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Ramirez welcomed back with cheers in LA's 3-0 loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mannywood's main attraction was back in residence at Dodger Stadium and Manny Ramirez received a warm welcome, even if he wasn't any help.

Wandy Rodriguez combined with four relievers on an eight-hitter in the Houston Astros' 3-0 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday night, spoiling Ramirez's first game at home since his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy ended.

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'Running out of time,' Favre steps up workouts

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) ‚  Brett Favre acknowledged he's "running out of time" to decide whether he'll play for the Minnesota Vikings this season.

The quarterback told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he'll give the Vikings an answer on whether he'll play by the July 30 start of training camp. Favre has been working out with the Oak Grove High School football team three days a week all summer, but added a Sunday workout this week.

"There's two weeks left and I'm doing everything I can," Favre said. "I was down here Sunday morning working out. I'm trying to get everything to where I feel 100 percent when I go in. I can't go in any less. When you're 39 years old, it's hard enough. But it's getting there."

The former Packers and Jets quarterback said surgery to repair a biceps tendon in his throwing arm was successful and that he has enough velocity to return to the NFL. He's just not sure whether that means he'll be able to compete for an entire season.

"I felt like going to New York last year that I still had it," Favre said. "I didn't know my arm was hurt at the time. So that's what I try to get across to people. I had that fixed, the surgery to fix that, so I'm trying to make sure that if I go back that part is completely resolved."

It sure looked like it Wednesday morning, when a jovial Favre hit a variety of passes to high school and college wide receivers. He was crisp on short timing passes and was hitting receivers in the end zone from about 50 yards away. He attempted a few deep passes off bootlegs and usually hit his targets in stride.

Favre's spirals held true and he proved he still has plenty of zip when he tossed a deep pass to a college receiver who dropped by to work out. The pass split the receiver's hands and hit him in the face.

"He's a senior from Southeastern Louisiana, so I put a little more on it," Favre said with a smile.

Favre said if the arm strength wasn't there, he wouldn't be making a bid to return for his 19th season in the league.

"I don't think Minnesota would even consider it if I didn't have it," Favre said. "Second of all, I wouldn't even think about it if I didn't have it. Now, having it here and having in on the field on Sundays is two different things, I know that for a fact. I know what it takes to play on Sunday and I still believe I have that."

Favre said his hesitation is more about what those watching him practice might not see. He used a golfing analogy to explain his situation. What if, he asked, Tiger Woods came back and found he didn't have the same game?

"He goes out and hits a 2 iron and he thinks it will go the normal distance it has all his life, then all of a sudden it's 13 yards short, and he says, 'I don't know why that is because everything felt perfect,' so that's what I have to get through," Favre said.

"If you're throwing and it's a little off and you have a little pain, it's a little bit understandable. If there's no pain and there's no excuse, that's where you've got a problem. So I want to go out and have one of those days throwing and then have another where all of those throws you make, every warmup throw you make or just in general, feels perfect."

Favre was released by the Jets earlier this year, clearing the way for him to sign with any team willing to take him. Dr. James Andrews performed surgery May 22 to address the injured biceps tendon, which hampered Favre down the stretch last season.

The Vikings have remained mostly quiet on the topic in recent weeks, preferring to let Favre work through his rehabilitation from the surgery and make up his own mind.

At a fan forum in June, owner Zygi Wilf made it clear officials were receptive to Favre joining the team and the decision was Favre's to make.

"Right now, it's all up to Brett Favre in terms of where his future is at," Wilf told about 1,200 fans gathered at the State Theatre. "I'll just leave it at that."

Coach Brad Childress has had sporadic conversations with Favre throughout the summer.

"He's trying to make a push to get back," Childress said in June. "I just know this, he won't play unless he feels like he's able to play at the level that he's played over the course of the years. I know he's working hard."

___

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

 

Armstrong stays 3rd at Tour despite tire puncture

VITTEL, France (AP) ‚  Lance Armstrong remained in third place at the Tour de France on Thursday, scrambling back to the main pack following a punctured tire with about 37 miles left.

