Reliever Daniel Hudson returns to Dodgers on 1-year deal

LOS ANGELES — Right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson has returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a $7 million, one-year contract.

The Dodgers announced the deal Tuesday night for Hudson, who pitched in 40 games for Los Angeles in 2018.

He gets a $6 million salary next season, and the Dodgers have a $6.5 million option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout. Hudson’s 2023 base can increase by $500,000 for games finished next year: $100,000 each for 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50.

While he was with the Washington Nationals in 2019, Hudson got the final out of two NL Division Series games against the Dodgers and earned the victory in a third while they eliminated LA from the playoffs. Hudson eventually got the final out of the Nats’ World Series triumph over Houston.

The 34-year-old veteran started last season with Washington before going to San Diego in a trade on July 30. He went a combined 5-3 with a 3.31 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 54 appearances.

Hudson has spent parts of 12 seasons in the majors with seven teams, including the Dodgers. He spent parts of seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, starting 33 games with 16 victories in 2011 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and transitioning to a bullpen career in the ensuing years.

Not worth 1,000 words: Player images scrubbed from MLB site

Those looking for a photo of Mike Trout or highlights of Atlanta’s Game 6 win over Houston in the World Series won’t find them on Major League Baseball’s official website.

Shortly after the sport’s first work stoppage in 26 years began Thursday at 12:01 a.m., MLB removed all current player photos and highlights off MLB.com. Major League Baseball said in an email to The Associated Press that “every action we are taking is at the advice of legal counsel per the National Labor Relations Act.”

By removing players names, images or likenesses, owners hope to avoid running afoul of federal labor laws or the insinuation that any uses would be for commercial or promotional purposes to make money during a labor dispute.

Player photos have been replaced with generic silhouettes, while the headline queues have been filled with features about retired players or historic videos.

The scrubbing goes beyond that. The Los Angeles Angels announced their promotional schedule last month, including a bobblehead commemorating Shohei Ohtani’s AL MVP season on April 8. The schedule now lists only a “historic season bobblehead” on that date.

On MLB Network, experts focused Thursday on the upcoming reveal of the Era Committees’ Hall of Fame selections, with clips of long-retired stars Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva but no highlights from any 2021 games.

In Philadelphia, a banner celebrating Bryce Harper winning the NL MVP was taken down at Citizens Bank Ballpark.

Union head Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer, the players’ chief lawyer, said that MLB scrubbed images on their own, and that they had no input.

Players, like New York Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker, have taken things one step further and removed images from their own Twitter profiles.

Women’s tennis’ China stance could be unique, cost millions

WTA President and CEO Steve Simon did not set out to lead the way for how sports should confront China when he announced that the women’s tennis tour would suspend tournaments there because of concerns about former Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai’s well-being.

And based on initial reactions Thursday to the WTA’s ground-breaking stance, including from the International Olympic Committee — which is set to open the Beijing Winter Games in two months — along with the men’s tennis tour and International Tennis Federation, no one seems too eager to follow suit with the sorts of actions that would come with a real financial hit.

“I’m not looking to send a message to any other sport bodies or influence their decisions or evaluate their decisions. This is a WTA decision that affected the WTA athlete and our core principles,” Simon said in a video call with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And I think it goes beyond that, into obviously something very, very sensitive on a worldwide basis for women, in general. So as the leading women’s sports organization, and having a direct effect on this, we’re focused on that.

“Now I will encourage everybody that has supported us to date — and those that haven’t — to continue speaking out and talk about this very important topic. But as far as what they need to do for their business interests and for their reasons, they need to make their own decisions. And I’m not looking to influence that.”

The WTA is the first sports body to publicly and directly challenge China’s authoritarian government, which is a source of billions in income across sports based elsewhere, such as the Olympics, tennis, the NBA and golf.

Colorado State fires Steve Addazio after 2 bumpy seasons

Colorado State fired fiery coach Steve Addazio on Thursday after a tumultuous two seasons that included an ejection in what would prove to be his final game for the Rams.

The decision came on the day Addazio’s buyout dropped from $5 million to $3 million.

Rams director of athletics Joe Parker said a national search firm will be brought in to assist in the hiring of the next head coach. In the meantime, senior associate head coach Brian White will serve as the interim coach.

Addazio wrapped up his time in Fort Collins with a 4-12 record. His tenure got off to a rocky start last year when the university opened an investigation into the program’s handling of COVID-19 cases, which uncovered allegations of racism and verbal abuse toward athletes.

His time drew to a close Saturday with Addazio leaving the sideline before halftime after receiving a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Rams lost 52-10 to Nevada in front of an announced crowd of 17,465 at Canvas Stadium, which only dwindled as the game got out of hand.

Chase Elliott extends run as NASCAR’s most popular

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott held on to one of his NASCAR titles Thursday night when fans voted him most popular driver for the fourth consecutive year.

