Bob Hunter commentary | Rumblings: Indians may have made right move ditching Matsuzaka

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Daisuke Matsuzaka asking for and being granted his release from the Clippers last month may have been a sign that the parent Cleveland Indians knew what they were doing. Matsuzaka quickly signed with the New York Mets, a move that has been disastrous.

In three starts covering only 121/3 innings, he is 0-3 with a 10.95 ERA. Matsuzaka lasted only three innings in his last start, on Monday, allowing Atlanta six runs on seven hits.

“We need him for innings; that’s why we got him,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

General manager Sandy Alderson told reporters last week that the Mets are committed to keeping Dice-K in the rotation while admitting it “might not be pretty for the rest of the month.” In 19 starts with the Clippers, Matsuzaka was 5-8 with a 3.92 ERA.

It has been quiet on the basketball recruiting front lately, but that does not mean Ohio State men’s coaches have given up adding a big man to their highly rated and otherwise complete 2014 recruiting class.

Elbert Robinson, a 7-foot, 300-or-so-pounder from Garland, Texas, is scheduled to take an official visit the weekend of Sept. 28, when Ohio State plays Wisconsin in football under the lights. Coaches also are trying to bring in 6-9, 215-pound Goodluck Okonoboh of Boston for the same weekend.

And Ohio State hasn’t given up on 6-11 center Myles Turner, either, hoping the Texas native will pay an official visit to campus in October.

All three are ranked among the top five centers nationally in 247Sports’ 2014 rankings. Ohio State already has the No. 2-ranked class with commitments from guard D’Angelo Russell of Louisville, Ky.; wings Jae’Sean Tate of Pickerington Central and Keita Bates-Diop of Normal, Ill.; and center Dave Bell of Garfield Heights, Ohio.

The Houston Texans apparently liked what they saw in camp from fullback Zach Boren in terms of hustle and leadership — so much so, in fact, that they went to lengths to ensure that other NFL teams didn’t see too much of the former Ohio State player before signing him to the practice squad.

Boren, who originally joined Houston as an undrafted free agent in May, went through offseason training with the Texans and played extensively in the first preseason game. His appearances diminished precipitously the next two games, then he was cut last week, before Houston’s final exhibition game.

Such actions can be an indicator that a team is keeping a possible sleeper from being seen by other teams around the league. Limiting his “tape,” as it’s called, gives a team a better chance to hang on to him, since he first must clear waivers before another team can sign him. In Boren’s case, he was cut early and waited it out. The Texans re-signed him to the practice squad on Monday.

As of yesterday afternoon, a bid of $55,000 for Jerry Lucas’ 1973 New York Knicks’ NBA championship ring led the bidding for the former Ohio State star’s memorabilia by Grey Flannel Auctions. The auction ends at midnight tonight.

Lucas’ U.S. Olympic team jersey from the 1960 gold-medal winning basketball game had one bid of $50,000, the minimum for that item. His 1960 NCAA championship ring had two bids, topped by one for $22,500.

Not all of the items being offered had bids, including the most expensive item available. Lucas’ gold medal from the ’60 Olympics so far had found no bidders willing to meet the $250,000 minimum price.

While the Cleveland Browns auditioned kickers last week, the question around camp was why they didn’t re-sign Phil Dawson in free agency. The team has more than $25 million in salary-cap space, and Dawson, a Cleveland fixture since 1999 and a Pro Bowl player last year, signed a one-year, $2.35 million deal with San Francisco.

The Browns brought in former Bengals kicker Shayne Graham and Brandon Bogotay and ended up cutting both, then auditioned Billy Cundiff and Dan Carpenter before signing Cundiff. Browns officials have maintained that bringing in a kicker the week before the opener makes no difference, which may be true.

The larger issue is that Cundiff hasn’t been the same kicker since 2010 and looks like a considerable step down from Dawson. Cundiff missed nine field-goal attempts for Baltimore in the 2011 regular season, then hooked a 32-yard attempt in the closing seconds of an AFC championship game loss to New England. He was cut by Baltimore, then released by Washington last season after making only 7 of 12 field-goal tries.

The University of Cincinnati’s football game at Illinois on Saturday will be something of a reunion for Illini athletic director Mike Thomas, who held the same post at UC from 2005 to ’11. Thomas told the Decatur (Ill.) Herald-Review, “I’ve only been back to Cincinnati once since I came to Illinois, although I go by there or through there quite a bit on my travels.”

He still has a taste for the city, though. He said he has an arrangement with men’s basketball coach John Groce, who worked with Thad Matta at Xavier and Ohio State before becoming coach at Ohio and subsequently landing at Illinois.

“Coach Groce and I have a deal,” Thomas said. “When we go through Cincinnati, we bring him back some Skyline Chili. And when John goes through there, he brings Skyline Chili to us.”

The time is now for former Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward to make an impression if he expects to have a future with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Heyward, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has played sparingly at right defensive end in part because he has been stuck behind veteran Brett Keisel. But Keisel turns 35 this month, and he and Ziggy Hood, the other defensive end starter, are both in the final years of their contracts.

The Steelers are planning to use Heyward more this season, and he told ESPN.com that he is ready to give them more. He is in good shape and better understands the Steelers’ complex defense.

“When you can pick up little tendencies, tricks of the trade, it’s going to help you go out there and play faster and be more confident in what you’re doing,” he said.

Graham Rahal had a chance to drive this week on two configurations that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considering for a possible road race. He completed 44 laps on the course used for a Grand Am event and 20 laps on the reverse configuration with the MotoGP loop.

Speedway officials plan to invest nearly $100 million in the facility as part of a long-term plan that could include modifications to the road course to allow it to accommodate IndyCar testing or racing.

“I think that having a road race here would be great,” Rahal said. “We’re not going to fill this place, we all know that, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s a totally different thing (from the Indianapolis 500). We really don’t use much of the oval, so I think it would be really cool.”

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

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