 with the former not on the floor, but by definition, much of that damage came from players other than James.)However, Sefolosha is just one player. Kent Bazemore is also likely to get the pleasure of going against LeBron, and that hasn’t gone as well this year. James torched Bazemore for 38 points per 100 team possessions, and he shot more than 20 percentage points better than expected — according to SportVU data that estimates shot difficulty using distance and defender location, among other variables — when checked by Bazemore.4Only one unlucky defender (Jerami Grant) gave up a higher differential to LeBron. Paul Millsap, the Hawks’ best player, is another — arguably better — option against LeBron, but the Hawks have used it very sparingly this year. Millsap covered LeBron on 20 matchups this season, down 74 percent from last year.This year’s Hawks defense is much more stout than last year’s, but the Cavs still have the ultimate trump card: LeBron. And until the Hawks have an answer for him, be it one defender or many, it’s unlikely Atlanta can overcome the historical odds and get its revenge this time around.Check out our latest NBA playoff predictions. read more

In a surprising move considering he NFL’s hard-line stance of the past, the league has offered to reduce New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma year-long suspension to eight games, according to reports, as part of ongoing settlement talks involving the league, the NFL Players Association and legal representatives for the four players who were suspended for their alleged participation in the team’s bounty program from 2009-2011.The league’s offer was made late last week but it is conditional upon Vilma dropping a civil lawsuit charging commissioner Roger Goodell with defamation of character, sources said to ESPN. Vilma has expressed his strong feelings about his tainted reputation.The talks could also lead to reductions in the suspensions of the other three players — Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), Green Bay Packers tackle Anthony Hargove (eight games), and the Cleveland Brownlinebacker Scott Fujita (three games).Settlement talks are expected to continue Monday and sources say that Friday’s next scheduled appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan could serve as a soft deadline to reach a settlement. The two sides filed more arguments in the Louisiana court this past Friday in advance of this week’s hearing.The original hearing was conducted on July 26th as Judge Berrigan was deciding on whether to grant a temporary restraining order on behalf of the four players who were suspended by Goodell.Berrigan expressed concerns about Goodell’s actions during the first hearing in which seven members of the Saints testified that they never witnessed Vilma offering $10,000 to any teammate who injured opposing quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009-2010 playoffs. Those who testified also denied there was a pay-to-injure bounty program, including Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, who will serve his own six-game suspension to open the season.An NFL investigation found that the New Orleans Saints operated a bounty system rewarding between 22 and 27 players for hard hits and injuring opposing players.While sources said league attorneys have urged Goodell to offer reductions in the suspensions as a settlement, a league official reiterated Goodell’s position that if the players had participated fully in the appeals process, the commissioner may have reduced the penalties as he has with other players who have been disciplined in other cases. The league official also noted that the current legal proceeding began with a settlement conference. read more

After Artie Lange’s onslaught of racist and sexist tweets about ESPN hostess Cari Champion, the Worldwide Leader in Sports decided to end any future possible relationship with the comedian. Yesterday, ESPN stated that Lange’s comments were “reprehensible” and “objectify and demean one of our valued employees under the guise of ‘comedy’ and are offensive to all of us.”Lange tweeted that Champion “is so f***ing hot” and went on to describe his slave fantasy.  In the fantasy, Champion is his slave and he is Thomas Jefferson.Some of his tweets can be viewed here.TMZ reported that Lange has been banned from ever appearing on the sports network.  He was also removed from a scheduled appearance on Comedy Central. read more