Elliott was both the reigning Cup champion and most popular driver this season, but he was ultimately beaten by new Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson for the Cup title. At the season-ending awards ceremony at the Music City Center, the National Press Association declared Elliott winner of the fan-decided most popular award.

“I just can’t thank the fans across the country enough,” said Elliot. “I was really mind-blown on a few occasions this year of that support, and to see it firsthand, you know, I see the T-shirts and all that stuff is noticed. Looking forward to ’22 to make all those folks proud.”

Elliott began his run as NASCAR’s most popular driver in 2018, the first year of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement. Earnhardt had won the most popular award every year since 2003, the season Bill Elliott asked for his name to be removed from the ballot.

Elliott was beloved and voters selected “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville,” Georgia, their favorite a record 16 times. Earnhardt won it 15 times and Chase Elliott claimed the throne when Earnhardt retired.

His fourth victory was again backed by a legion of Elliott fans in their Georgia hometown, and it staved off a challenge by teammate Larson. Elliott has remained extremely popular — his fans vilify any rival who dares to tangle with Elliott — but Larson has built a strong legion of supporters in his first year driving for Hendrick.

Binnington in COVID protocol, Blues using emergency backup

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol Thursday, putting the team in a difficult situation because of salary-cap constraints.

General manager Doug Armstrong said Binnington tested positive for the coronavirus. It was not clear if Binnington had any symptoms.

“You don’t like to hear that news,” coach Craig Berube said on a video call. “We just move on, boys. That’s all we can do. ... It’s just another road block, we just got to get through it.”

Binnington joins forward Tyler Bozak as Blues players in league virus protocol. They are also without injured forwards David Perron, James Neal and Klim Kostin.

St. Louis plans to recall goalie Charlie Lindgren on Friday, but could not do so in time for its game Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning. League rules stipulate that because the Blues don’t have the cap room to add another player to the roster, they have to get through one game with an emergency backup.

Ville Husso was set to start at the Lightning, with 23-year-old mask painter Kyle Konin backing up. Konin most recently played club hockey at Grand Valley State University.

Medvedev puts Russia back in Davis Cup semifinals

MADRID — Daniil Medvedev maintained his perfect record at the Davis Cup Finals to put Russia into the last four.

Medvedev defeated Mikael Ymer 6-4, 6-4 Thursday to give Russia an insurmountable 2-0 lead over Sweden in the quarterfinals of the revamped team event.

Andrey Rublev earlier outlasted Elias Ymer, Mikael’s older brother, in a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (3) win at the Madrid Arena.

Russia will face Germany in the semifinals on Saturday. Serbia and top-ranked Novak Djokovic will face Croatia in the other semifinal on Friday.

It was the third consecutive straight-set victory for the second-ranked Medvedev after group-stage wins over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta and Ecuador’s Emilio Gomez.

Medvedev broke serve twice in the first set and three times in the second against No. 94 Mikael Ymer, Sweden’s top-ranked player.

Billie Jean King to receive SI’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

Billie Jean King will receive the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the Sports Illustrated Awards.

The winner of 39 Grand Slam titles will be honored Tuesday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Jessica Mendoza, a baseball announcer and two-time Olympic softball gold medalist, will present the award. It celebrates individuals whose dedication to the ideal of fair play has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has had a global impact.

King helped form the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973. The WTA offered 55 tournaments in 29 countries and $179 million in prize money in 2019. She also created the Women’s Sports Foundation, World TeamTennis and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative.

Recent Muhammad Ali Legacy Award recipients include LeBron James (2020), Warrick Dunn (2019), John Cena (2018) and Colin Kaepernick (2017).

The Sports Illustrated Awards, hosted by DJ Khaled and Cari Champion, will recognize athletes, teams and the SI Sportsperson of the Year.

NBA All-Star Kevin Love honored for mental health advocacy

BOSTON — Kevin Love knows the euphoria of sinking a three-pointer just before the buzzer. But the five-time NBA All-Star has had plenty of lows to offset those highs.

“There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. That’s just the truth,” the Cleveland Cavaliers power forward wrote in 2018 about his lifelong struggles with depression and low self-worth.

On Thursday, the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation honored Love with its annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion for his work both on and off the court to remove the stigma around mental illness.

“Love has repeatedly taken steps to eradicate the mental health stigma by sharing stories of his struggles with depression, anxiety, and other challenges,” the foundation said in a statement. He has also established the Kevin Love Fund, with an ambitious goal of helping more than 1 billion people over a five-year period.

Last year, his fund teamed up with the University of California, Los Angeles, and established the Kevin Love Fund Chair in UCLA’s psychology department to diagnose, prevent, treat and destigmatize anxiety and depression.

New report shows college athletes still improving grad rates

INDIANAPOLIS — New graduation numbers show college athletes continue to graduate at higher rates than overall students.

