Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Sports Briefs

AGENCIES

■ RUGBY

Northampton sign Niekerk

South Africa flanker Joe Van Niekerk signed a three-year contract with English rugby club Northampton on Monday. Van Niekerk, capped 46 times by the Springboks since 2001, will start with Northampton depending on next month's announcement of the South African World Cup squad. He hasn't played for South Africa since last year's Tri-Nations after suffering a back injury and a neck injury, which kept him out of the November tour of Europe. The 27-year-old has been with the Cape Town Stormers in the Super 14 since 2005. Northampton hope Van Niekerk will help it return to the English Premiership after relegation this season. Meanwhile, Worcester announced it signed All Blacks winger Rico Gear for three years.

■ BASEBALL

Yanks sign Chinese players

The New York Yankees signed a pair of Chinese players, saying on Monday they were the first players from China signed by a team in US Major League Baseball with the approval of China's baseball federation. Liu Kai, a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher, and Zhang Zhenwang, a 19-year-old catcher, are to be introduced at a Yankee Stadium news conference on July 6 and then will report to the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Florida. Liu has played for Guangdong Province in China's six-team league and has been chosen for the national team. Zhang played for the Tianjin Lions, winning league titles in 2002, 2005 and last year. Zhang appeared in one game at last year's World Baseball Classic but did not have any at-bats. "We have scouts worldwide and we have seen both players in the past," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

■ BASEBALL

MLB suspends Lee, Young

Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee and San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Young were suspended for five games each on Monday following a Major League Baseball (MLB) bench-clearing brawl last weekend. Cubs hitting coach Gerald Perry was suspended for three games for his role in Saturday's fight at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Philadelphia Phillies third-base coach Steve Smith was suspended for three games and catcher Carlos Ruiz for one following an argument in Sunday's game against Detroit. The players' union appealed Ruiz's suspension, meaning his suspension can't start until after the case is decided. Chicago and San Diego were off on Monday, giving Lee time to decide whether to contest the discipline. In Saturday's game at Wrigley, Lee was hit by a pitch from Young, walked to first, had words with the pitcher, then threw a punch. Young swung back and the benches emptied.

■ BASEBALL

Orioles fire manager

Sam Perlozzo was fired as manager of the Baltimore Orioles on Monday as the last-place team was mired in an eight-game losing streak. Perlozzo's firing was announced at a press conference. Bullpen coach Dave Trembley, who has served as a minor league manager in the organization, was the interim manager when the Orioles began a six-game trip in San Diego yesterday. Perlozzo was victimized by an underachieving bullpen and a punchless offense that ranks last in the American League in home runs. Baltimore was 27-27 and second in the American League's East Division on May 31 before losing 13 of 15, including the final eight games of a 1-8 homestand that ended on Sunday.

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