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Royals Name Yordano Ventura Opening Day Starter

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images(SURPRISE, Ariz.) -- The Kansas City Royals named pitcher Yordano Ventura the Opening Day starter on Wednesday.

"If you're going to ask a kid to go out in a do-or-die situation in Game 6 of the World Series and have him handle it, which he did, he is a perfect candidate for [Opening Day]," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We look at the development of Ventura and [Danny] Duffy, and both of these guys are ready to take the next step as starting pitchers."

Ventura was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in his rookie season and was one of the reasons for their postseason success.

Ventura pitched seven scoreless innings in Game 6 of last year's World Series against the Giants to force a Game 7, that San Francisco would win.

"Everybody on our staff last year earned [this]," Yost said of his rotation. "I can make a case for Vargy or [JeremyGuthrie or now [Edinson] Volquez, too. But it comes down to this -- this kid is ready for this. He has the composure and he really wants to do it. He wants to be the guy."

"We were all very comfortable with it. He's got total confidence of his ability," he continued.

Danny Duffy and Edinson Volquez will follow Ventura in the rotation.  Kansas City opens up against the White Sox.

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Lovie Smith Is a Fan of Jameis Winston

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith has no problem with former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Smith believes that the former Heisman Trophy winner has moved past his off-the-field issues and thinks he's doing his best to mature.

"What do you want a quarterback to do? Well, you want him to be able to win and get people to believe that you can help be the reason why we win every game," Smith explained. "I think he's done that. He's got a track record -- he's got a Heisman behind him. He's got a national championship."

"You start talking to his teammates and they all say the same thing," Smith continued. "You talk to coaches that have been around him in the room. You put him on the board, you start talking about his football intelligence. You let him sell himself. He can sell himself."

Smith is confident that Winston can be a leader and represent the NFL shield in the right way.

"I said it [at the NFL combine] that with the information I had, I was very comfortable with him," Smith said. "Since then, we've had a chance to spend a lot more time with him and nothing has changed. It's even grown a little more now that I know him better.  If we decide to go that direction, we're very comfortable with Jameis being the face of our franchise and the quarterback on our football team."

Smith also did not rule out drafting former Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota.

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Jason Garrett Backs Greg Hardy Signing

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett backed the signing of defensive end Greg Hardy on Wednesday at the NFL meetings.

Garrett said that the Cowboys in no way support domestic abuse, but after meeting with Hardy and speaking with him for over three hours, they feel they made the right choice.

"We brought him in and spent a couple days with him, so we felt like understanding who he is as a person was a critical piece to this, evaluating who he is a player was a critical piece to it, the structure of the contract was critical to it," he explained. "At the end of the day, if we didn't believe he could become the right kind of guy for our football team, we wouldn't have signed him."

Hardy could be suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy after being arrested and charged with assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would not say when that ruling would happen.

"They understood that we were reviewing his case for potential discipline," Goodell said on Wednesday. "That continues. We are trying to get as many facts as we possibly can to make the most informed decision we can so that we can uphold the standards that we put forth in our personal conduct policy. And so I expect that will conclude sometime in the near future and we’ll make a decision shortly after."

Garrett believes that Hardy's issues are in the past and that he can play well for Dallas.

"It's our job to bring the best out in all these guys, as players and as people," Garrett said. "So I think everyone understands we're trying to build the right kind of football team with the talent level, with also who they are. It's our job to create the environment, and it's the player's job to respond, and it's our job to hold the player accountable."

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White Sox Name Samardzija Opening Day Starter

iStock/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Ariz.) -- The Chicago White Sox named Jeff Samardzija the team's Opening Day starter.

The 30-year-old Samardzija, who was traded to the Sox in December, takes the place of Chris Sale, who will miss the start due to a fractured bone in his right foot.

Samardzija has had the honor of being an Opening Day starter before. He did the job for the Chicago Cubs the last two seasons.

"It's always an honor for guys to start on Opening Day and Jeff's done it before," White Sox skipper Robin Ventura said. "I think even bringing him over here, that was a reason to bring him over here. Chris was going to be the guy and if not him then it was going to be Jeff."

Samardzija has played seven big league seasons. During that time he's compiled a 36-48 record with a 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 738 strikeouts over 777 2/3 innings pitched.

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NFL Makes Rule Change Because of the Patriots

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- The New England Patriots gained a crucial first down against the Baltimore Ravens in their playoff game in January when running back Shane Vereen lined up as an ineligible slot receiver to confuse the Ravens. If they try that again next season, they will be penalized five yards.

On Wednesday, the NFL passed a rule making it illegal for an offensive player wearing an eligible number between 1-49 and 80-89 to lineup outside of the tackle box and report as ineligible. If that were to happen next season, the violating team would be penalized for illegal substitution.

"Whatever it is, it is," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "It would affect a lot of other plays, the spread punt formation and stuff like that. Whatever the rule is, it is."

