Yankees News: Gio Urshela injury, Gerrit Cole has COVID, young starter called up to bigs

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

Monday was littered with bad news for the New York Yankees as they fell to the lowly Baltimore Orioles 7-1 at home. With new acquisition Andrew Heaney on the mound, the Bombers allowed four runs in 4.0 innings, as he elevated his ERA to 5.42. The bullpen didn’t fare much better, allowing three runs the rest of the way, but the Yankees offense was simply nonexistent.

The lineup tallied just three hits on the evening, and while they made solid contact, striking out just five times, they couldn’t take advantage of Jorge Lopez, who has a 5.91 ERA on the season and allowed just one hit over 6.0 innings.

Nonetheless, more disappointing news came after the game regarding an injury to starting third baseman Gio Urshela and ace Gerrit Cole being put on the COVID-19 list.

Your Yankees news roundup:

Gio Urshela:

Urshela underwent an MRI, which showed a middle-grade strain on his hamstring, which could see him back in a couple of days. Skipper Aaron Boone was more optimistic than pessimistic regarding his situation.

“He’s actually doing pretty well, so we can back-date it a couple of days [to Sunday],” Boone said. “He’ll continue to ramp up here in the next couple of days and hopefully it will be just another week or eight days or so.”

Gerrit Cole:

The Yankees’ constant COVID-19 issues continue to bubble to the surface, as Cole tested positive prior to making his start on Tuesday, which will keep him out for at least a few days. Luckily, he’s the only player to return a positive test, so the rest of the team should be safe for now.

Over 21 starts this year, Cole has a 3.11 ERA, winning 10 games. Coming off a 14-0 beating against Tampa Bay last week, he was looking to bounce back against Baltimore, but that will have to wait.

Luis Gil:

Via Gil’s Instagram, the young starting pitcher will make his major league debut this week. With Cole out, Gil could earn himself a start, currently hosting a 5.64 ERA over eight games in Triple-A. He features a 25.7% ground ball rate and 11.27 strikeouts per nine, giving up six homers and 22 hits over 30.1 innings this season, per Fangraphs. Gil has never made an appearance at the MLB level, so he will be looking to leave a positive impact. Baltimore represents the perfect team to take on.

Knicks: Is Evan Fournier an upgrade over Reggie Bullock?

evan fournier, knicks

When Evan Fournier woke up Tuesday morning after beating Italy in the quarterfinals of the Olympics, he made the decision to sign with the New York Knicks on a four-year, $78 million contract. With former small/shooting guard Reggie Bullock taking his talents to the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year, $30.5 million deal, Fournier’s contract seems a bit overzealous.

The Knicks are paying Evan twice as much as Bullock received on the open market, but they are getting a vastly different player in return, despite the fact they both play similar positions.

Evan Fournier stats:

-17.1 points

-3.1 assists

-1.1 steals

-45.7% from the field

-41.3% from 3-PT, 6.7 attempts per game

-78.8% free throw shooter, 3.3 attempts per game

Reggie Bullock Stats:

-10.9 points

-1.5 assists

-0.8 steals

-44.2% from the field

-41% from 3-PT, 6.1 attempts per game

-90.9% free throw shooter, 0.8 attempts per game

How does Fournier compare to Bullock, and what are the Knicks gaining in the French-born player?

Simply looking at the statistics, you can already see that Fournier offers far more scoring production, nearly doubling Bullocks’ total from last season. Traditionally, the former Boston Celtic and Orlando Magic shooter is a double-digit scorer throughout his career, posting a high of 18.5 during the 2019–20 season.

Bullock was best known for his catch-and-shoot abilities, especially when spacing the floor and picking out three attempts without much resilience. Fournier is able to create his own shots and spread the ball around the floor, given his 3.4 assists compared to Bullock’s 1.5. He also contains the ability to drive to the rim, which allows them to pick up more fouls, attempting 3.3 free throws per game compared to Reggie’s 0.8.

