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Tampa Bay Rays trade Logan Forsythe for young Dodger pitcher

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded one of their steadiest, most dependable players.

For him, they got a hunk of potential.

Good trade? Bad trade? For the Rays, sending second baseman Logan Forsythe (519 major-league hits) to the Dodgers for 24-year pitcher Jose De Leon was a trade the team had to make. The reasons? Last place. High salary. The constant need for lively arms.

Forsythe, 30, was scheduled to make $5,750,000 this season.

In De Leon, the Rays are getting a highly rated prospect (third on the list of Dodgers’ prospects). De Leon was called up at the end of last season and had a 2-0 record, even though his ERA was a high 6.35. De Leon was 7-1 in AAA last year, posting a 2.61 ERA across 86.1 innings.

The Rays could consider moving infielder Brad Miller to second base.

The Rays also signed free agent pitcher Shawn Tolleson, a one-time closer for the Rangers.

Tampa Bay Lightning embarrassed by a bad Phoenix Coyotes team

What does it say about a team when it is blasted by the next-to-worst team in the league?

No, the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t the worst team. But it’s far from good, too. No one would argue it after a 5-3 blasting at the hands at the point-at-and-laugh Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix was near the bottom of the league in most statistics, including 25th on the power play and 27th on the penalty kill.

Against the Lightning, however, Phoenix was an explosive team, taking a 2-0 lead and adding three goals in the second period. Tampa Bay scored the last two goals of the game to make it close.

“It’s a low point,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Not because we lost, but we didn’t play to our capabilities in the first two period. You can say what you want about the third, but they had a 5-1 lead. I’m sure they sat back a little bit.”

Ben Bishop started for the Lightning, but he was pulled after the second in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Particularly disappointing was the Bolts failing to convert on a four-minute power play in the first period.

“That was a big moment for us, no doubt. Our power play’s been pretty good all year,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “But it wasn’t that one, it was the one we got a minute and a half into the game, and we weren’t working. And it kind of set the tone for the way that first period was going. It kind of sucked a little momentum out of us, and then all of a sudden it’s 2-0 and now we’re chasing the game. Give them a little credit: The boys battle back and make it 2-1 and then we have a big moment there, we come out and have a great start to the second and we do nothing with the power play. They did something with there’s, and that was it.”

 The Bolts now travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks.

“That’s what’s tough because your margin for error is . . . there is none,” Cooper said. “We can sit here and say we deserved points out of those games, the bottom line is we didn’t get them. So now you’ve got to get the points the next night, and we didn’t deserve points tonight. We’re not in a position where we’re playing games and we’re stealing points. We have to work for everything we’re getting. Sometimes we’re working and not getting them, but it can’t work the way we did tonight in the first couple periods.”

Tampa Bay area led state in STEM job openings in December

Looking for a STEM job? The Tampa Bay region is might just be the place to be.

The Tampa area led the state in demand for high-skill, high-wage STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations in December. The area had 14,673 openings in December, according to the Governor’s Office.

The region also led the state in job demand during the one-month period, with 45,632 job openings.

“Tampa businesses created 29,100 new jobs in 2016 and the area remains first in the state for online job demand and job openings in high-wage STEM occupations. This is great news for Tampa families,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement. “We want Florida to become the top destination for business growth and new opportunities, and we will continue to do all we can to help Florida compete in the global economy.”

The Tampa area had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in December, slightly below the statewide unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. Scott touted statewide job gains in the past year, boasting boasting Florida businesses created 237,300 private sector jobs in 2016.

“Over the last six years, we’ve worked each day to make it easier for job creators to invest and create new opportunities in our state, and we will continue to do everything we can to help Florida out compete other locations as the best place for jobs,” he said.

Scott typically makes the monthly jobs announcement during a press conference, but the Naples Republican was in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the inauguration of Donald Trump.

“Today, as we proudly welcome a new president who will make job creation a top priority across our nation, we stand ready to fight for another great year of economic growth in Florida,” he said.

According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida’s job growth has exceeded the nation’s rate since 2012. The agency reported December was the 77th consecutive month with “positive over-the-year growth.”

The leisure and hospitality industry continues to make the most gains, growing by 4.6 percent year-over-year.

“With more than 250,000 job openings across the state and more than 1.25 million new private-sector jobs created in the last six years, it’s clear Florida is a great place to find a good job,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in a statement. “Our low unemployment rate and strong record of job creation prove Florida is a great state to do business.”

Latest Lightning loss makes you wonder about their goaltender

Here’s something for the Tampa Bay Lightning to consider as they go nowhere.

What if Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t the future?

Vasilevskiy lost his sixth consecutive start Thursday night as the Bolts fell 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks. With the loss, the Lightning fell to 21-21-5 on the season. Vasilevskiy fell to 10-11-2. He has now given up 24 goals in his last six starts.

Tampa Bay has now lost 12 of its last 14 road games.

For the Bolts, the plan all along was that Vasilevskiy would be the future, and that the team would barter starting goaltender Ben Bishop somewhere along the way. But Vasilevskiy’s recent skid has called all of that into question.

The Sharks got goals from Ryan Carpenter and Logan Couture in the win. The Bolts’ goal came on a highlight-reel power play from Jonathan Drouin.

Still, it was not enough to pull out the win for Tampa Bay, which plays at Arizona Saturday night.

Rays announce start times, single-admission doubleheader

Now, here’s a concept for you.

How about twice the Rays for the price?