Teammate and rival Alberto Contador of Spain stayed in second place and Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy kept the yellow jersey on a day Nicki Sorensen of Denmark won the 12th stage.

"Up and down all day long and was aggressive from the start," Armstrong said on his Twitter feed.

Sorensen broke away and finished 48 seconds ahead of Laurent Lefevre of France. The 34-year-old Dane spent years as a support rider on Bjarne Riis's team and this was the first time he won a Tour stage.

"It's a big thing for me to perform at this level at this age," he said. "I started bike racing when I was 19 and I always hoped that I could maybe go on for many years, and I think it shows today that it is possible."

Armstrong, the seven-time champion, rejoined the main pack after his mishap during the 131-mile ride from Tonnerre to Vittel. He pulled over to the side of the road while his team repaired a punctured back wheel. After a few moments, four teammates helped him catch up.

Teammate Levi Leipheimer, who is fourth overall, fell off his bike nearly two miles from the finish in a crash involving two-time Tour runner-up Cadel Evans. Leipheimer had cuts and bruises on his right wrist, shoulder and back. He hopes to ride Friday.

"My wrist hurts, but surprisingly it's OK. It could have been a lot worse," Leipheimer said. "I was a bit surprised by a left corner. ... My tire was sliding and I couldn't quite save my bike from sliding out."

Armstrong is taking a cautious approach until the three-week race reaches the Alps on Sunday. He said the flat stages were nerve-racking.

"It is stressful with the crashes, on a stage like this where you have nothing to gain and then you lose everything because of a crash or a split in the group," the 37-year-old Texan said before the start. "You have to pay attention and try to avoid a crash."

Wednesday's stage was marred by several crashes and 19 riders were slightly injured.

"Yesterday, there was no way to avoid that crash, if you were just behind it, you were going down," Armstrong said. "So that is something which keeps you up at night. You have to constantly pay attention. I try to give myself a bit of space from people in front of me so I have a bit of time to brake."

Riders also learned that an earpiece ban scheduled for Friday's stage was overturned, allowing them to communicate by radio with team cars as usual. The ban was in place Tuesday and another was set for the 13th stage before the International Cycling Union reversed itself.

Many riders and team directors called the ban dangerous. Organizers hoped the experiment would inject drama into the race by having riders fend for themselves.

Sorensen was part of a lead group arriving several minutes in front of the main pack. The group was unchallenged and the chasing pack ‚  including Nocentini, Contador and Armstrong ‚  was nearly six minutes back.

"We let the breakaway go after four minutes," Nocentini said. "It's a tough stage tomorrow, but I'm already really happy and I will do my best to keep the yellow jersey."

Seven riders managed to get away after about 40 miles, including Egoi Martinez, Franco Pellizotti, Remi Pauriol, Sylvain Calzati and Markus Fothen.

The main pack let the breakaway go, with Mark Cavendish's Team Columbia-Highroad teammates not chasing. Cavendish has been the best sprinter on the Tour with four stage wins, including Tuesday and Wednesday.

Calzati and Sorensen worked together to build a lead of 15 seconds with about six miles remaining, but Sorensen attacked with just more than a mile to go and the others could not follow.

___

AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

 

Jimenez passes Watson for British Open lead

TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) ‚  On the eve of the British Open, Tom Watson got a modern-day text message from Jack Nicklaus' wife. Then it was time to turn back the clock at Turnberry.

Thirty-two years after his epic "Duel in the Sun" with the Golden Bear, Watson took advantage of pristine conditions on the very same course to shoot a stunning 5-under 65 on Thursday. He held the lead until Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez stole it away late in the day with a 64, only one shot off the record for lowest score in any major championship.

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Switzer expects Stoops to eclipse his records

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Even with all the games and championships he won, Barry Switzer thinks Bob Stoops will eventually end up with a more impressive career.

"Bob will someday break my record because he's a smart enough guy to know that you don't leave Oklahoma when you have Oklahoma," Switzer said Tuesday night while accepting a community service award from the Knights of Columbus. "There's no pro job out there worth a damn."

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