Hernández Agrees to Lucrative Seven-Year Extenstion with the Mariners

Félix Hernández is officially the highest-paid pitcher in Major League history.

The 26-year-old Venezuelan right-handed starting pitcher for the Seattle Mariners has signed a seven-year contract extension with the team.

Felix Hernandez

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik announced the deal with Hernández at the news conference at Safeco Field. A source confirmed to MLB.com that the basic agreement is for seven years and $175 million, with some new language written in that would protect the Mariners if Hernandez misses a season with elbow problems.

Hernández has two years and $40.5 million remaining on his existing contract, but the final two years will reportedly be replaced by the new deal, which will now extend through 2019.

“I think it’s a great thing for the Seattle Mariners and it’s a great thing for Felix Hernandez. We’re looking forward to this guy being here for a long time, obviously,” said Zduriencik.

CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees currently has the largest overall contract for a pitcher, with a seven-year, $161 million deal he signed before the 2010 season. Zack Greinke signed the highest average-annual-value deal at $24.5 million with his six-year, $147 million contract in December with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hernandez has been with the Mariners his entire Major League career and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010. He pitched a perfect game last season while going 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 33 starts.

The three-time All-Star has pitched 200 or more innings in each of the past five seasons and has a career record of 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA.

Zeballos Defeats Nadal to Earn His First Pro Title

Following a decade of playing professional tennis, Horacio Zeballos finally has his first pro title… And he earned it by defeating the King of Clay.

The 27-year-old Argentine tennis player defeated Rafael Nadal – back on the tour after a seventh month hiatus due to an injured left knee – in the finals at the Chilean Open 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-4 for his first title on any surface, looking every bit the equal of the seven-time French Open champion.

Horacio Zeballos

Nadal was the overwhelming favorite at the tournament, where he was shooting for this 37th title on clay. He said just being able to play tennis again was some reward.

“It was a week when we didn’t know how the body would respond, the knee,” said Nadal. “At least we have seen we can compete up to a certain level. It’s true I have had good days and bad days that impact on my play.”

It was only the fifth loss for Nadal in a singles final on clay.

Zeballos matched Nadal shot for shot with no service breaks until the third set, dropping to his back on the red clay surface after winning.

“This is the game of my life,” said Zeballos said. “Playing against the best player of all time, or one of the best in the history of tennis. It’s a dream, unforgettable. I will never forget this moment.”

Horacio Zeballos

Zeballos said the two chatted briefly, and Nadal offered some advice.

“He told me: ‘Enjoy this title, this is your first, so just enjoy it,’ ” said Zeballos.

Nadal had most of the support, with fans waving Spanish flags and some wearing T-shirts saying “Vamos Rafa” and “Viva Espana.” The Spaniard has been treated like a native since arriving in Chile for his comeback tournament.

Zeballos joined some pretty exclusive company on Sunday. He joined Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer as the only players to beat Rafael Nadal in the final of a clay-court event. Nadal also had won 15 straight matches on clay.

Meanwhile, Nadal plays again this week in the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo, and later this month on clay in Acapulo, Mexico — all aimed at getting him ready for a run at this eighth French Open title.

Liriano Signs One-Year Contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Francisco Liriano is the Pirate of Pittsburgh…

The 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball player has completed a reworked one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates after the left-handed starting pitcher injured his non-pitching arm over the holidays.

Francisco Liriano

The Pirates on Friday night announced they’d finalized the deal with Liriano, who has pitched for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. Liriano’s deal includes a vesting option for the 2014 season.

Pittsburgh had agreed to a $14 million, two-year contract with Liriano in December, pending a physical. But then Liriano got hurt, putting his status with the Pirates in jeopardy.

General manager Neal Huntington wouldn’t get into specifics when he talked last month about the nature of the injury, saying only that the team remained in contact with Liriano.

Liriano is 53-54 with a 4.40 ERA in seven major league seasons. He went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA in 2012 while splitting the season between the Twins and White Sox.

