Gary Shelton - 2/188 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Rowdies fall 1-0 on Union’s late goal in exhibition opener

The Tampa Bay Rowdies started play in their Suncoast Invitational – part of their preseason – in good fashion Saturday night.

The Rowdies lost, 1-0, to the Philadelphia Union of the MLS. The Union scored its only goal after coach Stuart Campbell pulled many of his starters, leaving the team exposed for a breakaway goal by Derrick Jones in the 73rd minute.

Tampa Bay came within inches of tying the score in the 90th minute when Alex Morrell got a shot on goal, but keeper Andre Blake saved the shot just before time ran out.

“We played very well,” Campbell said. “After the first half, I was pretty happy. I thought it was a pretty even game. It’s a great testament to our players playing against an MLS team. The second half was pretty even as well, until that crazy goal.”

The Rowdies are in their first season of USL play, but in the Suncoast Invitational, the competition is against teams from the MLS, a league the Rowdies intend to join.

The Union starts its season in two weeks, so it is ahead of the Rowdies. But Campbell saw promise in the defeat.

“I liked quite a lot,” Campbell said. “It was our first game against a team that’s a couple of weeks ahead of us. I think they’ve played a couple of games already. I thought the more games we get, the more they’ll improve. We’ll develop relationships. We’ll be a threat going forward. With the speed we have out wide, it’s going to cause problems.

“I’d be more happy if we got the result, which we should have done.”

The Rowdies pulled Joe Cole at the 57-minute mark and pulled five other players in the 63rd. That led to a breakaway by Jones, who beat goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Tampa Bay plays another game in the Suncoast Invitational when it faces Montreal Saturday night.

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Rowdies compete against MLS teams in Suncoast Invitational

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, hungry to join Major League Soccer, will get a test run over the next few days.

Today, the Rowdies start their play in the Suncoast Invitational, which features six MLS teams. The Rowdies will compete with the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and Chicago Fire. Four of the five MLS clubs participating in the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational reached the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs including the Eastern Conference champions, Toronto FC, and runners-up, the Montreal Impact.

The Rowdies play against the Philadelphia Union Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The following Saturday, the Rowdies play against Montreal.

The Rowdies currently have 17 players under contract, plus several more on a tryout basis. Those players include Georgi HristovJoe Cole and Matt Pickens.

 

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Former Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis charged with assault

Former Tampa Bay Bucs’ cornerback Darrelle Revis is in trouble, and this time, it isn’t because of a blown coverage.

Revis has been charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor following a scuffle that left two men unconscious in the street.

Revis’ attorney, Blaine Jones, told ESPN that he was trying to get Revis to surrender to police. Jones said Revis was attacked by at least five men and “feared for his safety.”

Revis is a former Tampa Bay cornerback who now plays for the New York Jets. In his career, Revis has been so good in coverage that his area of the field was referred to as “Revis Island.” Last year, however, Revis showed wear and was beaten badly much of the season.

Two men told police they were punched by Revis after a verbal confrontation. Evidently, the men – ages 22 and 23 – had begun following Revis and video-taping him on a cell phone. Revis supposedly threw the phone into the street and punched the men, knocking them out for 10 minutes.

One of the men suffered a fracture of the orbital bone.

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What will the Tampa Bay Bucs do with running back Doug Martin?

The biggest question of the off-season for the Tampa Bay Bucs remains unanswered.

Should the Bucs tackle running back Doug Martin?

Or should they let him run free?

It is a difficult question. Martin will miss the first three games of the season after testing positive for drugs, which means it was his second positive. Since his suspension lets the team off the hook of his high-priced contract he signed before last season, it would appear that the team’s options are threefold.

1. The Bucs could stay the course and hope that Martin regains the ability that made him second in the NFL in 2015.

2. They could wash their hands of him, noting he has two good years in five, and invest the money in another back.

3. They could re-sign Martin to a smaller contract, perhaps one where incentives replace base pay. Of course, there is always a risk that a smaller contract could have an impact on his production.

With free agency and the draft coming up, the Bucs will have plenty of questions to answer. The first one, however, seems to be an internal one.

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State of Florida has a lot of college players worth drafting

It’s early in the draft yet, but there seems to be plenty of talent in the state of Florida for the NFL teams to pick through.

According to Walterfootball.com, there are some two dozen players who are worth grading by the pros going into the NFL Combine.

Those start with FSU’s Dalvin Cook, rated by the website as the No. 2 running back in the draft and worthy of a top 25 selection.

Other offensive players worth considering should be Miami’s Brad Kaaya, the sixth-rated quarterback. He’s projected for rounds 3-4.

