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Sports briefs, Nov. 22, 2011


Sox name Hazen, O’Halloran assistant GMs

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have appointed Mike Hazen and Brian O’Halloran assistant general managers.

The moves were among several announced Tuesday by new general manager Ben Cherington.

Hazen, who joined the team in 2006 as director of player development, had been vice president for player development and amateur scouting. O’Halloran, who joined the team in 2002 as a baseball operations assistant, was vice president of baseball operations. Both retain the vice president’s title.

Among other moves, Allard Baird went from vice president of player personnel and professional scouting to vice president of player personnel, David Finley was promoted from special assistant to the general manager to director of player personnel and Zack Scott was promoted from assistant director of baseball operations to director of major league operations.

Viewers tune in for NASCAR season finale

The Chase for the Sprint Cup finale picked up viewers with the tight competition for the championship.

Sunday’s race in Homestead, Fla., earned a 4.0 rating on ESPN. The network said Tuesday that was up 18 percent from last year. It was also up from the 3.6 for the 2009 race on ABC.

Ratings for the Chase on ESPN and ABC increased 14.8 percent from 2010, averaging a 3.1. Excluding rainout races, ESPN and ABC’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage for 2011 averaged a 3.2, up more than 6 percent from last year.

Tony Stewart seized his third Cup championship Sunday, winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and holding off rival Carl Edwards for a tie in the final Sprint Cup Series standings — good enough to win the title based on his five victories.

Roethlisberger should play against KC

PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger’s fractured right thumb didn’t put him on the sidelines the day it happened – the Steelers’ Nov. 13 win at Cincinnati. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin says it won’t keep him out this Sunday, either.

Tomlin said Tuesday that Roethlisberger will start at quarterback against the Kansas City Chiefs. And while Tomlin can’t tell how much the thumb will affect him, he expects Roethlisberger to be effective.

“Those of us who know Ben understand that he’s going to show and show for his teammates,” Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger fractured the thumb during the second half against the Bengals, but didn’t miss a snap. He threw for 245 yards and a touchdown, though 175 of those yards and the score came in the first half. The bye week allowed the thumb to start healing, and Roethlisberger has practiced this week.

Roethlisberger wore a splint under his glove and didn’t take a snap from under center Monday, working out of shotgun and pistol formations. Yet Tomlin doesn’t think direct snaps from center Maurkice Pouncey will be a problem Sunday.

“There’s a pain tolerance issue,” Tomlin said. “There’s a comfortability issue. All of those things will be sorted out throughout the course of the week. To be honest with you, I’m not overly concerned about (Roethlisberger’s) ability to be effective in the midst of this.”

Even if Roethlisberger were lost to injury, Tomlin said he’s fortunate with his quarterback depth. Charlie Batch is Roethlisberger’s backup, with Dennis Dixon behind Batch.

“We’re comfortable with the men we have at that position, in that we’re capable of playing winning football regardless of who’s under center,” he said.

Tomlin also expects safety Troy Polamalu, slowed during the bye week with rib discomfort, to play Sunday. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and receivers Arnaz Battle (hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (knee) all practiced in a limited capacity, and Tomlin said coaches will monitor their status day by day.

Broncos cut quarterback Kyle Orton

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have waived quarterback Kyle Orton.

The 29-year-old seventh-year veteran from Purdue lost his starting job after going 1-4. He hasn’t played since the first half against San Diego on Oct. 9. His replacement, Tim Tebow, is 4-1.

Orton decisively outplayed Tebow in training camp but faltered when the regular season started, throwing seven interceptions.

Orton will be subject to waivers. If a team claims him, it will have to pay what remains of his $9 million salary. If he’s not claimed, he’ll become a free agent. Several teams, including contenders Chicago and Houston, could use a veteran QB.

Orton was acquired last year in the Jay Cutler trade with the Bears and won his first six starts in Denver before going 6-21 and losing his starting job.

Federer routs Nadal to reach semifinals

LONDON — Roger Federer raced to one of his easiest wins over rival Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, routing the Spaniard 6-3, 6-0 to earn a semifinal berth at the ATP World Tour Finals.

