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  • In his first game back, Westbrook scored 32 po

    TORONTO – The Blue Jays wrapped up a nine-game homestand with a 7-4 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon and afterward, boarded a plane for the long flight to Californias Bay Area. Andrew Donnal Jersey . It will be in Oakland, on Thursday night, where the club begins a 10-game, pre-All-Star Break road trip which will be a grind, both in terms of miles logged and quality of opponents. After four with the Athletics, the Jays travel down the pacific coast for three with the Angels and then across the southern part of the continent, concluding with three against the Rays in St. Petersburg. Then comes the Midsummer Classic in Minneapolis, where general manager Alex Anthopoulos expects trade discussions will begin to heat up. “We still have a month. A lot can change,” said Anthopoulos. “We started out June 5-0 and obviously we did play well down the stretch. I think you reassess at the All-Star Break and this trip will be part of it. As long as youre in the hunt is probably an important way to look at it. Knock on wood; unless we go on a long streak where we dont win some games and our competition goes on a streak, as long as youre still within reach, then its going to be a battle.” The Blue Jays approach the break in a unique position, legitimate contenders for a playoff spot for the first time in a generation. The lineup is veteran laden, built to win now. Jose Bautista is 33 years old, turning 34 in October. Edwin Encarnacion 31 and so is Adam Lind. Yet, theres understandable hesitancy to part with pieces viewed as part of the future core, including star pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez, whos now toiling at Triple-A Buffalo. Anthopoulos wades into unfamiliar territory but he approaches this deadline no different than those previous, willing to make any trade to improve his ballclub. There are no untouchables. He wont divulge priority areas so as to not create a competitive disadvantage in trade talks. The bullpen and an additional infielder, be it a second or a third baseman (Brett Lawrie can play the other spot), should be points of emphasis. He would be willing to acquire a third baseman. “Lets say theres an all-star calibre player, a great player, there, I think wed be open to doing that,” said Anthopoulos. “That makes the team better. But I dont want to make that a story. Thats not the plan. Were not close to doing that. Were not actively pursuing that. Bretts our third baseman. Hes got the positional flexibility to play all over the place.” The starting rotation has been a pleasant surprise this season. Mark Buehrles 10 wins and 2.50 ERA have led the way. J.A. Happ, with seven more effective innings on Wednesday, has solidified himself after missing the start of the year injured and returning out of the bullpen. Drew Hutchison has run hot and cold but is a promising young pitcher. Marcus Stroman has fit in well and R.A. Dickey is logging innings even though the results have been mixed. The organization believes Sanchez, 23, has turned a corner with the Bisons after struggling for parts of this season with his command. Hes changed his arm slot slightly, staying better on top of the ball as a result. Anthopoulos didnt deny Sanchez could contribute to the Blue Jays down the stretch. “To me, if he can do it again, Im convinced that they got him right on track and hell be ready if we have a need,” said Anthopoulos. HOFFMAN AND PENTECOST SIGN The Blue Jays locked in their two first-round picks from last months amateur draft. General manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed that Jeff Hoffman (ninth overall), a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher out of East Carolina University and Max Pentecost (11th overall), a 21-year-old catcher who attended Kennesaw State University, signed for their bonus slot. Hoffman cashes in slightly more than $3-million; Pentecost comes in just shy of $2.9-million. Hoffman underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in May. Its club policy that no pitcher appear in a competitive game until at least one year after the procedure was completed. Hoffman is in Florida, in the early stages of his rehabilitation. Pentecost is in Dunedin, getting back into baseball shape after his college season ended about a month ago. Pentecost is waiting for his passport and when it arrives, hell report to the Blue Jays short season affiliate in Vancouver. Darius Slay Jr Jersey . - Free agent defensive end Will Smith has signed with the New England Patriots. Wholesale Lions Jerseys . PAUL, Minn.OKLAHOMA CITY - Russell Westbrook has taken his game up a notch since Kevin Durants latest injury.In six games since Durants latest setback, Westbrook has averaged 30.2 points, 8.1 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 3.2 steals for Oklahoma City. The