R. Johnson, a new Giant, says outlook healthy



With two recent back surgeries behind him, Randy Johnson is refreshed and focused on being a baseball player again this winter - rather than a pitcher limited to rigorous rehabilitation work, his case the past two offseasons. The Big Unit, 45, has been playing catch for three weeks already - and, now, is busy preparing to join his new San Francisco Giants teammates come the start of spring training in February. "I'm well ahead of schedule than I was the last two offseasons," Johnson said yesterday during a conference call, one day after he agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract with the Giants. He added that he plans to be on the 2009 Opening Day roster. "It will be really nice to be in that position this year. ... To some degree I have silenced the critics and shown that I'm healthy."

Reds: : Willy Taveras agreed to a two-year contract, plugging the team's hole in center field. He batted .251 in 133 games last season with Colorado, though he led the major leagues with 68 stolen bases.


Napravnik, Lake, Cole top of heap at Md. tracks

horse racing

Rosie Napravnik, Scott Lake and Robert Cole wrapped up year-end titles at the major state tracks for 2008 in the jockey, trainer and owner divisions, respectively, after the final card of the season at Laurel Park. Despite missing three months with a broken leg, Napravnik, 20, won her second riding championship in the state with 101 wins at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. Lake won his fourth straight title by saddling 113 winners at the major state tracks, 59 more than Dale Capuano. Cole is the state's top owner for the third straight year, with his horses winning 39 times from 118 starts. He leads the nation in wins (232).

Laurel Park: : Peace Town ran to victory over five other Maryland-breds in the $50,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship, holding off a charging In the Juice by a half-length. Peace Town, a son of Peace Rules who is trained at Laurel, covered 1 1/16 miles in 1 minute, 44.83 seconds on the season's final day of racing at Laurel. The victory was his third in five starts.

Santa Anita Park: : Garrett Gomez, the nation's leading rider for a third straight year, was injured when his mount, Back At You, ducked into the rail during the stretch run of the $78,070 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds in Arcadia, Calif. The jockey appeared to tumble headfirst onto the turf and might have been struck by his mount as the horse attempted to rise. Back At You was not seriously injured. Gomez was hospitalized with several teeth knocked out, a gash on his left knee and a swollen left hand, said his agent, Ron Anderson. Gomez is $109,014 shy of Jerry Bailey's single-season purse earnings record ($23,354,660 set in 2003), and it remained unclear whether he would ride again before year's end. ... Indian Blessing beat Ginger Pop by 1 1/2 lengths to take the $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Indian Blessing recorded her sixth victory of 2008 by covering seven furlongs in 1:20.59.

Aqueduct: : Fabulous Strike, the 1-2 favorite, rolled to a 1 3/4 -length win over True Quality in the $103,100 Gravesend Handicap in New York. One of the leading sprinters in the nation, Fabulous Strike made the task easier by scaring away half the competition. Eight horses were entered for the six-furlong race, but only four showed up. The 5-year-old gelding won in 1:09.74.

Bruins beat Hurricanes for 7th straight win

et cetera


Blake Wheeler scored twice in the second period, and Michael Ryder broke a tie with 6:14 left to help the visiting Boston Bruins win their seventh straight game, 4-2, over the Carolina Hurricanes. Matt Cullen and Anton Babchuk scored for Carolina. ... Rookie Steve Mason made 20 saves for his third shutout in host Columbus' 3-0 victory over Philadelphia, the Blue Jackets' first win over the Flyers in franchise history. ... Andrei Kostitsyn had his first career hat trick, leading the visiting Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

More NHL: : St. Louis Blues forward Paul Kariya will have surgery on his left hip and could miss the rest of the season. Kariya hasn't played since Nov. 5 in Anaheim. He returned to practice Friday, but was unable to complete the workout.

NFL: : New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour will not play today at Buffalo because of a sore back, The Boston Globe reported. Seymour, who leads the team with eight sacks, has played every game this season but hasn't practiced all week, and the Globe said he has been downgraded to out. ... Buffalo put rookie wide receiver James Hardy on injured reserve because of a torn knee ligament, ending his season.

NASCAR: : The Gillett Evernham Motorsports team is preparing to replace Elliott Sadler with A.J. Allmendinger next season, a move that might push some sponsors to leave, reported, citing multiple sources.

College football: : Florida coach Urban Meyer picked offensive line coach Steve Addazio to succeed Dan Mullen as offensive coordinator. Mullen, hired as Mississippi State's head coach this month, still was expected to call plays when the No. 1 Gators play No. 2 Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series national title game Jan. 8.

Jurisprudence: : Former New England Patriots player and high school football coach Danny Villa surrendered to police in his native Arizona, one day after a court in Massachusetts issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he raped a child. Walpole (Mass.) Police Chief Richard Stillman said Villa, 44, surrendered to authorities in Tucson, and his attorney has indicated that he plans to waive rendition. Villa faces three counts of rape of a child over 14 and three counts of enticing a minor, the attorney said.


Mixed martial arts: : Former champion Frank Mir stopped Antonio Nogueira at 1:54 of the second round in Ultimate Fighting Championship 92 in Las Vegas, earning a title shot against newly crowned heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.