While their three-point shooting is eerily similar at around 41%, in almost every other category, Fournier has double the statistics that Bullock put up last year, indicating he is deserving of the contract. $20 million per season might be in overpay for a complementary piece, but Fournier is capable of taking pressure off Julius Randle and allowing him to operate, especially during the postseason when all eyes are on him.

Fournier should offer a great pairing with RJ Barrett, with his ability to space the floor and open up lanes for Barrett to drive to the rim. Ultimately, his ability to create shots for himself and open up opportunities for others is why the Knicks elected to sign him over retaining Bullock. However, the front office showed their loyalty, bring back Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Derrick Rose on three-year deals.

We should expect about double the production from the Frenchman compared to Bullock, which correlated directly to his price tag.

Did Nick Foles take a jab at the Chicago Bears coaching staff?

nick foles, bears

The Chicago Bears enter 2021 with newfound hope at the quarterback position after signing veteran Andy Dalton drafting rookie Justin Fields. Despite an overhaul of the quarterback room, the only veteran left from 2020 at the position is third-string quarterback Nick Foles, who started seven games in 2020.

Let’s flashback to last offseason: When the Bears acquired Foles, Chicago’s thought process was simple: Create competition at the quarterback position. Foles’ familiarity with the coaching staff, including head coach Matt Nagy, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, along with his knowledge of the offense was a reason many believed Foles would succeed in Chicago.

On Monday, Foles spoke to the media for the first time since the conclusion of the 2020 season. With Foles name popping up in trade rumors, he was asked about his thoughts regarding the 2020 season and why the Bears stumbled throughout his time as starting quarterback.

“There’s a lot of reasons that I can’t talk about to be honest with you,” Foles said via the Bears official Twitter account. “In the right situation, with the right people, that understand me as a player, I know what I can do because it’s been done.”

The first red flag in the entire press conference was when Foles essentially said that he wasn’t going to be talking about what went wrong. Foles answer clearly will draw mixed reactions, especially since he didn’t directly mention Nagy or the offensive staff, who some blame for the Bears failures last season.

“When you have a great coaching staff, it’s something special,” Foles said. “A big reason we were great in Philly is we had a great coaching staff. We did really well, they put us in positions to succeed. And it showed. I think everyone can say it showed.”

With rumors swirling regarding Foles future with the Bears, the Indianapolis Colts have been mentioned as a possible trade destination. Under current Colts head coach Frank Reich, Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory in 2017, reviving the Eagles season at a time when everything seemed lost.

“Listen, Frank Reich is one of my favorite, if not my favorite coaches of all-time,” Foles said. “He understands me as a player, he understands me as a person. I haven’t had any talks with him. I’m a Chicago Bear right now.”

Foles referencing his success with Reich and the Eagles should speak volumes as to what seemingly happened with the Bears last season and why everything went wrong. After praising Reich, it’s clear that Foles views the Colts coaching staff as a better fit compared to what the Bears have to offer going into 2021. Foles press conference also implied that the veteran quarterback has moved on from 2020 and is ready to start fresh in 2021, perhaps elsewhere.

New York Yankees: Takeaways from new look same ole Yankees loss to the Orioles

What going on with the New York Yankees? The Yankees themselves spoiled what was to be a triumphant return to Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have taken another step backward after the exciting debut of new players and a sweep of the Miami Marlins. After an exuberant start by Anthony Rizzo in Miami, it seems that he, too, has caught the Yankee flu. That has nothing to do with Covid; it’s a flu that the Yankees haven’t been able to shake all season, not being able to hit a baseball even against a lousy team with a subpar pitcher.

Andrew Heaney flopped and flopped big time

After last night the new New York Yankee pitcher Andrew Heaney is saddled with the worst debut of a Yankee pitcher in the franchise’s history. It’s the first time a Yankee pitcher gave up four home runs in a debut start. Heaney was horrible.