three-time All-Stars overall scoring average of 28 points would lead the league if he had played in enough games to qualify, but he missed 14 games early in the season with a broken bone in his right (non-shooting) hand. A player must compete in 70 per cent of his teams contests to officially top a category.Westbrook always has been a highlight waiting to happen, but this year, a greater mastery of the games nuances has complemented his freakish explosiveness. He is looking for his teammates more often, taking fewer three pointers, using his athleticism to get to the free throw line more frequently and playing steady defence consistently.Thunder coach Scott Brooks announced that Durant will return Wednesday night against Phoenix, but Westbrook already has left his impression.Its always a tough matchup when you see a top point guard, especially him, Portland point guard Damian Lillard said after both scored 40 points in their matchup last week. I respect him right up there at the top with any player in the league. Not just point guards — with any player in the league, because of how tough it is to play against him on both ends of the floor.With Durant out with a broken bone in his right foot, Westbrook opened the season with 38 points against Portland before getting hurt in the second game against the Los Angeles Clippers. In his first game back, Westbrook scored 32 points in 24 minutes in a win over the New York Knicks. With Durant sidelined, Westbrook had 34 points, 11 assists and five steals in a Christmas Day win at defending champion San Antonio. He recently had a stretch of games in which he scored at least 26 points snapped at 11.He has increased his defensive focus, too. His 2.3 steals per game would be ahead of the league leader if he had played enough games.Hes been locked in for longer stretches, Thunder forward Nick Collison said. Just his basic defence, starting with pressuring the ball and staying in front of his man and being in the right spots — hes been a lot more consistent with that, and I think thats part of maturing for him and realizing how important it is for him to play both ends. Kenny Golladay Jersey. As an offensive player, Westbrooks greatest improvement has been in shot selection. He attempted 4.7 3-pointers per game last season, but that average is down to 3.1. Instead, hes driving to the hoop, drawing fouls and shooting 9.5 free throws per game.Its (the 3-pointer) not always a great shot for myself or for my team, so Ive got to do a better job of taking those out, Westbrook said. My advantage is attacking, regardless of whos in front of me, and Ive got to use my advantage to help my team and myself.Westbrook still has his moments. Hes shooting about 40 per cent in the fourth quarter this season, and his assists drop significantly late in games. He still sometimes forces things, especially when Durant isnt playing. But his immense talent and overall play makes those moments more tolerable.Hes had a great month of shooting the ball, Brooks said. Hes had a couple of off shooting nights, which every player will go through. His shot selection for the month of December, since hes been back, has been good, he said. All in all, hes played great basketball for us, and put us in position to win a lot of games.Westbrooks increased maturity has extended beyond the court. When things dont go well, he has accepted responsibility. After he got a technical foul late in regulation in the loss to Portland that helped fuel the Trail Blazers comeback, he took the hit.That was my fault, he said. I think that was the turning point in the game, for us and our energy. I didnt think I deserved it (the technical), but Ive got to do a better job of controlling my emotions, especially when the game is on the line like that. I take the blame for that. It turned the whole game around for them and it gave them a chance to win the game.More often than not, Westbrooks play has led to wins. The Thunder are 15-17 overall, but 11-7 with Westbrook in the lineup.The game is continuing to slow down for him, like it does for all players, Brooks said. I like what hes doing. Hes been able to lead us game after game after game. Hes a better player all the way around.___Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP . Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys Cheap Adidas Hockey Jerseys Wholesale Nike Baseball Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys From China Wholesale Jerseys China Wholesale NFL Jerseys China Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys Free Shipping Cheap Nike NBA Jerseys Authentic Cheap NHL Jerseys Canada Cheap Nike MLB Jerseys Cheap Soccer Jerseys China NCAA Jerseys Cheap Nike NHL Jerseys China Wholesale Jerseys China Cheap Jerseys Store Cheap Football Jerseys Store Wholesale Soccer Jerseys Jerseys NCAA China Jerseys NFL Cheap Cheap Nike NBA Jerseys ' ' '  

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