USF’s Marlon Mack was the 19th-rated running back, which should get him into rounds 4-5. Maimi’s Joe Yearby was rated 27th, which translaters into a seventh round or free agency slot. FSU fullback Freddie Stevenson is the No. 2 rated fullback, which places him between round five and round seven.

Travis Rudolph of FSU is rated as the 20th-best receiver, which should be good for rounds 3-4. Miami’s Stacey Coley is 30th, which should put him in rounds 4-5. Miami tight end David Njoku is the second-rated tight end, which puts him in the first or second round.

Florida’ s David Sharpe is the seventh-rated offensive tackle and should go in rounds 3-4. FSU’s Roderick Johnson is ninth and projected from round 3-5. David Isdora of UM is the ninth rated guard, followed by FSU’s Kareem Are at 11 and projected to go in rounds 4-6.

Defense is more confusing, because of the overlap of players. For instance, Florida’s Caleb Brantey is the third-rated defensive tackle but the first-rated nose tackle. FSU’s Demarcus Walker is the No. 8 defensive end and also the No. 8 outside linebacker. Brantley is rated as a first-rounder and Walker is projected for rounds 1-2.

Chad Thomas of Miami is the No. 27 ranked defensive end (rounds 4-6). FSU’s Justin Shank is the 23-ranked defensive tackle, and ranked as a free agent

Jarrad Davis of Florida is the fourth-ranked linebacker and projected for rounds 1-2. Teammate Alex Anzalone is 16th and expected to go in rounds four to six.

Florida had the best secondary in the state, with cornerbacks Quincy Wilson (rated fourth and projected for round one) and Jalen Tabor (sixth and projected for rounds 1-2) and safety Marcus Maye (seventh and expected for rounds 2-3). Others include Miami’s Corn Elder (23rd, rounds 4-6), FSU’s Marques White (26th, rounds 4-6) and FSU’s Rayshawn Jones (23rd, rounds 4-6).

Punter Justin Vogel of Miami is the second-rated punter. He’s supposed to go between round six and free agency.

Of course, the rest of the off-season and the combine could shake the ratings up between now and the draft.

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Clearwater’s Keith Thurman seeks another belt in his collection

Champion of the world here. Champion of the world there.

Unbeaten fighter here. Unbeaten fighter there.

Hungry athlete here. Hungry athlete there.

And so it is that history awaits Clearwater boxer Keith Thurman, whose next test is March 4 against Danny Garcia in New York. For Thurman, it mght be his toughest challenge yet. Garcia is 33-0 and the WBO champion. Thurman is 27-0 and WBA champion.

For a lot of boxers, being the champion is the goal. For Thurman, he wants more than one belt, so there is no argument.

“Ever since I was a kid I remember this book I got on boxing history,” Thurman said Wednesday. “I was somewhere around 10 years old. I just remember thinking “One day, I would love to be in a book like this.” Becoming a champion is one way of getting a legacy for yourself.

“But there have always been champions in the sport of boxing. There have been fewer unified champions. There have been even less undisputed champions. Just knowing the history and the significance of what it means to unify. That’s my ultimate dream.”

Said trainer Dan Birmingham: “It’s huge for Keith. He’s going to go down in the history books.”

The Thurman-Garcia match will be only the third between unbeaten welterweights in history, the first since Oscar De La Hoya fought Felix Trinidad in 1999.

“Pressure?” asked Thurman. “There is no pressure. I remember coming from the streets. There were times I was happy to have one pair of shoes. Now I can go to the Mall and buy any shoes I want. My job has been the same since I was seven years old.”

Thurman  said he thinks he is the smarter fighter. Stronger, too, said Birmingham.

He’s also fairly ambitious. He said he sees this fight as the door to bigger and better things.

“My goal is just moving on up,” Thurman said. “Separating myself from the others in the welterweight. The winner on March 4 will get spotlight priority over all the others, and he’ll deserve it. I have a level of confidence.”

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Does the Rays’ pitching staff have an ace, and if so, who is he?

As the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitchers report for training camp, it starts with a simple question.

Who’s the ace?

And if there isn’t one, who’s, say, the Jack of Clubs?

The Rays want to believe they have a good staff, a staff that will keep them in the AL East race. For that to happen, however, a lot of guys are going to have to have a lot better seasons than they did last year.

For instance:

Chris Archer led the major leagues in losses last season with 19. Oh, his era (4.02) wasn’t bad enough to support all of those defeats, but he did give up 30 home run balls. That’s too many. Archer is only 41-51 in his career despite his strikeout totals, which suggests focus might be an issue. But if Archer can even go 14-14 this season, it’ll help.