NBA See more NFL predictions See more NBA predictions See more college football predictions College Football Oh, and don’t forgetOdell Beckham Jr. is an American treasure We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe Things That Caught My EyeBest football game of the weekendLast night the Toronto Argonauts pulled off a come-from-behind victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League championship game, the Grey Cup. Down 17-8 by half time, Toronto mounted an immense second half and tied the game 24-24 on a two point conversion following a 109-yard fumble return with four minutes left to go, and a last minute field goal to seal the deal. I watched at least a dozen different football games over the past four days and honestly? Canada put us all to shame. [TSN]Plus 57For the 25 minutes when Luc Mbah a Moute was on the court last Wednesday in Houston’s 125-95 rout of Denver, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by 57 points. That’s the highest plus-minus (net scoring when a given player is on the court) recorded in any game since November 8, 2001. [ESPN]They did it?Congratulations to the several teams who are finally mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but specific congratulations are in order for Cleveland, an entirely defeated team that now enjoys a 71 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft. Their main competition is the 49ers, who have a 27 percent chance of getting the “prize.” [ESPN]The king is dead. Long live the king.Alabama lost to Auburn in the extremely important Iron Bowl and has been dethroned from its perch at the top of the AP poll. Indeed, Alabama now is down to a 79 percent chance of finishing with a top four strength of record. Clemson sits on top of the AP top 25, and is now the favorite to win the title with a 21 percent chance of taking it. Alabama has a 48 percent chance of making the playoffs following their extremely ill timed loss. [ESPN, FiveThirtyEight]No more 7-9 nonsenseThe Los Angeles Rams will go at least 8-8 this year with a win over New Orleans Sunday, which is consequential for one reason: It’s their first non-losing season since 2006. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. Here’s something absurd: This year with Jared Goff behind center the Rams are ranked third when it comes to points scored. In the previous 10 years they had never ranked above 21st, and three times were straight up last place in points scored. [The Washington Post]Protest works on football?Tennessee reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding with Greg Schiano to make him their head coach but backed out of it amid political and protest pressure over his alleged connections to Penn State’s Sandusky era. [ESPN]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number0.54Chicago had a truly awful game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mitchell Trubisky posted the third worst single game total quarterback rating since 2006, with a 0.54. The Bears recorded six rushing yards. This is the second fewest in the recorded history of the Bears, who have existed since 1920. [ESPN, ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:Bills finally came to their senses and will start Tyrod (for now)gfoster:I kinda feel bad for Peterman.kyle:i feel bad tyrod has to play for the bills more nowPredictions NFL All newsletters read more

Oh, and don’t forgetapril fools We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe See all games ` NBA See more NBA predictions Things That Caught My EyeNotre Dame wins!Guard Arike Ogunbowale nailed a perfect jump shot to put the Irish up over Mississippi State 61-58 and eventually handing Notre Dame its second NCAA women’s title. The game was a massive comeback; Notre Dame trailed 40-25 in the third quarter, and the comeback is the largest in the final since the founding of the women’s tournament in 1982. [The New York Times]Therefore UConn lost!In order to even make it to that final, though, Notre Dame had to defeat women’s basketball juggernaut Connecticut. The Irish ended UConn’s unbeaten season with a 91-89 victory in the Final Four. This was the third time Notre Dame beat UConn in the semifinals of the tournament since 2011, but the first time they were able to actually capitalize on that defeat of UConn and win the tournament. [ESPN]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Astros are favoritesBaseball kicked off last week, and we have an early look at who’s favored to win the World Series this year. FiveThirtyEight gives the Astros and Indians each a 14 percent chance of winning the World Series, with the Dodgers (12 percent) and Yankees (9 percent) also in the hunt. [FiveThirtyEight]Cats v. WolverinesTonight will see the end of March Madness, with the Michigan Wolverines facing off against the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova is the favorite, with a 64 percent chance of winning the title. [FiveThirtyEight]Enormous cricket scandal unfoldsTwo Australian players are facing severe penalties after they admitted to tampering with the cricket balls in a match against South Africa. The scandal is also raising questions about how widespread the practice actually may be across the sport. [Deadspin]America to send delegation to World Cup after allThe U.S., which saw its men’s national team miss its shot to go to the World Cup this summer, will not be totally unrepresented at the event. We will in fact send two referees, Jair Marrufo and Mark Geiger. [Kevin McCauley]Big Number(s)7 savesA Chicago-area accountant was called up as an emergency backup goalie at a Blackhawks game. Last Thursday, not only was Scott Foster called up to serve as the emergency backup, he even got on the ice. The former college player had seven saves in the third period and preserved Chicago’s 6-2 lead over Winnipeg. [Digg]Leaks from SlackwaltWe have our winners of the FiveThirtyEight Bracket!– @neil won the women’s bracket– @sara.ziegler will inevitably win the men’s bracket; She picked Nova to win and has the top score now, and nobody picked a Michigan win.– @neil won the combined bracket!!!!This means 25% of the pot goes to Sara and 75% of the pot goes to our champion Neil.FUN FACTS:-The chalk bracket ranked seventh among the FiveThirtyEight Staff.-Only three people got more points on the men’s bracket than women’s-There were three Women’s games where nobody correctly picked the outcome. There were 7 (or 8, if UM wins) such men’s games.-The most valuable single pick was Neil taking Louisville to make the final four, which got him 100 points.-This office predicted a collective 48 victories for the University of Virginia in this tournament, an average of 3.2 per bracket. There were, in fact, zero.Predictions NCAA Men’s Tournament All newsletters