Heaney took to the mound for the first time as New York Yankee facing Cedrick Mancini, who flew out to left. Austin Hays popped out to LeMahieu. Trey Mancini flew out to end a perfect half for Heaney. At the second, Ryan Mountcastle led off by doubling down the left-field line. Anthony Santander struck out. Ramon Urias flew out to Stanton playing right field for the first time this year. Pedro Severino tapped back to Heaney for the final out. So far, so good.

Then came the third inning when Heaney turned into Dr. Jeckle, and Mister Hyde wrapped up in pinstripes. Mullins homered to center for the Orioles lead. Austin Hays hit a back-to-back homer this one to left field. The fourth inning was led off by Mountcastle, who got the third Oriole home run. Urias hit another home run, and just like that, Heaney had forgotten how to pitch. With the Yankee’s lack of hitting, Yankee fans saw the all too familiar behind four runs in the fourth, blown out early in a game. The Yankees lost 7-1.

Yankees still can’t consistently hit the leather

Yesterday the Yankees faced a Baltimore Orioles pitcher that was sub-par to be polite. Jorge Lopez had an ERA of 6.19. The Orioles had lost 14 of his starts. With a right-left, right-left power-hitting lineup, the Yankees couldn’t get a single hit off Lopez until the fifth inning. After that, it would be the only hit the Yankees would get off of Lopez. It’s not that they didn’t have their opportunities; they did; he walked five Yankees hitters as the Yankees went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

What has dogged the Yankees all season is their inability to hit the ball in the air. Instead, they continually hit ground balls into the infield and hit into double plays. As a result, they have hit into more double plays than any other team. If there was a Yankee star yesterday, Joey Gallo made some amazing defensive plays and hit a double in the sixth inning.

With all the opportunities the most exciting moment of the game was a cat running across the field that a battery of ground crew and security took several minutes to shoo off the field.

Yankees now have a big pitching problem

To add an even bigger downer to the Yankee’s loss, the Yankees announced that pitching ace Gerrit Cole has tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, he will miss his start today and at laest another one or two starts. In the best-case scenario, he will have two negative tests and miss only two starts assuming he has been vaccinated; if not, he could miss three starts or more if the virus hits him hard.

Add to that that Domingo German has been put of the 10 day IL with shoulder inflammation. With those two pitchers out for at least two starts, the Yankees have a big pitching problem. They have at least four slots to fill and no one to fill them. Their best chance to win a game is with Nestor Cortes Jr. on the mound today, replacing Cole; beyond that, they are in an uncharted area. Micheal King is on the IL, Deivi Garcia is pitching horribly with an ERA over 7 at Scranton. Clarke Schmidt, Luis Severino, and Corey Kluber won’t return to the team before August 20th. This means that the Yankees will probably have to use Heaney again, Holmes, and likely have to piece together at least a game or two from the bullpen.

UFC books Cody Garbrandt’s flyweight debut against Kai Kara-France

The UFC has finalized a fun matchup in the flyweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report last night that the promotion had booked the flyweight bout between former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (12-4) and Kai Kara-France (22-9, 1 NC).

The fight will take place at a UFC event that is scheduled to take place on December 11th. This will be Cody Garbrandt’s first official fight in the flyweight division after he’s teased the move down in weight for over a year.

He’s going to get an exciting challenge in his first fight. Eleventh ranked Kai Kara-France just looks like someone who is ready to make his way up the latter in the UFC‘s flyweight division.

Since making his debut with the UFC at the end of 2018, Kara-France has gone 5-2 with the promotion. One of those losses came against the current flyweight champion in Brandon Moreno.

The lone other loss came on Fight Island against Brandon Royval in a fight that was incredibly fun to watch. Kara-France last fought at UFC 259 when he knocked out Rogerio Bontorin in the first round.

UFC Flyweight Debut for No Love

Back at UFC 207 in 2016, Cody Garbrandt was on top of the world. He had defeated Dominick Cruz and became the bantamweight champion. Garbrandt was undefeated and looked like he was going to reign over the division for a long time.

