The free-agent season opened yesterday with the New York Yankees planning to give CC Sabathia a record offer for a pitcher. The Yankees formulated a proposal to the left-hander that would exceed Johan Santana's six-year, $137.5 million contract with the New York Mets in total and average, a baseball official familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press. Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner confirmed last night at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., that an offer was made to Sabathia and that proposals will be forthcoming for pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. Steinbrenner declined to give details about the Sabathia offer.
Orioles: : The team agreed to terms this week with utility infielder Donnie Murphy on a minor league deal with a major league spring training invitation. Murphy, 25, who made the Athletics' Opening Day roster last season, hit .184 (19-for-103) with three homers and 13 RBIs in 46 games.
Braves: : Atlanta is out of the trade sweepstakes for Padres pitcher Jake Peavy. "We felt that we offered a strong package of players, and if we couldn't get a deal done with the players offered we would move on to pursue other players," Braves GM Frank Wren said.
Lightning fires Melrose after 16 games
Barry Melrose's return to the NHL as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning lasted 16 games. The former television analyst was fired yesterday, less than five months after he left the booth to coach a team that finished with the league's worst record last season. Assistant Rick Tocchet was promoted to interim head coach. Tocchet was sentenced to two years' probation in August 2007 after pleading guilty in a gambling investigation into a sports betting ring. He said he never bet on NHL games. The Lightning has lost three straight games, dropping to fourth in the Southeast Division with 14 points. Despite the presence of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay ranks last in goals in the NHL.
Et cetera: : Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Alex Ovechkin scored to lead the host Capitals to a 3-1 win against the Devils. Washington's Alexander Semin - the NHL scoring leader entering the night with 27 points - left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury. The team said he is day-to-day. Jose Theodore made 32 saves for Washington. ... Emergency medical personnel acted properly in treating New York prospect Alexei Cherepanov, 19, after he collapsed during a game outside Moscow last month, a preliminary Continental Hockey League investigation found.
Carl Edwards got the jump on Jimmie Johnson in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Edwards, facing a daunting 141-point deficit heading into tomorrow's Ford 400, qualified fourth, trailing only first-time pole winner David Reutimann, rookie Scott Speed and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Johnson, who needs to finish only 36th or better tomorrow to wrap up his third straight Cup title, will start a disappointing 30th. It's only the seventh time in 36 races this season Johnson has started 20th or lower. Johnson's worst finish in any of those races was 33rd.
Et cetera: : NASCAR has suspended all testing at its sanctioned tracks next season in a cost-cutting measure that should help teams save several million dollars in their 2009 budgets. ... A federal judge in Miami has rejected requests to delay the tax evasion trial of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who wants to drive in the 2009 IndyCar Series. U.S. District Judge Donald Graham said the March 2 trial date will stand.
Safety Lynch to retire; Portis misses practice
John Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl player with the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will announce his retirement Monday. The hard-hitting safety had 1,277 tackles and 26 interceptions in 224 regular-season games. Lynch played 11 seasons with Tampa Bay, winning a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers during the 2002 season. He signed with the Broncos in 2004 and left in July after being bumped from his starting role. He signed with the New England Patriots in August but was cut two weeks later.
Redskins: : Running back Clinton Portis did not practice again and will be used only "in a limited fashion" if he is able to play tomorrow night against the Cowboys, coach Jim Zorn said. Portis, the NFL's second-leading rusher, has a sprained left knee.
Et cetera: : Rams running back Steven Jackson will not play tomorrow against the 49ers because of his injured right thigh. ... Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receiver Deion Branch worked with the first-team offense for the entire practice yesterday and are ready to start for the first time in six weeks tomorrow Sunday against first-place Arizona. ... Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie will play against the Ravens tomorrow despite his Thursday night arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Little Falls, N.J.
Bowden suspends five Seminoles receivers
Coach Bobby Bowden suspended five Florida State wide receivers for tonight's homecoming game against Boston College for their roles in a midweek campus fight. Taiwan Easterling, Bert Reed, Corey Surrency, Cameron Wade and Richard Goodman will sit the crucial Atlantic Coast Conference contest. No charges have been announced by campus police, who are trying to find out who threw a chair that injured a female bystander during Wednesday's altercation. Easterling is the team's leading receiver with 26 catches. Easterling, Reed and Surrency have combined for 51 catches for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.
More college football: : Tony Pike threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 22 Cincinnati (8-2, 4-1) remained in the hunt for the Big East title with a 28-20 win over host Louisville (5-5, 1-4).
College basketball: : Florida guard Nick Calathes ran up a significant debt playing poker online but said he did nothing illegal. The story first reported by Yahoo.com said Calathes amassed a $600 debt playing poker online. Coach Billy Donovan said an investigation by the school's athletic department found no evidence of wrongdoing. ... North Carolina coach Roy Williams said senior Bobby Frasor (sprained left ankle) might miss tonight's opener against Pennsylvania.
Tennis: : Andy Murray ousted defending champion Roger Federer from the ATP Masters Cup in Shanghai, China, rallying for a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory.
Golf: : Five-time major champion Seve Ballesteros is improving after brain surgery on a malignant tumor Oct. 24 and is likely to be released from intensive care next week. ... Angela Stanford shot a 6-under-par 66 in the second round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, to take a two-shot lead over Yani Tseng.
College soccer:: The Maryland men defeated Boston College, 1-0, in Cary, N.C., to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.