Bengals2013313rd (tied)52610th (tied)3 2018 Blake Bortles compared with his career average prior to this season Cardinals2015332nd6284th (tied)3 Jaguars2017332nd7529th (tied)1 Cardinals2010308th101926th0 QBR48.245.5 Yards per pass play6.415.98 Chiefs2013362nd71430th (tied)1 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com yearFOllowing year There’s no denying that Bortles and the offense are a problem. But this was perfectly predictable. This year, Bortles is playing exactly like you would have expected. His QBR and passer rating are similar to his career rates, and his yards per dropbacks metric is actually significantly better.Bortles has led his team to only 34 points in four losses, though all of those came without bell-cow running back and 2017 fourth-overall pick Leonard Fournette in action. While the Jaguars have averaged 4.3 yards per rush this year, the same rate as in 2017, it could reasonably be argued that defenses no longer need to focus as much on stopping the run, making the sledding more difficult for Bortles and the passing game.But more importantly, last season the Jaguars could count on getting some offense from their defense. They had a league-high seven return touchdowns on picks and fumbles in 2017. But this year, they have had only one — and none in the games they lost. And their defense is not even setting up their offense with good field position via the turnover, as they had just two takeaways in the four defeats after finishing second in the league last year by averaging more than two per game. Texans2014342nd52512th (tied)3 Packers2011381st (tied)52318th (tied)2 Patriots2010382nd5343rd3 DefenseYearTake-awaysLeague RankDef. TDsTake-awaysLeague RankDef. TDs Bills2011309th62123th (tied)1 2018Career Lions2011343rd (tied)71727th0 Cardinals2013306th (tied)52514th (tied)4 Make no mistake, the Jaguars defense overall is still very good — second in yards allowed and second in yards allowed per pass play. It’s just not supplementing an offense that needs supplementing. So now the Jaguars attack isn’t Bortles-plus — it’s just Bortles. And completely unsurprisingly, “just Bortles” is not a recipe for NFL success.NFL teams this decade that had at least 30 turnovers and at least five defensive touchdowns generally badly regressed — from an average league rank of 3.5 in turnovers to 13.5. But the Jaguars thus far have gone from second to a tie for 29th. So now a team that appeared poised to return to the postseason after reaching the AFC Championship is on life support.Head coach Doug Marrone seemed to concede after Sunday’s game that Bortles wasn’t really to blame for the team’s woes, but he had to do something.“I just literally did it to try to get a damn spark from this football team, to put everyone on notice that they have to focus, and they have to go out there and play better,” he told reporters. “That’s not fair to the quarterback, but that’s the way this business is. … The one thing you do with that position, doesn’t matter the name, doesn’t matter who it is: When you make a move to get a spark, everyone goes on notice. Everyone.”But the spark Marrone was trying to get isn’t really the spark that the Jaguars need. It’s some turnovers.There’s a chicken and egg issue here though. Turnovers are easier to come by when you have the lead. In 2017, the Jaguars forced 41 sacks and 13 picks in 372 pass plays while they were leading — when the opposing offense was more reckless and pass-happy.Those 372 plays were 63 percent of all opponent dropbacks last year and led to 62 percent of the Jags’ picks and 75 percent of their sacks. This year, opponents are throwing only 44 percent of their passes while trailing — and those plays accounted for just 47 percent of their sacks and 33 percent of their picks.So the way for the Jaguars to function better as a team is for someone on either side of the ball to make a play early and give Jacksonville a lead. They’ll get a chance Sunday in London against another team that’s learning that success in the NFL is far from stable, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, who are also just 3-4. But if the Jags can’t turn it around, the temperature in their locker room might never go down.Check out our latest NFL predictions. 49ers2013306th (tied)5294th (tied)3 Bears2012441st92813th (tied)6 Bears2011315th (tied)5441st9 Patriots2012412nd52910th (tied)3 Sources: Pro-Football-Reference.com, ESPN Stats & Information Chiefs2016331st5267th (tied)3 The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Super Bowl dreams are turning into a nightmare. And the obvious culprit is quarterback Blake Bortles, who was benched early in the second half of Sunday’s 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans — the team’s third-straight defeat.A civil war appeared to erupt after the game in the locker room, which beat writer Daniel Popper of The Athletic described as having “surpassed 212 degrees Fahrenheit.”“The Jaguars are sinking helplessly into the burning cauldron with no lifeline in sight,” Popper wrote on Twitter.The defensive players were yelling the loudest, so the narrative is that the finger-pointing is at Bortles and the club’s offense. But those fingers may be pointing the wrong way: The real reason for the team’s struggles is that its super-human defense is not merely regressing as expected in forcing turnovers and converting them into touchdowns — it’s collapsing. Passer rating80.380.8 Jacksonville’s defense regressed even more than expectedNFL teams from 2010 to 2016 that had at least 30 takeaways and five defensive touchdowns with how they fared the following year, along with the 2017-2018 Jacksonville Jaguars read more

