Howard signs for three years
The Philadelphia Phillies avoided a potentially messy salary arbitration process with All-Star slugger Ryan Howard on Sunday by signing him to a three-year contract worth US$54 million. The Phillies bought out the final three arbitration-eligible seasons on the first baseman’s contract to secure the services of the 2006 National League MVP, who was one of the key forces behind Philadelphia’s first World Series title in 28 years. Howard had been seeking US$18 million in arbitration — an US$8 million raise from his salary last year. The Phillies initially countered with a US$14 million offer, setting up a possible arbitration hearing. But that is no longer necessary, much to the pleasure of both parties. “I’m happy to have this done and to know that I’ll be in Philadelphia for at least another three years,” Howard said. “Both sides are happy, and now I’m just focused on getting the season started and having fun.”
Arce released from hospital
Mexico’s Jorge Arce left a hospital on Sunday after he was treated in the wake of his 11th-round technical knockout defeat to Vic Darchinyan in a super flyweight world title fight on Saturday. Arce had cuts above his both eyes before the bout was halted on the advice of the ring doctor after 11 rounds. The 29-year-old fighter’s blood pressure was reportedly fluctuating and Arce admitted he felt “unbalanced” following the post-fight press conference. He was taken to a hospital and was released on Sunday morning after observation. Arce said he had the usual “aches and pains” but physically felt all right on Sunday.
Leaders remain unbeaten
Argentina and the US were pushed harder to remain unbeaten in the Pan American Cup on Sunday. Argentina beat Canada 4-0 and the US toughed out a 2-0 win over Chile to virtually secure semi-final berths in the women’s field hockey event, also a qualifier for next year’s World Cup. Noel Barrionuevo scored twice inside the first 20 minutes for Argentina, to give her five goals in two games. Although Canada fought hard, goals by Argentina’s Daniela Sruoga and Yanina Rojas in the second half put the game beyond it. Argentina was almost assured of top spot in Pool B, with just one game left against host Bermuda, which was thumped 7-1 by Trinidad and Tobago. Nicole Aming grabbed a second-half hat-trick for Trinidad, while Mexico beat Jamaica 4-1 for its first win. First-half goals from Keli Smith and captain Carrie Lingo were enough for the US to see off a competitive Chile in a high-tempo game. Yesterday the US was to play Mexico, while Chile was pitted against Jamaica.
Vanek out for three weeks
Buffalo Sabres All-Star left wing Thomas Vanek had surgery on his broken jaw on Sunday and will miss at least three weeks of National Hockey League action, the team said. The Austrian was hurt during Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators. With 7:52 remaining in the opening period, Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov unleashed a rising slap shot from the right point that hit Vanek directly in the face. The 25-year-old Vanek, who has recorded 32 goals and 20 assists in 54 games, immediately skated off the ice and headed to the locker room. Vanek has been one of the most durable players in the NHL, playing in his 225th consecutive game on Saturday, which had been the Sabres’ longest current streak.
Bichel hangs up boots
Former Australian Test pace bowler Andy Bichel yesterday announced his retirement from first-class cricket after 17 seasons. Bichel, 38, who played 19 Tests and 67 one-day internationals for Australia, said he had been forced to quit because of an ongoing shoulder problem since having reconstructive surgery 14 months ago. “I don’t want to let anyone down,” Bichel told a press conference. “It [the shoulder] is good enough for grade [club] cricket, but I didn’t want to get out there [for Queensland] and not do what I used to do.” Bichel captured 58 Test wickets at 32.24 and hit 355 runs. He finished two games short of 100 first-class matches for Queensland but is the second-highest first-class wicket-taker in state history with 463 wickets, behind only Michael Kasprowicz (505) and is the third-highest wicket-taker in Australian first-class domestic cricket, behind leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett and Kasprowicz.
Wildcats stun Wigan
Super League outsiders Wakefield stunned Wigan 12-6 on Sunday, a victory made more special by the Wildcats’ decision to dedicate this year’s campaign to prop forward Adam Watene who died of a heart attack in October. Wakefield, who have started the season as 100-1 title outsiders, were shocked by the death of the 32-year-old Cook Islands player who collapsed while training. They led 10-0 at half-time thanks to a brace of tries from debutant winger Dave Halley. Joel Tomkins scored Wigan’s only try but Warriors, who had Australians Mark Riddell and Amos Roberts making their debuts, never got out of first gear. Wakefield skipper Jason Demetriou wore the No. 8 shirt of Watene. “In Jason’s last words before we went out onto the pitch, he said Adam would have wanted us to play for 80 minutes with passion and purpose and perhaps that summed up the performance,” Wakefield coach John Kear said. Sunday’s other match between Harlequins and Bradford Bulls was postponed due to a frozen pitch while, on Friday, defending champions Leeds enjoyed a 28-6 win over newboys Celtic Crusaders.
Voeckler claims victory
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler of Bouygues Telecom claimed overall victory in France’s Etoile de Besseges stage race on Sunday. Voeckler finished comfortably ahead of Slovenian Jure Kocjan and Russian Yuri Trofimov, last year’s winner, in the general classification. Another Frenchman, Jean-Eudes Demaret of Cofidis, won the fifth and final stage after 145 km of racing between Gagnieres and Besseges. An eight-man breakaway formed after just 10km but none of those proved a threat to Voeckler’s overall lead. They were allowed a maximum lead of nearly five minutes and despite going on to dispute the finale their advantage was kept constantly in check by the peloton. In the finale Demaret, who was part of the initial breakaway, beat Jimmy Engoulvent and Frederic Guesdon.
Germany win team relay
Germany won the team relay at the World Championships for the second straight time. The team of Felix Loch, Natalie Geisenberger, Andre Florschutz and Torsten Wustlich easily bested the Austrian quartet of Daniel Pfister, Nina Reithmayer, Peter Penz and Georg Fischler at Mount Van Hoevenberg on Sunday. The Latvian team of Guntis Rekis, Maija Tiruma, and Andris and Juris Sics took the bronze. The Germans finished in 2 minutes, 39.630 seconds, 1.510 seconds ahead of the Austrians.