On Saturday, June 10, the Tampa Bay Rays will play the Oakland A’s in a single-admission doubleheader. It will be Major League Baseball’s first scheduled doubleheader since July 16, 2011, when the A’s hosted the Los Angeles Angels, and only the second scheduled doubleheader in the last two decades.

The Rays also announced their game times for the upcoming season, which opens on Sunday, April 2, when the team plays host to the New York Yankees.

Monday through Friday home games begin at 7:10 p.m. With select matinee games throughout the season. Saturday games are scheduled for either 6:10 p.m. or 4:10 p.m., with Sunday games scheduled for 1:10 p.m.

This will be the team’s third season under manager Kevin Cash.

Struggling Lightning loses quickly to Ducks in overtime

Overtime hockey can be cruel. Quick, too.

The Anaheim Ducks, who have struggled in overtime for most of the season, took only 54 seconds to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night. The Ducks’ winning goal came only four seconds after Tyler Johnson was called for hooking.

The Bolts had hoped to win again behind goaltender Ben Bishop, who had been excellent in his two wins since coming off an injury. Bishop stopped 19 of 21 shots.

The Lightning scored first on a goal by Valtteri Filppula. Twenty-one seconds later, however, the Ducks tied the score on a shot by Ryan Getzlaf.

The winner was scored for Rickard Rakell.

The Lightning has won two games in a row only once since Nov. 19.

Tampa Bay plays against San Jose Thursday.

Bucs’ Vernon Hargreaves III makes NFL All-Rookie team

The charmed life of Vernon Hargreaves III added another chapter Tuesday.

Hargreaves, a graduate of Wharton High School in Tampa and the University of Florida, was named ot the NFL all-rookie team. He was the 11th overall pick of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Hargreaves had only one interception, but he started most of the year in a secondary that got better as the season went along.

Hargreaves started all 16 games, recording 76 tackles, three for loss, nine passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble. He is only the fifth Buccaneers rookie defensive back to start all 16 games, joining Johnthan Banks, Mark Barron, Tanard Jackson and Rod Jones. His nine passes defensed are the most by a Buccaneers rookie defensive back since Barron had 10 in 2012 and the most for a Buccaneers rookie cornerback since E.J. Biggers had 11 in 2010. This season, Hargreaves tied for the seventh-most passes defensed among NFL rookies.

Hargreaves is the first Buccaneers defensive back to be selected to the PFWA All-Rookie team since 2012 (Barron) and the first cornerback to earn the distinction since Donnie Abraham in 1996.

Hargreaves was familiar with other members of the secondary on the all-rookie team. Former Florida teammate Keanu Neal (Falcons) and former FSU rival Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars) both made it.

Goaltender Ben Bishop returns as Lightning beat Buffalo, 4-2

Well, hello there, Ben Bishop.

And welcome back.

Bishop, who has been out since Dec. 20 with a lower body injury, finally returned to the lineup after missing the last nine games and two periods for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And Bishop played well, improving his record to 10-10-2 in a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

The win broke a four-game losing streak for the Bolts. Buffalo narrowed the lead to one goal in the third period, but the Lightning held on.

“I thought Bish had a lot to do with that,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “The saves he made. The way he played the puck. I don’t know how many he stopped behind the net.”

Ondrej Palat scored twice for Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucheerov scored his 17th, and Anton Stralman scored an empty netter.

“Palat was a beast,” Cooper said. “He was all over the ice.”

Bishop said he wasn’t particularly rusty “after that first goal.” He stopped 26 of 28 shots.

The Bolts are home tonight against Columbus.

Bucs retain defensive coordinator Mike Smith with extension

The Tampa Bay Bucs have made their first big off-season signing, and it isn’t a player.

The Bucs signed defensive coordinator Mike Smith to an extension shortly after Smith withdrew his name from consideration from the (now Los Angeles) Chargers.

Tampa Bay came on late in the season in their 6-2 second half. They had 29 takeaways, and they led the league in third-down defense.

The Bucs started the season slowly with new corners and new defensive ends. Smith, 57, interviewed for the Jaguars and Chargers head coaching jobs, bringing an impressive resume. He went 66-46 as head coach of the Falcons from 2008-14, reaching the playoffs four times including the NFC Championship Game in 2012.

Lightning prepared to raise Marty St. Louis’ jersey to rafters

Three years ago, he went away angry.

Three years ago, a lot of Tampa Bay Lightning fans felt he had pulled out on the team.

But tonight, Marty St. Louis returns home for the team’s first jersey-retiring ceremony before the game against Columbus. Finally, the team and its star have reconciled.

“I don’t think even when you’re done playing and you’ve done some great things” St. Louis said, “it’s nothing you hope for. This is an add-on you never felt coming. I’m so flattered and honored. I feel good about what I’ve done. But there are people who want to recognize me for it is something I’ll remember forever.”

St. Louis, an afterthought when he entered the league, always played with a chip on his shoulder, as if he had something to prove. He was undersized as a player, but he showed he was big enough.

“You always feel you have something to prove,” St. Louis said. “It’s hard to make it to the NHL, and it’s hard to be an elite player. It’s even harder to stay there. Every year, kids are pushing you trying to get to there. I took pride in that. I think I was my biggest critic. I was trying to show people I could still do it. I think I was an impact player longer because of that mentality.”

St. Louis looks back on his days in Tampa fondly.

“My wife and I talk about it all the time,” St. Louis said. “We grew up here. We had just gotten married. All of our kids were raised here at a young age. We have a lot of friends of the family who are here. I matured here. It will always be home. It was home. Always be a special place.”

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