Alex Cobb was the Rays’ starting pitcher the year he injured his rotator cuff. He struggled last year with a 1-2 record and an 8.59 ERA. But he’s talking like the wing has healed, and he expects to be a pitcher again this year. That would help if the Rays are looking for arm help.

Jake Odorizzi is the Rays’ new four million dollar man, which makes it easy to wonder how long he’ll be here. Odorizzi had the best season last year of anyone on the staff, going 10-6 with a 3.69 ERA.

Blake Snell, the baby of the rotation, was 6-8 last year but with a 3.54 ERA. He struck out 98 batters in 89 innings, showing there is more there once he learns the league. He’s only 24, so the future looks good.

Jose De Leon came over in the Logan Forsythe trade. He was 2-0 with the Dodgers in a late call-up, but his ERA was only 6.35. Still, De Leon had good enough statistics to merit consideration for the big league team early in the season.

Matt Andriese was 8-8 last year, which isn’t a bad record for a team that won only 68 times. He had an ERA of 4.37. He can pitch in the pen and out of it. He isn’t likely to be an ace, but he could be a good back-of-rotation pitcher.

Chase Whitley is the forgotten man of the Rays’ staff. He’s more of a contender for the team’s No. 5 starter than its No. 1 after one one start due to Tommy John surgery a year ago. Still, he ‘s worth keeping an eye on.

Is there enough there to build a staff? How about a good staff?

If the Rays are going to be a player in the upcoming season, it’ll have to be.

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Rays optimistic of a good season as spring training begins

It’s spring, and the Rays see answers instead of questions.

Surgically repaired pitcher Alex Cobb? He’s an asset. Catcher Wilson Ramos? He’s going to help, even if he can’t get behind the plate for a while yet. Shortstop Matt Duffy, who was hurt when the Rays traded for him? Rays’ manager Kevin Cash is looking forward to seeing him add to the offense and defense.

And so it goes. It’s the time of year when skies are partly sunny instead of partly rainy.

“We expect to be playing games in October,” Cash said. Now, that would ensure the playoffs, because the regular-season has only one game slated for October. If the Rays are playing games, plural, it would mean the post season. “That’s the goal. We’re confident with what we’ve done in the off-season. We’re confident with the core guys and the way they finished the year.”

Most prognostications have the Rays in the cellar again, so making it to the post-season would be a nice turnaround.

Can Chris Archer turn his season around? Can Steven Souza cut down on his strikeouts? Can players who had good years (Evan Longoria, Alex Colome, Brad Miller) copy their successes?

The Rays are counting on a lot of things to go right, in other words.

On the other hand, isn’t that what spring is for?

“There are a lot of guys in that clubhouse with a lot of pride,” Cash said. “Not only with their individual performance, but the performance of the team. I don’t think anyone felt good about anything that last series in Texas. I think it’s motivated some guys to work on some things they needed to work on.”

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Lightning’s Ben Bishop remains hot as Bolts get points again

Well, look who might be getting warm.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, which has spent most of the season as just another team, beat Winnipeg 4-1 Saturday night to earn at least a point in four consecutive games. The Lightning has three wins and a shootout loss in the games.

The Bolts are now in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 57 points, five points out of third.

It is the kind of effort that Lightning fans have waited most of the season for. Goalie Ben Bishop was solid with 32 saves in 33 shots, and came within one shot of having his second straight shutout. Bishop is now 14-12-3 on the season, and he’s allowed only three goals in his last three games.

The Lightning had goals from Brayden Point, Brian Boyle, Ondrej Palat and an empty-netter from Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay held a 3-0 lead until Jacob Trouba scored in the third period.

The Bolts are now off until next Saturday night when they play at Dallas.

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Lightning gets a point, but loses to a strong Minnesota team

The Tampa Bay Lightning needed two points Friday night.

They settled for one.

The Lightning lost a shootout to the Central Division-leading Minnesota Wild, 2-1. At this point of the playoff race, with 27 games to play, the Lightning can use every point it can get.

Tampa Bay is 3-3 in shootouts this year. They are 24-24-7 overall.

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy played well for Tampa Bay, saving 37 of 38 shots. The one he didn’t stop was a second period goal by Nino Niederreiter. Brayden Point tied the game on a deflected goal.

In the shootout, Point, Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov failed to convert a shot. Mikko Koivu scored in the shootout for Minnesota.

The Lightning plays at Winnipeg tonight.

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