The Florida Marlins locked up one of baseball's most talented young pitchers, agreeing with Josh Johnson on a four-year contract. According to the team's website, the contract is worth $39 million. The contract extends through what would have been Johnson's first two years of free agency. The 25-year-old who turns 26 at the end of January had his best season in 2009, going 15-5 with a 3.23 earned run average and 191 strikeouts in 33 games. In parts of five seasons, all with the Marlins, Johnson is 34-16 with a 3.40 ERA in 86 contests -- 76 starts.
The Detroit Tigers added former Houston Astros closer Jose Valverde on Thursday, signing the 30-year-old to a two-year contract. A report says the deal is worth a total of $14 million and has a $9 million club option for 2012. Valverde figures to be the closer for Detroit after the departures of Fernando Rodney to the Angels and Brandon Lyon to the Astros. He had an excellent 2009, going 4-2 with a 2.33 earned run average and 25 saves in 52 games. Valverde led the National League in saves in 2007 and 2008 and is 19-19 for his career with a 3.17 ERA and 167 saves in 379 games with Arizona and Houston.
Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday. The procedure, which was performed by team physician Michael Ciccotti, took place at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and consisted of the removal of loose bodies and meniscal debridement. Lidge, who had surgery earlier this offseason to remove a loose body from his right elbow, struggled mightily during the 2009 season, posting a 7.21 earned run average in 67 appearances. While he made 31 saves, he also blew 11 during the regular season. In the playoffs, Lidge appeared in six games and did not allow a run in five of them, but he received the loss in the Phillies' Game 4 setback to the Yankees in the World Series.
The Kansas City Chiefs made it official Thursday and hired Romeo Crennel as defensive coordinator. Crennel takes over the job for Clancy Pendergast, who was in his first campaign with the team at that position. The 62-year-old Crennel, who was head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2005-08, will be reunited with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. The trio worked together in New England and teamed to win three Super Bowls. Weis, who was named offensive coordinator under Todd Haley last week, held the same position with the Patriots from 2000-04 before becoming head coach at Notre Dame. Crennel was defensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2001-04.
The New York Giants also named a defensive coordinator Thurdsay, tabbing Perry Fewell, Buffalo's interim head coach, for the position. Fewell was the Bills' defensive coordinator before Dick Jauron was fired in November, then became the team's interim head coach and led Buffalo to a 3-4 record. Following Buffalo's season finale, the organization informed the coaching staff it was free to seek other employment opportunities, and Fewell now reunites with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. Fewell was on Coughlin's staff in Jacksonville for five seasons (1998-2002) as defensive backs coach. Fewell replaces Bill Sheridan, who was fired by the Giants in early January.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year, was a unanimous choice for the 2009 NFL All-Pro team. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who was recently named the league's MVP for a fourth time, is also on the All- Pro squad. Johnson received 50 votes from a national media panel and is joined in the backfield on the first team by Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia fullback Leonard Weaver. The wide receivers on the first team are Houston's Andre Johnson and New England's Wes Welker, while the Colts' Dallas Clark is the tight end. Manning made the team for a fifth time, as did Minnesota guard Steve Hutchinson and Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams along with Oakland punter Shane Lechler.
South Florida has selected Skip Holtz as its new football coach. Holtz has decided to leave East Carolina to take the vacancy created when Jim Leavitt was fired last week in the wake of allegations that he struck a player during a game this season. The only coach in the program's 13-season history, Leavitt has strongly denied the accusations that he struck walk-on sophomore Joel Miller at halftime of a November 21 game against Louisville and this week vowed to fight for his job. Holtz, meanwhile, has been the head coach at East Carolina since December 2004 and has a record of 38-27 with four straight bowl appearances in his five-year tenure.
Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has reportedly reached a plea agreement after being charged with felony gun possession earlier Thursday. According to a Washington newspaper, Arenas reached a plea agreement that will result in little or possibly no jail time for a charge that could carry as much as a five-year sentence. The report states Arenas is scheduled to plead guilty Friday. The charges stem from an incident that occurred after Arenas and Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton got into an argument after a card game and Crittenton allegedly said he should shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired left knee. On December 21, at Verizon Center, Arenas placed the guns on a chair next to Crittenton's locker with a note that said "pick one." A three-time All-Star, Arenas, 28, was averaging 22.2 points, 6.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds this season.
Anaheim Ducks star forward Teemu Selanne suffered a broken jaw in the third period of Wednesday's 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins. Selanne was struck in the face by a deflected puck with 8:29 remaining following a shot by teammate Ryan Whitney. The disc then deflected off the stick of Boston's Miroslav Satan and bounced off the ice before striking Selanne. Selanne was playing in just his third game after missing 17 due to a fractured left hand. He has 16 goals and seven assists in 30 games this season.
Defending champion Zach Johnson posted a five- under 65 Thursday to grab a share of the lead after the opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. The round is technically suspended, as one player did not finish because of darkness. Johnson, a two-shot winner last year at Waialae Country Club, was joined in the lead by Davis Love III, Robert Allenby, Ryan Palmer, John Merrick and Troy Merritt. The six leaders are a single stroke ahead of 10 more players. Reigning Masters champion Angel Cabrera tops the group at minus-four. He stands alongside former British Open champion Tom Lehman, Steve Stricker, Pat Perez, Roger Tambellini, Shane Bertsch, Carl Pettersson, Jeff Quinney, Brian Stuard and Martin Flores.
World No. 1s Roger Federer and Serena Williams have been installed as the top seeds for the 2010 Australian Open, which will commence Monday at Melbourne Park. The draws were released Friday, and Federer opens against Russian Igor Andreev in his quest for a fourth Australian Open championship. The Swiss superstar emerged triumphant here in 2004, '06 and '07, and owns a men's record 15 major titles. Additionally, second-seeded Rafael Nadal enters the first Grand Slam tournament of 2010 as the defending champion and will face Australian Peter Luczak in the opening round. Among the intruiging potential matchups, sixth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. He has beaten Federer in two straight matches after losing his first 12 decisions to the decorated veteran. Heavy Aussie crowd favorite and former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt is the 22nd seed and could possibly encounter Federer in the fourth round.
On the women's side, Serena Williams will try for her fifth Aussie title by opening against Poland's Urszula Radwanska. She beat Russian Dinara Safina in the 2009 final and there could be a rematch, as Safina is seeded second. However, Williams can't meet her sister Venus in the final, as they are in the same side of the draw. Sixth-seeded Venus opens against Czech Lucie Safarova. On the other half of the draw with Safina is unseeded but former world No. 1 Justine Henin, who will make her first Grand Slam appearance since the 2008 Aussie Open and figures to be a big presence. The former Melbourne champ (2004), runner-up (2006) and seven-time major winner Henin retired from the WTA Tour in May of 2008, but officially returned to it last week, reaching a final and losing to her fellow Belgian stalwart Kim Clijsters in Brisbane. Clijsters, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is seeded 15th and on the same half of the draw as Henin.