However, injuries started hampering his career. Following the title win against Cruz, Garbrandt ended up suffering three consecutive knockout losses between 2017 and 2019. Two of which were in the first round.

The losing streak made you really wonder what the future held for Garbrandt. At UFC 250 last June, he returned against Raphael Assuncao. He looked like the old Cody Garbrandt and scored a highlight reel knockout in the second round.

After that win, Garbrandt accepted a UFC flyweight title fight and wanted to move down in weight. However, an injury and battle with COVID cancelled the fight. After that, he decided to stay at bantamweight a bit longer.

The former champion took on Rob Font back in May in a headliner. Font controlled the entire fight and the former UFC champion really couldn’t get anything going. After that loss, he decided to move to flyweight for the foreseeable future. Now, he has his first opponent and a lot to prove.

UFC books Islam Makhachev – Rafael Dos Anjos

The UFC has finalized a pivotal matchup in the lightweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report last night that the promotion had finalized a battle between surging contender Islam Makhachev (20-1) and former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos (30-13).

The fight will take place at UFC 267 on October 30th. UFC 267 will take place on Fight Island and will actually be free to watch on either ESPN or ABC. The promotion is offering this numbered event for free due to UFC 268 being just one week later.

This will be the second fight back in the lightweight division for RDA. Dos Anjos made his return to the lightweight division back in November after he had spent the last couple of years in the UFC‘s welterweight division.

RDA returned with an impressive win over Paul Felder. However, his original opponent that night was Islam Makhachev. Makhachev suffered an injury and the UFC called upon Felder to step in on short notice.

Nevertheless, the former champion put on a great performance. Now, he’s going to be tasked with defeating the surging Dagestan contender. RDA has dealt with some injuries in 2021 but the former UFC champion is healthy and ready to go for this one.

UFC’s Future Lightweight Champion?

When you ask most people about Islam Makhachev, they will tell you he’s a future UFC champion. Makhachev is the protégé and close friend of former lightweight champion and pound-for-pound king, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov has taken on the role as Makhachev’s head coach in 2021 and Makhachev has been nothing short of dominant. His first fight of the year was at UFC 259 against Drew Dober. Makhachev dominated and submitted Dober in the third round.

Then, the UFC had trouble getting someone to take a fight against him. Thiago Moises stepped up and accepted a main event slot against Makhachev. Makhachev dominated Moises from the opening bell to the finish.

He scored a Rear-Naked Choke in the fourth round of their fight. This is the biggest step up in competition Makhachev has seen in his career. RDA is no pushover, but if Makhachev can dominate him like he has everyone else, the lightweight division should be terrified.

Grading the Knicks’ four signings on Day 1 of free agency

evan fournier, knicks

Within just four hours of the start of free agency, the New York Knicks spent the majority of their available funds. With an expected $50+ million to spend, the Knicks committed to $183 million over the next four years.

However, their approach was rather interesting, remaining loyal to some of their players from last season instead of targeting upgrades. With the market crowded with potential suitors, the Knicks had to act quickly to land talent, but they stuck to a more conservative approach than most expected.

Grading the Knicks’ four free-agent signings:

Nerlens Noel: Three years, $32 million

Noel had alternative teams seeking his signature, but the Knicks managed to retain him for the next three years. At 27-years-old, the former first-round pick was a fantastic defensive weapon after Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot and hand last year. Noel doesn’t offer much as an offensive threat but posted a career-high 2.2 blocks per game, averaging 5.1 points. He played in 64 games, tallying 24.2 minutes per game, his highest mark since 2015.

He clearly left a positive impression on head coach Tom Thibodeau, who values his defense and high effort style. The front office knows exactly what they’re getting with Noel, and considering he played such a big part in helping the team reach the playoffs, they rewarded him for his performance.