From 3-2 in the first set, Federer ran away with it and not even Nadal’s trademark defensive abilities could handle the pace and accuracy of the 16-time Grand Slam champion’s forehand.

The 26th match between the former No. 1s was over in exactly 1 hour. Federer finished with 28 winners to Nadal’s four.

“I’ve definitely seen Rafa play better, but I’ve also definitely played worse,” Federer said in an interview on court.

With one match to play in Group B, Federer is assured of a place in the semifinals as he targets a record sixth title at the season-ending event.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier kept alive his hopes of reaching the last four by beating Mardy Fish of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-1. Federer’s win means Fish cannot advance.

The winner of the match between Tsonga and Nadal will claim the other semifinal place from Group B.

The 30-year-old Federer extended his winning streak to 14 matches following titles in Basel and Paris in the run-up to the ATP Finals. He underlined his status as the top player in London with a dominating performance against Nadal, who lost 10 of the last 11 games.

Federer trails 17-9 in the head-to-head series, but has won all four of their matches indoors.

“Clay goes his way,” Federer said. “At least I have one surface that goes my way.”

Coyotes re-sign Turris to multiyear contract

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyle Turris has ended his long holdout by signing a multiyear contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The team announced Tuesday that the deal is contingent on Turris passing a medical examination. Terms of the deal weren’t immediately released and it was unclear when Turris might join the Coyotes’ lineup.

Turris sat out all of training camp and has missed Phoenix’s first 19 games this season.

The 22-year-old center had 11 goals and 14 assists in 65 regular-season games last season for Phoenix, adding one goal and two assists in four playoff games.

He was the Coyotes’ first-round pick in the 2007 draft at No. 3 overall and has 19 career NHL goals and 27 assists in 131 regular-season games.

Arkansas football player had heart condition

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A University of Arkansas football player died over the weekend of a condition that caused an irregular heartbeat, a coroner said Tuesday.

Washington County coroner Roger Morris said that, to the best of his knowledge, Garrett Uekman’s condition was not previously detected. He said the condition, which thickens the walls of the heart, affects a lot of young men.

“It’s one of those kind of undetected silent killers,” Morris said.

Uekman, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman tight end, was last seen playing video games Sunday morning. He was found unresponsive in his dorm room an hour later and was in cardiac arrest by the time emergency services personnel arrived. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has said the university wasn’t aware of any pre-existing medical condition for Uekman.

Uekman’s toxicology report came back with no indications of improper drug use, Morris said. University police have said there were no suspicious circumstances about Uekman’s death.

Several thousand mourners gathered in Fayetteville on Monday for a candlelight vigil to remember Uekman. His picture remained on the videoboard at the Bud Walton Arena throughout the ceremony, and those in attendance wore stickers that had black ribbons wrapped in red with a white “88” on them, in honor of Uekman’s number.

The No. 3 Razorbacks (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) face No. 1 LSU (11-0, 7-0) in Baton Rouge, La., on Friday.

NASCAR suspends driver for failed drug test

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR has suspended Truck Series driver Jack C. Smith for violating the substance abuse policy.

The suspension is indefinite. NASCAR announced the discipline Tuesday.

Smith made six starts this season with a best finish of 11th at Atlanta. His last race was at Texas, where he crashed and finished 26th.

He has run 17 races over four seasons in the Truck Series without ever finishing in the top 10.

Smith also was suspended last season following an arrest for fraudulently attempting to obtain a controlled substance.

Jets waive Nelson with ‘non-football illness’

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets have waived backup tight end Shawn Nelson because of what the team called a “non-football illness.”

Nelson, a former Buffalo Bills fourth-round draft pick, signed with the Jets on Oct. 31 but was inactive for three games.

The Jets would not disclose the nature of the illness Tuesday, but Nelson has a history of migraines. He appeared in five games for the Bills last season before being placed on the reserve/injured non-football injury list as a result of the headaches. Nelson also was suspended the first four games last year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Nelson has 21 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown in two-plus NFL seasons.

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