WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Brewers trade Aoki to KC for Smith
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers traded right-fielder Norichika Aoki to Kansas City today, for left-handed pitcher Will Smith. It paves the way for Ryan Braun to move from left field to right next season, so Khris Davis can keep playing in his natural-and-preferred spot in left.
Aoki played two seasons in Milwaukee after coming over from his native Japan. This year, he batted .286 with eight homers, 20 stolen bases, and 37 RBI's in 155 games. The Brewers picked up a club option for Aoki in 2014, which makes him a free agent after that. However, media reports said Aoki and his agent agreed that a trade was in his best interest, if he was not going to play as much for Milwaukee next season. Brewers' GM Doug Melvin tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that they'll miss Aoki -- and the fans probably won't like the trade because he was such a fan favorite. But Melvin said the Brewers will get a good pitcher that they've been eyeing for a couple of years, and they'll control his salary for five years. The 24-year-old Smith has been both a starter and a reliever. He started one game and pitched in 18 others for the Royals in 2013, going 2-1 with a 3.40 ERA. In 10 starts at Triple-"A" Omaha this year, he went 6-4 with an ERA of just over three.
The Milwaukee Brewers have signed catcher Mat Pagnozzi and infielder Irving Falu to minor league contracts. Both will have a chance to make the big club at Spring Training. The 31-year-old Pagnozzi spent most of this year on Atlanta's Triple-"A" team with a .210 batting average, six homers, and 30 RBI's in 90 games. He also played nine games with Houston, after the Astros picked him up in September. Pagnozzi has also had short tenures with St. Louis, Colorado, and Pittsburgh. Falu, who's 30, played for Kansas City's Triple-"A" team this year. He hit .256 in 135 games. Falu has 25 big league games under his belt over the past two years.
Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders said today he takes full responsibility for his mistakes. He wrote a message on Instagram, a day after he was given two municipal citations for his part in a downtown Milwaukee night-club fight in early November. Police released video of the incident, and Sanders was given a January court date if he wants to challenge his $550 in fines. His attorney says he'll fight the citations, claiming that Sanders is innocent. Sanders, who's black, also mentioned a racial component in his statement. Here's the text of that ... "This is something I've dealt with my whole life, from being the black male followed around the store to being the black male helped around the store. I've seen the American society from both ends ... People are hypnotized by the media to feel and base certain judgment toward certain groups of people, and they don't even know it -- born into a system put into place before our existence." Last night, after the fines were announced, Bucks coach Larry Drew said he wanted Sanders back as soon as possible -- but he would not comment on the citations. Sanders had surgery on a broken thumb from the nightclub brawl, and he's due back in late December.
The Green Bay Packers were back at practice today, getting ready for their Sunday contest against Atlanta at Lambeau Field. Meanwhile, former Packers' safety Charles Woodson told NFL Network the Packers should shut down quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the rest of the season, if they fall out of playoff contention. Rodgers says he might not know until Saturday whether he can start against the Falcons, as he gets over his broken collarbone he suffered 31 days ago. Woodson broke a collarbone in the Packers' Super Bowl victory over Pittsburgh in February of 2012 -- and he broke it again the following season, keeping him out for nine weeks. Woodson said every player is different -- but he knows from experience that they must rely on the medical scans taken on their healing bones. On Tuesday, Rodgers had such a scan -- and the injury was not healed enough to clear him for Sunday's contest. No further scans are scheduled before the Atlanta game. The Packers remain in playoff contention by a thread, with a one-and-a-half game division deficit with four to play.
Many Packer fans were upset when the team failed to sign veteran free-agent running back Steven Jackson this past spring. But fans might not be too upset now -- because the non-signing paved the way for Green Bay to draft Eddie Lacy, who's having a solid rookie year. The 30-year-old Jackson ended up going to Atlanta -- and he'll want to show the Lambeau crowd what they missed out on when the Falcons play there on Sunday. Jackson sat out for a month with a hamstring injury, and he has 339 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. His last few games have been an improvement. Last Sunday against Buffalo, Jackson ran for 84 yards and two scores to help Atlanta end a six-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Lacy -- the Packers' top draft choice -- is a possibility for the league's Rookie-of-the-Year honors. He has 822 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games, missing one with a concussion early in the season. Lacy's numbers have dropped since quarterback Aaron Rodgers went out with a broken collarbone on November fourth. Meanwhile, Jackson's resurgence is a concern for a Packer defense that's now giving up 126 yards a game -- almost 50 yards more than their average from six weeks ago.
The Packers are not sure whether Evan Dietrich-Smith can play on Sunday. The starting center got over a sprained knee suffered a week ago at Detroit -- but at practice yesterday, Dietrich-Smith sprained an ankle when he accidentally stepped on a teammate's ankle. He said he was frustrated over the new injury, especially because he's just getting over the old one. If he cannot play on Sunday against Atlanta, T.J. Lang will start at center. If that happens, coach Mike McCarthy will have to decide whether to have Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod play on the right side of the line. The Packers are fighting for their playoff lives with a 5-6-1 record. Atlanta is 3-9.
Conference play resumes tonight for men's basketball teams in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. Aurora and Marian are both undefeated in league games at 2-0. Marian travels to Wisconsin Lutheran this evening. Aurora plays at Rockford. Also in the NACC, Concordia-Wisconsin is at Lakeland. Edgewood hosts the Milwaukee School of Engineering. And Maranatha Baptist has a non-conference game at Kuyper. Also, the UW-Stout men-and-women will play Superior tonight, after their games were postponed by snowy weather last evening. The men will play in Superior, and the women in Menomonie. Also, the Mount Mary women travel to Appleton to take on Lawrence.
Steve Stricker of Madison is back in action today at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California. Stricker is one of 18 players invited to the event, which lost its title sponsor until Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance of Milwaukee agreed to sponsor it for a year. Tiger Woods has hosted the tournament, and he's won it five times. Stricker has not played since the President's Cup just over two months ago.