Grade: B

Alec Burks: Three years, $30 million

Another veteran who made a significant impact during the 2020-21 season was Alec Burks. As the 12th overall pick in 2011, Burks has had an up-and-down career but proved he still had plenty of gas left in the tank this past season, averaging 12.7 points and shooting 42% from the field. When the Knicks needed offensive production, they called upon Burks to provide it, and he did just that, helping run the offense with the point guard position was floundering.

A three-year deal is likely more than most anticipated he would earn, but the 30-year-old is still in his prime and capable of offering plenty of value off the bench.

Grade: B+

Derrick Rose: Three years, $43 million

The way Derrick Rose played last season was indicative of his fierce mentality as a competitor. Thibodeau simply loves Rose and what he offers a team, including leadership and veteran experience.

Posting nearly 15 points per game over 26.8 minutes, Rose was considered the Knicks’ starting point guard, despite Eflrid Payton rolling out with the first team in most games. His time on the floor dwindled as the season progressed, and Rose completely took over, helping the Knicks stick around in the postseason while the Atlanta Hawks steamrolled them. His valiant effort and floor general mentality earned him another contract, but at 32-years-old, some might be hoping there’s an out in the third year of the deal.

Grade: B

Evan Fournier: Four years, $78 million, fourth-year team option

With Reggie Bullock signing a three-year deal in Dallas, the Knicks looked to Evan Fournier to supplement his loss. The French-born player is preparing to turn 29-years-old next season, but his ability to play shooting guard and small forward replaces Bullock. Reggie is a catch-and-shoot specialist, while Fournier is capable of creating his own shots and playing average defense.

Posting 17.1 points, 3.4 assists, and shooting 45.7% from the field this past season, he is a high-end complementary piece who should help take some pressure off Julius Randle. While the Knicks undoubtedly overpaid for his services, they know exactly what they’re getting with Fournier, as general manager Scott Perry traded for him in the past while with Orlando. His 41.3% success rate from downtown last year stands out, and he’s not just a catch-and-shoot player; he’s a capable scorer who can drive to the basket and finish with versatile moves.

There’s no question he’s a more talented player than Bullock, but it all boils down to his ability to draw attention away from Randle, who’s looking to build upon his first All-Star appearance in 2020.

Grade: B

How would you grade the Knicks’ free agent class so far? Comment here or below!

New York Giants: One underrated running back who could steal an active roster spot

corey clement, new york giants

Despite the New York Giants signing veteran running back Alfred Morris to a contract over the weekend, there’s one underrated RB who could make an impact on the 2021 season.

Former Philadelphia Eagles running back and Super Bowl winner Corey Clement joined the team this off-season on a one-year, $990K deal. Having signed on the Veteran’s Salary Benefit, his contract includes no guaranteed money, so the Giants could theoretically move on from him with no financial implications.

However, Clement offers value as an experienced back who’s deadly out of the backfield as a receiver.

Over the course of his career, Clement has caught 37 passes for 340 yards and two scores, posting an 80.4% catch rate. On the ground, he tallied 655 yards and seven scores, but only earned 21 rushing attempts last season with Philadelphia. He’s two years removed from having a campaign with 200+ rushing yards and 100+ receiving yards.

As a solid receiver, the Giants have the luxury of easing Saquon Barkley back to his normal self, as a team also signed former Las Vegas Raiders RB Devontae Booker. Booker is a solid reserve back who can carry the load in Barkley’s absence, but with Saquon ramping up his rehabilitation and looking near 100%, he could re-join the team in a higher capacity over the next few weeks.

Where can Clement contribute next season?

Clement excels in pass blocking, earning a 66.3 overall grade during the 2018 season when he was in his prime. Two poor performances dragged down his average, but was a quality blocker for his quarterback in pass pro. At 5’10” and 220 pounds, there’s no guarantee he will earn a starting spot on the roster, but he offers value in several categories the Giants could use more talent in. With Dion Lewis walking in free agency, Big Blue needs another receiver out of the backfield, and with Barkley’s struggles as a blocker, Clement can provide a helpful hand.