When the Columbus Blue Jackets conclude the 2009-10 season, they’ll likely want to get as far away from the disappointing campaign as possible.The NHL made that task easier for the Jackets, who will kick off their 2010-11 season in Stockholm, Sweden, the team announced Tuesday in a press release.Columbus will play a pair of games against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 8 and 9.San Jose (39-11-9), first in the Western Conference with 87 points, has knocked off the Jackets in the first two of the teams’ four meetings this season.Columbus, with 57 points, the second-lowest total in the conference, currently sits at the bottom of the Central Division. However, the team has won both of its games since firing coach Ken Hitchcock last Wednesday.The Jackets and Sharks square off again tonight at Nationwide Arena at 7. read more

Shelby Lum / Photo editorKevin McGuff is scheduled to begin his Ohio State coaching career on Nov. 8 when he leads the women’s basketball team on the road to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown.McGuff, who joined the Buckeyes in April from the University of Washington, will face a tough non-conference schedule that includes seven NCAA tournament teams.Highlighting the non-conference slate is a showdown with the defending National Champion Connecticut Huskies on Dec. 1 in Springfield, Mass. The game is scheduled to be the feature contest of the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge and will be aired on ESPN2.OSU will also play Monmouth Nov. 22, Marist Nov. 23, and Bowling Green Nov. 24 as part of the Hall of Fame Challenge. The Buckeyes will then finish the month with a home game against Lehigh on Nov. 27.OSU will play Florida Atlantic on Nov. 10 in their 2013-14 home opener. Next, Virginia Commonwealth travels to Columbus Nov. 14 to take on the Buckeyes.Next up, OSU will face a stiff challenge when it hits the road to take on the Georgia Bulldogs Nov. 17. The Bulldogs made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament last season and return two of their top players in Tiara Griffin and Shacobia Barbee.After closing out the Hall of Fame Challenge against Connecticut, the Buckeyes will travel to Maryland to take on the Terrapins on Dec. 5 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. OSU will then come home for two games against Gonzaga Dec. 8 and Army Dec. 13.The final non-conference road game will take place against state rivals Cincinnati on Dec. 15. The Buckeyes finish their non-conference slate with three home games against Tennessee Martin Dec. 17, Appalachian State Dec. 20 and North Carolina Central Dec. 29. read more

Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez (54) throws the ball during a game against the Kansas City Royals Sept. 17 at Kauffman Stadium. Cleveland won, 5-3.Courtesy of MCTFor those of you who are Cleveland Indians fans, the following, while not unexpected, is becoming an unfortunate reality.Chief Wahoo might very well be on his way out of Cleveland forever.In recent years, the Indians organization has come under fire from the Native American population for its Chief Wahoo logo. Some say Chief Wahoo is racist and should be retired, never to be used again as a representation for the Cleveland ball club. While I understand the reasoning behind it, I am not for it.Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland in the early to mid- 1990’s, my family and I were die-hard Indians fans. My father split season ticket packages with his co-workers so we could see former players Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton and others dominate the American League Central and all the while, the team sported the Chief Wahoo logo.In recent years, the Indians have noticeably started to phase out Chief Wahoo and incorporate a more conservative block-C on their uniforms. As recent as 2011, the Indians demoted Chief Wahoo from their away ball caps and introduced a red block-C on the traditional navy blue cap.Chief Wahoo still appears on the home ball caps and on the sleeve of the game jerseys. However, now even the batting helmets, which had never donned anything but Chief Wahoo, are beginning to be overrun by the rather bland block-C.The Indians are not the only professional sports organization under fire for their controversial Native American representation.The Washington Redskins of the NFL have also been heavily scrutinized for their portrayal of their nationally-known Redskin logo, which shows a more realistic (compared to the cartoonish Chief Wahoo) maroon-faced Native American with feathers running down the back of his head.While I am sure we can all understand the uncomfortable position the Indians organization must be dealing with, I have to think that ultimately the organization would not want to disappoint their fans.If that is the case, we can hope Chief Wahoo will hang around a little longer. read more

