Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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58 APRIL 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS IRISH IN THE PROS BY MATT JONES W ith spring football practice un- derway at Notre Dame, college basketball revving up for the post- season, and the NBA and NHL wind- ing down, March also signals the be- ginning of baseball season. Several former Notre Dame play- ers are in spring training with big league clubs. CRAIG COUNSELL Manager, Milwaukee Brewers The 46-year-old Counsell, a former Notre Dame player who went on to win a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, enters his third season leading the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers struggled in 2016, finishing 73-89, good for a fourth- place finish in the National League Central. Counsell, who signed a three-year deal in 2015, is 134-165 in his first two years as a major league manager. He was named manager one month into the 2015 season when Ron Roenicke was fired. JEFF SAMARDZIJA Starting Pitcher, San Francisco Giants The former two-sports star at Notre Dame signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the San Francisco Gi- ants after the 2015 season. In his first year with his new club, the 32-year- old went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 203 1 ⁄3 innings. The Merrillville, Ind., native has now logged 200-plus innings in each of the past three seasons, while play- ing for four major league teams. Sa- mardzija is the Giants' No. 3 starter behind ace Madison Bumgarner and No. 2 Johnny Cueto. A.J. POLLOCK Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks After a breakout 2015 season in which he hit .315 with 20 home runs, 39 doubles, stole 39 bases in 157 games and made his first All-Star ap- pearance, Pollock wasn't able to have an encore performance. In an exhibition game three days before the 2016 season, Pollock frac- tured his elbow sliding into home plate. He missed most of the season, returning to play just 12 games. "I feel great," he said. "The elbow's something in the past. I'm just work- ing smart, and I'm looking forward to this spring." TREY MANCINI First Baseman, Baltimore Orioles The youngest former Notre Dame player challenging for a major league spot, the 24-year-old Mancini is try- ing to crack the Baltimore Orioles' opening-day roster. Mancini was promoted last Sep- tember and hit .357 in five games with three home runs and five RBI. "I definitely know that that's the case, and it's a little more uphill of a battle than I thought it would be at the start of the offseason," Man- cini said of his chances of making the team. "With all that said, it's com- pletely out of my control. "I still think there's a spot or two open here, and I'm trying to be the guy that gets it." THE BEST OF THE REST • Former Notre Dame coach Pat Murphy returns for another season assisting Counsell on the bench of the Milwaukee Brewers. Murphy, who coached at Notre Dame from 1988-94, was an interim manager for the San Diego Padres in 2015 before joining the Brewers. • Reliever John Axford is back for his second season with the Oakland Athletics, entering the second year of a two-year, $10 million contract. He was 6-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 2016. • Reliever Jeff Manship, who helped the Cleveland Indians reach the World Series last year, has opted to spend the season with the NC Di- nos, a Korean League team. • Former starter turned do-it-all reliever David Phelps returns to the Miami Marlins after winning an arbi- tration battle with the club. He'll be paid $4.6 million in 2017. Phelps went 7-6 with a 2.28 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 86 2 ⁄3 innings. He appeared in 64 games, five of them starts, and finished with four saves. NFL NOTES • After a 10-year NFL career, for- mer Notre Dame offensive lineman Ryan Harris has retired from the NFL. Just a week shy of his 32nd birthday, Harris — who most re- cently played with the Pittsburgh Steelers — is entering a radio career in the Denver area. • Former Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano is returning to the Miami Dolphins, where he spent the 2008-12 seasons. Fasano, a blocking tight end, had eight catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns in 2016 for Tennessee while starting eight games. He signed a one-year, $3 mil- lion deal. NHL NOTES • Former Notre Dame defenseman Robbie Russo made his NHL debut in March with the Detroit Red Wings. Russo played for the Irish from the 2011-12 through 2014-15 seasons. • On the same night as Russo made his NHL debut, former Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan made his first NHL appearance for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tynan played for the Irish from 2010-11 through 2013-14. Notre Dame has now had 10 for- mer players appear in NHL games this season. ❏ Back On The Diamond Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock had a breakout 2015 season, but missed nearly the entire 2016 campaign with a fractured elbow. PHOTO COURTESY ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

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