According to competition committee co-chair Jeff Fisher, many teams felt there needed to be a rule in place to stop the kind of substitution the Patriots used in the playoffs. Fisher himself said without change, "this may get out of hand."

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ESPN: MLB Investigating Marlins P Jarred Cosart for Gambling

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images(JUPITER, Fla.) -- Miami Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is being investigated by Major League Baseball for possible involvement in sports related gambling, according to ESPN.com.

Trouble came Cosart's way when he allegedly exchanged multiple direct messages with a gambling authority on his Twitter account. This exchange became public when it was shared on the site by a third party. Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account.

According to ESPN.com, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney confirmed that the commissioner's office is investigating the situation.

ESPN.com also reports it's unclear whether the allegations involve baseball betting or sports betting in general.

MLB Rule 21 states clearly you can't gamble on baseball.

"Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year," the rule states. "Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."

The 24-year-old Cosart seems to have created an unconfirmed Twitter account. On it, he claimed Wednesday that his original account had been hacked.

The Marlins acknowledged the situation in a statement, "Major League Baseball is aware and they are investigating it and we have no further comment at this time."

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West Virginia Freshman Says Kentucky Will Be 36-1 After Thursday

G. Fiume/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- There may not be many people that think Kentucky will lose their perfect season and a chance at winning a national title when they play West Virginia Thursday, but there's at least one: Mountaineers guard Daxter Miles Jr.

"I give them their props," Miles said Wednesday. "Salute them to getting to 36-0. But tomorrow they're gonna be 36-1."

Miles continued to say the Wildcats should fear the Mountaineers.

"They should be more intimidated," Miles said. "Because they're the ones who have the high standard, and we're coming for them."

West Virginia (25-9) forces opponents into turnovers on 28.3 percent of possessions, the best percentage in Division I.

Also, the Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins is 8-2 in games against Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Despite all of that, as of Thursday morning, Vegas has Kentucky as 13.5 point favorites.

We'll find out Thursday night if Miles' prediction is correct. West Virginia and Kentucky are scheduled to tip off at 9:45 p.m. ET in Cleveland.

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Scoreboard Roundup - 3/25/15

Hemera/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- NBA: Brooklyn Nets 91 (30-40) – Charlotte Hornets 88 (30-40)

Los Angeles Clippers 111 (47-25) – New York Knicks 80 (14-58)

Atlanta Hawks 95 (54-17) – Orlando Magic 83 (22-51)

Indiana Pacers 103 (31-40) – Washington Wizards 101 (40-32)

Chicago Bulls 116 (44-29) – Toronto Raptors 103 (42-30)

Miami Heat 93 (33-38) – Boston Celtics 86 (31-40)

Cleveland Cavaliers 111 (47-26) – Memphis Grizzlies 89 (50-22)

Los Angeles Lakers 101 (19-51) – Minnesota Timberwolves 99 (16-55)

Houston Rockets 95 (48-23) – New Orleans Pelicans 93 (37-34)

Sacramento Kings 108 (26-45) – Phoenix Suns 99 (38-34)

San Antonio Spurs 130 (45-26) – Oklahoma City Thunder 91 (41-31)

Portland Trail Blazers 92 (45-25) – Utah Jazz 89 (31-40)

Philadelphia 76ers 99 (18-54) - Denver Nuggets 85 (27-45)

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers 4 (30-29-16; 76pts) – Chicago Blackhawks 1 (44-23-6; 94pts)

Edmonton Oilers 4 (21-40-13; 55pts) – Colorado Avalanche 3 (33-28-12; 78pts)

Dallas Stars 4 (36-28-10, 82pts) – Calgary Flames 3 (40-27-7, 87pts) - SO

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Nevada Set to Name Eric Musselman Head Men's Basketball Coach

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images(RENO, Nev.) -- The University of Nevada is set to name former NBA coach Eric Musselman as their new men’s head basketball coach, pending approval from the Board of Regents, the school announced on Wednesday.

In three seasons as head coach of the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, Musselman compiled a record of 108-138. He spent this past season as an assistant coach with LSU.

“Eric is one of the best in our sport,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in a statement. “Extremely driven and knowledgeable. I’ve watched and coached against him in the NBA and FIBA games. He has an uncanny feel for the game, and ability to read where the game is at. More importantly, is his ability to motivate and teach his players what it takes to improve and win. He is as good as it gets.”

Musselman will take over for David Carter, who was fired earlier this month after suffering a third consecutive losing season.

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Chicago Bears Sign LB Mason Foster to One-Year Contract

NFL(LAKE FOREST, Ill.) -- The Chicago Bears and free agent linebacker Mason Foster agreed to a one-year contract, the team announced on Wednesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Foster was originally selected out of Washington by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft.  In four seasons (2011-2014) with the Bucs, the 26-year-old had 343 tackles, six sacks and five interceptions.

The Bears finished the 2014 season with the league’s 30th-ranked defense.

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