Reds giving Aroldis Chapman a chance to start
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Aroldis Chapman was getting ready to start for the Cincinnati Reds last spring when the bullpen got wiped out by injuries, forcing a different approach. The hard-throwing Cuban became one of baseball’s best closers in his first try at it.
He’s on the same course this spring, trying to win a spot in the rotation — and his manager is keeping an open mind about where he’ll end up eventually.
So is Chapman, who worked on his changeup over the winter to add another pitch in case he starts.
“I will prepare the same way I did last year,” Chapman said, with trainer Tomas Vera translating. “I would like to start a season and throw as many innings as I can, but that’s up to the team. When I was in Cuba, I threw 150 innings. I will prepare myself to throw as many innings as they want me to throw.”
Serena vs. Azarenka for Qatar Open final
DOHA, Qatar — A day after securing the No. 1 ranking, Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova for a 10th straight time 6-3, 6-2 to reach the Qatar Open final on Saturday.
Williams faces Victoria Azarenka, whom she will replace at the top in Monday’s new rankings. Azarenka beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-3 in the other semifinal, earning her 13th straight victory in 2013.
While Azarenka has been on a roll, she doesn’t have a good record against Williams. The American was up 11-1 in their head-to-head meetings, including winning their last nine matches.
Williams, who had been inconsistent for much of the week and struggled with her first serve, looked her old self at Sharapova’s expense. The third-ranked Russian had no answer for Williams’ first or even second serve, which resulted in six aces and 78 percent of first-service points won.
A double fault from Sharapova gave Williams the only break of the first set at 4-2. She consolidated the break with a love service game and closed out the set with two aces.
Sharapova came out stronger in the second and had a chance to go up 2-0. But Williams saved the break point and broke to go up 2-1. Williams broke again to make it 5-2. Serving for the match, she tightened up but saved a break point and prevailed when Sharapova hit a crosscourt forehand wide.
World champ at 17: US teen Shiffrin rushes to gold
SCHLADMING, Austria — Mikaela Shiffrin might as well be dancing or flying.
That’s what skiing is like for the American teenager these days. The victories and milestones keep piling up, fortifying a U.S. team that is without Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller.
A day after Ted Ligety became the first man to win three gold medals at a world championships in 45 years, Shiffrin became the youngest woman in 39 years to win the slalom title Saturday.
At the age of 17 years, 340 days, Shiffrin shook off a serious bout of nerves to edge local hope Michaela Kirchgasser from the lead before a crowd of 30,000 fans who were nearly all supporting the Austrian.
The only slalom world champions younger than Shiffrin were Hanni Wenzel of Liechtenstein in 1974 and Esme Mackinnon of Britain in 1931. Overall, Shiffrin is the youngest women’s world champion since American Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, who was 21 days younger when she won the giant slalom title in 1985.
Nadal reaches second straight final since return
SAO PAULO — Rafael Nadal outlasted 111th-ranked Martin Alund 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-1 at the Brazil Open on Saturday, making it to his second straight final after a long layoff to treat his ailing left knee.
Nadal next plays David Nalbandian, the former world No. 3 who defeated Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-3, 7-5 to make it to his first final since being disqualified for injuring a line judge at Queen’s Club last year.
Still looking for his rhythm and working his way into match shape, Nadal lost six straight points in the tiebreaker to go to a third set with the Argentine, who made it into the main draw as a lucky loser from qualifying after compatriot Leonardo Mayer withdrew with an injury.
Nadal then dominated the third to close out the match in 1 hour, 56 minutes.
Haas reaches final at SAP Open with win over Isner
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tommy Haas reached his first final in six months, beating John Isner 6-3, 6-4, Saturday in the SAP Open semifinals.
The 22nd-ranked Haas made his debut in San Jose in 1998 and reached this final for the first time. He played in just his second semifinal, his first since 2005.
The German qualified for his 25th career final and will be looking for his 14th career title. He will face the winner of the other semifinal between top-seeded Milos Raonic and third-seeded Sam Querrey.
Isner, who missed the Australian Open because of a bruised right knee, was successful on just 58 percent of his first serves.
Del Potro, Benneteau reach ABN AMRO final
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Juan Martin del Potro and Julien Benneteau won their semifinals in straight sets Saturday and will play for the title of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.
Del Potro reached his second straight final at the Rotterdam tournament by beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-4. Benneteau then defeated fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 7-6 (2), with Simon troubled by an upper thigh injury through much of the second set.
Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, lost to Roger Federer in last year’s final but he won’t have to face him this year after Benneteau eliminated the Swiss star in the quarterfinals.
“It was not as good as yesterday, but who cares? I won,” Benneteau said.
Buehrle to leave family behind to care for dog
DUNEDIN, Fla. — Mark Buehrle won’t be experiencing the dog days of summer.
While the pitcher is headed to Toronto, his family will split the season between Broward County in Florida and their home in St. Louis. One of their four dogs, Slater, is a mix of American Staffordshire terrier and bulldog — and bulldogs are banned in the province of Ontario.
Sent to Toronto as part of the Miami Marlins’ payroll purge, Buehrle had a few options. He could have left Slater with friends or placed him in a kennel. The Buehrle family also could have moved to Buffalo or somewhere else on the U.S. side of the border, forcing the pitcher to commute 90 minutes each way to Toronto.
Buehrle’s wife, Jamie, 5-year-old Braden and 3-year-old daughter Brooklyn will spend time with the 33-year-old left-hander during spring training, as will Slater and their three vizslas.
Lagat breaks US indoor 2-mile record at Millrose
NEW YORK — Bernard Lagat regained the American record in the indoor 2 miles Saturday with yet another victory at the Millrose Games.
The 38-year-old Lagat finished in 8 minutes, 9.49 seconds at the Armory to just barely accomplish his goal, lowering Galen Rupp’s mark by .23. Lagat now owns the American indoor records at 1,500 meters, 1 mile, 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and 2 miles.
Lagat has won a record eight titles in Millrose’s signature event, the Wanamaker Mile. The last two years, though, he has used the storied indoor meet to set a different kind of standard.
By wire sources