Then-sophomore pitcher and first baseman Josh Desze (33) hits the ball during a game against Northwestern May 6, 2012, at Bill Davis Stadium. OSU won, 4-1.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorBeing a team that has to stay home while the College World Series plays out in Omaha, Neb., is always tough. Being a team that just barely missed the cut to play in the tournament, though, leaves a far worse taste in the mouth.The Ohio State baseball team is having to deal with that bad taste, leftover from last season, and is looking to focus on being able to punch its ticket to the postseason in 2014.Perhaps the person with the most to prove, however, is one who did not see a single minute of action last year. That is the case for redshirt-junior Josh Dezse, who missed all of last season with a stress reaction in his back.The Powell, Ohio, native always attended OSU baseball games while growing up, and said it was his dream to play for the Buckeyes. After a standout high school career, the dream became a reality and Dezse came to Columbus. His freshman campaign saw him lead the team in batting average, RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage on his way to earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award. Even though his offensive numbers dipped a bit during his sophomore year, Dezse saw his ERA drop almost three points and allowed 14 fewer runs in one more inning of work. It was after that second season when he realized there was a problem, though.After playing for a month in Massachusetts for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League, his back began to ache during batting practice. He decided to shut himself down and come back to Ohio, thinking it was nothing serious.“Maybe a pulled muscle or something tweaked. Nothing too serious,” Dezse said, “In the fall, we tried to fire it back up again, but it just didn’t feel right.”After three months, and with the season right around the corner, he felt it was time to seek medical advice.“We sent my images to a board of spine directors throughout the country and (the diagnosis) came back that I had a nonunion L4 fracture.”Two of his vertebrae processes had cracked off and formed a gap between the two bones. To repair it in surgery, doctors shaved off a piece of his hip and fused it with the vertebrae in that gap.It was not until February 2013 that Dezse found out he would miss the entire upcoming season. After finding out, he and his coaches were crushed.“Most importantly, I was disappointed for him, entering his junior year, his draft year. There was a lot of excitement and hype for the year he was going to have,” OSU coach Greg Beals said. “I was disappointed he had to have that letdown.”All Dezse could do was watch and cheer on his teammates as they fought hard all season before coming up just short of making the College World Series. Once his rehabilitation began, he started working to get back to playing shape.Despite not having played since 2012, Dezse was recently named to the third team of Louisville Slugger’s preseason All-Americans.“That was a shock to me, to be honest. It humbled me a lot,” Dezse said. “That people still think highly of me, even missing a season and not even proving myself yet, puts a weight on my shoulder. It was nice though, people still recognizing after being out a year.”His teammates are strong believers in his return as well, naming him one of the team captains for the 2014 season.Beals said the focus is getting Dezse back to where he was before the surgery.“We have to be smart about it and not push him too fast too soon,” Beals said. “He wants to be out there. He’s a competitor and an athlete. We can’t be moving him at too quick of a rate where we may cause ourselves a setback.”Even though he pitched his first two seasons, it is looking like designated hitter is where Dezse will start out this year. Because of the Buckeyes’ lack of experience in the bullpen, however, Dezse could make his way back to the mound to help his team.“We want to get Josh on the mound when he’s healthy,” assistant coach Mike Stafford said. “We want to get that pitch count up and possibly get him into a starting role.”Whatever role Dezse takes on the field, his presence is expected to be an enormous boost for a team looking to improve on what it did last year.“Our expectations this year are through the roof,” Dezse said. “We want to get to the National Tournament.”With the new season just around the corner, Dezse and his coaches have been able to look back and see the positives of him missing last season.“In the long run, though, I think he’s grown a lot,” Beals said. “I think he’s learned from that, and it’s been part of his maturation process.”Dezse added that he thinks the time off showed him a new appreciation for the game.“It was a good experience for me because it taught me that I really do love to play,” Dezse said. “Maybe it was a good thing, after all. I got everything fixed and feeling good. Now (I) just cross my fingers and hope everything goes well.” read more

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