Sports briefs for March 27, 2012

Posted March 27, 2012, at 7:20 p.m.
Last modified March 28, 2012, at 12:21 p.m.

West Enfield’s Mulligan signs with Rams

ST. LOUIS — Wide receiver Steve Smith, formerly of Philadelphia, and tight end Matthew Mulligan, who had been with the New York Jets and is from West Enfield, signed free-agent contracts with the Rams on Monday.

Smith’s deal is for one year; Mulligan’s is for two years.

Mulligan, 6-foot-4, 255, is a blocking tight end who played football at Husson University and the University of Maine. He is probable replacement for unrestricted free agent Billy Bajema — whom the Rams don’t appear to be interested in re-signing. Mulligan, 27, has appeared in 34 NFL games with 11 starts, all with the Jets, but has only six catches for 60 yards in his NFL career.

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Plymouth’s Grant wins New England FT title

PORTLAND — Peyton Grant of Plymouth nailed 21 of 25 free throws to win the ages 8-9 girls title in the Elks Hoop Shoot New England Regional Championship Saturday at Deering High School.

Peyton, the daughter of Darlene and Jody Grant, will vie for the national title in the Elks Hoop Shoot contest April 27-28 in Springfield, Mass.

Peyton represented the Sebasticook Lodge of Elks at the contest and was the only Maine competitors to advance to the national title. Boys and and girls competitions were also held in two other age groups, 10-11 and 12-13.

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NFL Owners approve salary cap reductions

PALM BEACH, Fla. — NFL owners ratified the agreement between the league and players’ union that takes away $36 million in salary cap space from the Redskins and $10 million from the Cowboys.

Other than Dallas and Washington, no club voted Tuesday to oppose the agreement, which raised the salary cap for 2012 from about $113 million to $120.6 million. The Cowboys and Redskins have sought arbitration, which will be conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor Stephen Burbank.

Both teams were penalized for overloading contracts in the 2010 uncapped season despite league warnings not to do so. Each must take at least half the reduction this year.

The Cowboys will play in the season opener on Sept. 5 at the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. That game will be on a Wednesday night for the first time; President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6.

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Baylor’s Brittney Griner leads AP All-America team

Brittney Griner has dominated women’s basketball all season.

Now the 6-foot-8 junior phenom is a unanimous selection to The Associated Press’ All-America team Tuesday, a day after leading the unbeaten Lady Bears to their second Final Four in three seasons.

She was joined on the squad by Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins, Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne and Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas.

Griner has the Lady Bears two wins away from becoming the first team in NCAA history to go 40-0.

Griner has been incredible all season, but raised her game over the last month. She’s averaging 23.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.2 blocks this season. Throw in two incredible dunks in the NCAA tournament and she’s been unstoppable.

Griner and Ogwumike received 200 points and were unanimous choices by the 40-member national media panel that votes in the weekly Top 25. It’s the fifth straight season that there has been at least one unanimous choice. Voting was done before the NCAA tournament.

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Tigers’ Cabrera gets medical clearance to play

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera was cleared Tuesday to play again, more than a week after a bad-hop grounder broke a bone beneath his right eye.

The third baseman is expected to return to the lineup within a couple of days, although manager Jim Leyland hasn’t committed to the exact date the AL batting champion will play.

The Tigers open their season April 5 at home against Boston. Leyland emphatically said that if Cabrera is healthy, he will start at third base and bat third.

Cabrera has been out since being hit in the face on March 19. The ball off the bat of Philadelphia’s Hunter Pence caused a gash that needed eight stitches and left some discoloring under Cabrera’s eye.

Cabrera led the majors last year with a .344 batting average. He also hit 30 home runs and had 105 RBIs for the AL Central champions.

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Lucroy agrees to 5-year deal with Brewers

PHOENIX — Jonathan Lucroy has the security he wanted.

“It gives me a chance to go out and play every day, to put this (contract) behind us, move forward and try to win a championship,” the Milwaukee Brewers catcher said Tuesday after agreeing to a five-year contract worth about $11 million. The deal would increase to $13 million if he is eligible for salary arbitration after this season.

Lucroy agreed last month to a one-year contract that paid $492,000 in the majors. The new deal adds four seasons plus a club option for 2017.

The 25-year-old hit .265 with 12 home runs in 136 games last year, his first full season in the major leagues. The Brewers had a 3.63 ERA when Lucroy caught and went 68-46 when he started.

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Ex-Pirates pitcher, minor league catcher suspended

NEW YORK — A pitcher who made his major league debut with Pittsburgh last season and a minor league catcher have been suspended for 50 games each because of drug violations.

Left-hander Aaron Thompson of the Minnesota organization and Cody Stanley of the St. Louis system were penalized Tuesday under baseball’s minor league drug program.

The 25-year-old Thompson pitched four times for the Pirates last year. He is now on the roster of the Twins’ Triple-A Rochester team. He was suspended after a second violation for a drug of abuse.

The 23-year-old Stanley was penalized after testing positive for Methylhexaneamine and Tamoxifen. He’s on the roster of Single-A Quad Cities.

The penalties take effect at the start of the season. There have been 26 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program.

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NASCAR all-star race to be run in 5 segments

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR’s annual all-star race will be split into five segments this year, with a mandatory pit stop before the final 10-lap sprint for the $1 million prize.

The All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be 90 laps and begin with four 20-lap segments. The winner of each segment will move to the front of the field right before the cars head down pit road for their mandatory stop.

Drivers will then line up in the order they leave pit road to start the final segment.

“It’s sprint, quick races. Twenty-lap races will mean a lot more now if you can start up front or at least pit first for the final segment, which will mean everything,” said 2008 winner Kasey Kahne. “In 10 laps here, if you start anywhere out of the front two rows, you probably don’t have a shot at winning. To have the best shot at winning the All-Star Race, you’ll want to win one of those (segments).”

The new format is designed to place a premium on winning one of the first four segments, as well as showcase pit crews for the mandatory stop before the 10-lap shootout. Steve Addington, crew chief for Kurt Busch’s 2010 win, said teams will have to decide quickly what to do during the pit stop.

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Andy Pettitte throws BP, simulated game

TAMPA, Fla. — Andy Pettitte is increasing his workload by throwing in a simulated game, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks the 39-year-old left-hander could pitch in a spring training game next week.

Pettitte came out of retirement by agreeing to a minor league contract March 16.

He threw 20 pitches in batting practice Tuesday before making 13 more pitches to four batters in a simulated game. He will have another such session Friday or Saturday.

Also, Girardi said Hiroki Kuroda is lined up to follow opening-day starter CC Sabathia, pitching at Tampa bay on April 7 at Tampa Bay. That means Kuroda could be in place to start the Yankees’ home opener April 13 against the Los Angeles Angels.

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