On Thursday, the NCAA released its annual Graduation Success Rate report that shows college athletes who entered school from 2011-12 through 2014-15 graduated at a rate of 89%, 21 points higher than the federal graduation rate — and well above the 80% goal set by late NCAA President Myles Brand when he first introduced the report in 2002.

The single-year calculation of 90% also matched last year’s record high.

NCAA numbers include athletes who remain academically eligible and graduate after transferring. The federal numbers do not count students who graduate from a school other than the one where they first enrolled.

The two-decade comparisons were up across the board.

The overall rate increased by 16 percentage points over the past 20 years while the percentage of Black athletes earning diplomas went from 56% to 80%; 94% of Hispanic athletes also are now graduating, a 13-point increase since 2002.

Bucks’ Lopez undergoes back surgery; return date uncertain

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez has undergone surgery to address the back injury that has kept him from playing since the opening game of the season.

The Bucks announced Thursday that Lopez had back surgery earlier that day in Los Angeles. Team officials didn’t provide a timetable for his eventual return but said “Lopez will continue to be listed as out and updates on his rehabilitation progress will be provided as appropriate.”

Lopez played 28 minutes and had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks in a season-opening victory over the Brooklyn Nets, but the 7-footer hasn’t played since. The 33-year-old center is in his fourth season with the Bucks and 14th season overall.

He averaged 12.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season while helping the Bucks win the NBA title.

Bucks officials said Robert Watkins performed the surgery, with oversight from team doctor William Raasch.

Bobby Portis has been filling Lopez’s spot in the starting lineup and has averaged 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. The Bucks also signed DeMarcus Cousins this week to add some frontcourt depth.

Vikings bring DT Tomlinson back from COVID-19 reserve list

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings activated defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson from the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday, a welcomed boost for their depleted defense.

Tomlinson was back at practice after sitting out the previous 10 days. He missed the game at San Francisco last week, the first absence of his five-year NFL career.

The Vikings also got defensive tackle Michael Pierce back at practice this week, designating him for return from injured reserve. He has missed the past seven games with an elbow injury.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson landed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Monday, putting his status for the game at Detroit on Sunday in doubt. Defensive end Danielle Hunter (pectoral) is out for the season. Defensive end Everson Griffen remains out indefinitely following a mental health crisis that arose at his home last week.

Huskers QB Adrian Martinez puts name in transfer portal

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez announced Thursday that he will enter the transfer portal, another blow for the struggling Cornhuskers.

The three-time captain completed his best season in 2021, completing 61.8% of his throws for 2,863 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a career-best rating of 149.0. He played in 39 games during his four-year career, going 14-25 while winning just eight Big Ten games.

He didn’t play in last week’s season-ending loss to Iowa after having surgery on his right shoulder.

Martinez could play two more college seasons because the NCAA granted players an extra year of eligibility during last year’s shortened COVID-19 season.

Germany slashes sports attendance to maximum 15,000

BERLIN — German politicians agreed on Thursday to slash the maximum attendance at outdoor sports events to 15,000 people, though some states still plan to have empty stadiums.

Rising infection rates in recent weeks and the emergence of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus caused concern ahead of the talks between the state and federal leaders.

The decision to play a Bundesliga soccer game in Cologne last week in front of a crowd of 50,000 provoked particular ire ahead of plans for 67,000 to attend Borussia Dortmund’s game against Bayern Munich on Saturday.

That game will likely be played in front of a much smaller crowd. Dortmund anticipated that decision and said on Wednesday it would cancel and refund all the tickets it sold, and reissue some of them. On Thursday, Dortmund opened part of its stadium as a vaccination center.

Smaller stadiums will be capped at 50% of capacity if the total capacity is under 30,000.

Indoor sports such as basketball, handball and ice hockey will have to contend with a maximum attendance of 5,000 people.

The eastern state of Saxony, which has Germany’s highest infection rate, barred spectators entirely last month. Bayern Munich’s home state of Bavaria also plans to have empty stadiums despite the national decision.

Clubs want FIFA talks over health risks of January call-ups

GENEVA — The group representing Europe’s top soccer clubs expressed “deep concerns” on Thursday about the health risks to players traveling worldwide in January for national team games like at the African Cup of Nations.

The European Club Association’s executive board met in Paris and cited “the worsening public health situation” as the omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads. The group called for talks with FIFA, which manages the calendar for international soccer games and forces the release of players.

Before the pandemic, there were no national team games scheduled in January 2022. But four of soccer’s six continents are now playing catch up with postponed tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches.

The 24-nation African Cup will held be from Jan. 9-Feb. 6 in Cameroon after a one-year postponement. Dozens more players based in Europe will also head to North America, South America and Asia for World Cup qualifiers in a new Jan. 24-Feb. 2 window FIFA created to help get games played.

Those make-up dates arrive amid an aggressive new variant of COVID-19 that clubs fear could be brought back by their players.

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