The Latest on Major League Baseball's winter meetings (all times local): 10:40 a.m. Jackie Bradley Jr. and CC Sabathia are about to give baseball the royal treatment. The Boston outfielder and New York Yankees pitcher are traveling to London this week, six months ahead of the two-game series between the teams in the British capital. Bradley and Sabathia will tour the city's sights, visit the Lords Cricket Ground and see Premier League soccer matches in Manchester and Liverpool. The World Series champion Red Sox and Yankees play June 29-30 at Olympic Stadium. 'I welcome the opportunity to promote our great sport and the history of our rivalry across the pond,' Sabathia said. 'I also love traveling ... Consider me the Yankees' advance scout for London.' ___ 9:27 a.m. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash will stick with using an 'opener' next season. The Rays deviated from baseball tradition last season, regularly using a relief pitcher to begin games rather than a traditional starting pitcher. Tampa Bay went 46-38 with usual starters and 44-34 when utilizing the bullpen. 'I think right now we're discussing internally whether we do it two times through the rotation or three times through the rotation,' Cash said Monday at the winter meetings. 'But the nice thing is we've got all that information last year and we have a bunch of candidates that we can fill in as a traditional starter if need be. Yonny Chirinos, Yarbs (Ryan Yarbrough), Wilmer Font, Jalen Beeks.' Tampa Bay's innovation was copied by Oakland, which started reliever Liam Hendriks in the AL wild-card game against the New York Yankees, and Milwaukee. Brewers manager Craig Counsell used left-hander Wade Miley for just one batter in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, then brought in right-hander Brandon Woodruff. While Cash let opposing managers know when he was using an opener and would have a quick hook, Counsell sprung his move as a surprise. 'Yes, it can definitely make it difficult. But I personally don't see anything wrong with that,' Cash said. 'Each manager, each club, each organization, they're trying to get the best out of their roster. If they feel that's the best way to do it, the opposition, you've kind of got to deal with it. It's going to happen to us. We did it with other clubs, not that quickly, but playoff baseball you see different things.' ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
The Oakland Raiders have fired general manager Reggie McKenzie less than two years after he was named the NFL's executive of the year. A person familiar with the move says McKenzie was let go Monday from the position he had held for almost seven seasons. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not made an announcement. The NFL Network first reported the firing. McKenzie's status was in doubt ever since coach Jon Gruden was given a 10-year contract last January to take charge of the football operation for the Raiders. McKenzie's influence had waned since then, with the Raiders cutting ties with several of the players he had acquired, most notably edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Amari Cooper. McKenzie was the first major hire made by owner Mark Davis after he took over the team following the death of his father, Al, in 2011. McKenzie modernized the franchise, got the team out of salary cap purgatory and built a roster that won 12 games in 2016, earning him honors as the league's top executive. ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
ATHENS – Woodruff Practice Fields sit empty and wet. The Butts-Mehre Complex is unusually quiet and inactive. Georgia players are busy preparing for and taking exams. On Friday, several of them will walk in fall semester graduation ceremonies. All the while, another football challenge is looming. Three weeks from now, the No. 5 Bulldogs (11-2) will be teeing it up against No. 15 Texas (9-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Meanwhile, the anguish of another excruciatingly close loss to No. 1 Alabama still lingers. The question on everybody’s mind is whether the Bulldogs can shake the grief and misery of that disappointment and refocus on the challenge of defeating a storied opponent in the rather lofty consolation of a New Year’s Six bowl game. To that, the Georgia players offer a resounding, “hell, yes.” “For sure,” junior wideout Mecole Hardman said. “We’re not going to go out there and just let anybody beat us. We’re definitely going to have motivation to play because we’ve got to get taste out of our mouths somehow. So, somebody’s got to feel us, and they will.” Added Riley Ridley: “Most definitely. This is Georgia football. No matter what happens, we never give up. We love football. That’s what we’re here for. We play for each other.” Undoubtedly, the Bulldogs will head to New Orleans with good intentions. That the Sugar Bowl has become a consolation prize for speaks to the heights of which Kirby Smart has raised the standard of expectation for Georgia football in three short years. But it’d understandable if the Bulldogs’ found their focus was a bit clouded considering the depth of their disappointment not 10 days ago. After building an impressive lead against a team called one of the best in Alabama football history and having an opportunity to expand it three scores in the third quarter, Georgia was outscored 21-0 over the final 18 minutes of play on the way to a 35-28 loss. Central to the outcome was a controversial decision to attempt a fake punt with the game tied with three minutes remaining. So, there was the added pang of how the Bulldogs lost on top of playing toe-to-toe with the nation’s No. 1 team. Then there were the postseason implications. Georgia played Alabama so well for so long, it proved to any remaining doubters there might’ve been that it was among the top four teams in college football. That should have been enough for the selection committee to include the Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. But, ultimately they chose Oklahoma, a one-loss Big 12 champion, over the two-loss SEC runners-up. That added a layer of disappointment the day after the conference championship loss. But Georgia players insist there will no lingering grief. “We’re not hanging our heads,” freshman cornerback Tyson Campbell said. “We know we played our best and we’re just ready to move forward. We’ve got to focus on what’s ahead of us now.” Said junior tight end Isaac Nauta: “It’s definitely not a lost season for us. We have another game to play and we’re looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to getting better throughout the month of December and winning the next one.” Georgia is already getting cmparisons to Alabama’s 2008 team, which entered the SEC Championship Game undefeated and ranked No. 1 only to lose to No. 2 Florida 31-20. The Gators went on to play for the BCS title and the No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide then lost to Utah 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl. Lack of motivation was considered Alabama’s primary undoing that New Year’s Day in New Orleans. Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who was defensive coordinator for that 2008 Alabama team, admitted that the Tide “didn’t play as well as we probably should have.” But he also said this year’s Georgia team is very different that one. “This is a much younger team than any of those Bama teams,” Smart said of the Bulldogs, whose roster is comprised 68 percent of freshmen and sophomores. “A lot of these kids, this will be their first or second time in a big-time bowl environment. We’re still getting accustomed to that.” No, this appears to be a Georgia team that still feels it has much to prove to the rest of the college football world. The same chip the Bulldogs carried on their collective shoulders into the SEC Championship Game will be making the trip to New Orleans. While a national championship is not in the cards this year, Georgia very much wants to validate its distinction as one the best teams in the country in 2018. “We can’t hang our head about (losing to Bama),” Hardman said. “We know we had the game; we know we played great. It just didn’t go our way. But I think everybody knows we’re one of the best four teams.” One more decisive win surely would remove any doubt. 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