Nadal Wins in Singles & Doubles at the Chilean Open

The King of Clay is putting his sore left knee to the test; and he’s winning…

Rafael Nadal competed in a pair of matches on Friday, defeating his fellow countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-1, 6-4 to reach the semifinals at the Chilean Open and advancing in doubles at the tournament as well.

Rafael Nadal

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis star, back on the tour after a seven-month hiatus due to his knee injury, partnered with Argentina’s Juan Monaco to register a 6-3, 6-4 win against Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer of the Argentina.

Nadal’s two victories meant he’d played five matches in four days. And while his knee is still hurting, Nadal feels it’s making progress.

“I felt better today than the first day, so that’s a positive thing,” said Nadal. “That’s a thing that gives me confidence and hope for the future that we’re going in the right way. After seven months out of competition, even if I don’t have the pain in the knee, at the beginning you feel slower, you feel more tired than usual so you need time to adapt. That’s the thing. I need time to do it. I still feel pain in the knee some days and that’s something we hope and think will be improving week by week.”

Nadal will play Jeremy Chardy of France in the singles semifinals Saturday. If he advances, he’ll next face another busy day on Sunday with a singles final and the doubles championship against Paolo Lorenzi and Potito Starace of Italy.

Nadal’s is hoping to get back to the top of his game to challenge the tennis’ fellow superstars: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

He took the court Friday with temperatures hovering around 85 degrees in the middle to the South American summer. He is likely to encounter similar temperatures when he plays next week in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and later this month in Acapulco, Mexico.

Nadal, who plays next week in Brazil, and later this month in Mexico,said he’s not focusing on the results while he uses the upcoming clay-court events to hone his game. But hisfans expect the King of Clay — he has won 93 percent of his singles matches on the surface — to win all three tournaments and show he’s ready to challenge for a record-stretching eighth French Open title in May.

Messi Extends His Contract with FC Barcelona Through 2018

Lionel Messi isn’t planning to leave Spain anytime soon…

The 25-year-old Argentine soccer star, who won his record-breaking fourth consecutive Ballon d’Or, signed a contract extension Thursday that will keep him with FC Barcelona until June 30, 2018, the team announced on its website.

Lionel Messi

Messi, whose contract wasn’t due to expire until June 2016, decided to add two more years to his contract with the La Liga powerhouse..

Barça has enjoyed one of the best runs of success in team history, including two UEFA Champions League titles and three Spanish league crowns, since Messi became a regular starter in the 2006-07 season.

Messi, meanwhile, has ridden his great chemistry with fellow FC Barcelona superstars like  Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez to award-winning results.

The deal had already been reached in mid-December but an official signing ceremony was held Thursday afternoon and attended by FC Barcelona’s president, Sandro Rosell.

Last month, Barça stars Xavi and defenseman Carles Puyol signed two-year and three-year contract extensions, respectively.

Messi enrolled in Barça’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut as a member of the club’s first team three years later in a friendly match against Portuguese-league club Porto.

Nadal Wins First Match at Chilean Open in Return to Competitive Tennis

Rafael Nadal is back in winning form…

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Chilean Open in his return to competitive tennis after a seven month hiatus due to an injured left knee.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, ranked No. 1 in the tournament despite his long absence, is hoping to get back into the swing of things before the French Open, where he’ll attempt to win his eighth French Open title.

“For me, Roland Garros (French Open) is light years away,” he said. “All I see is doubles tomorrow and my singles again here on Friday.”

Nadal only won one point on clay in the first two games against Delbonis. But sfter falling behind 0-2, he broke back in the fourth game to tie it at 2-2, racing to chase down several shots in a long rally and showing no fear of re-injuring his knee. He was in control after that, wrapping up the set in 47 minutes.

Nadal breezed through the second set, cheered on by a sellout crowd of 4,500. The temporary stadium for the tournament has been increased by 1,200 seats for fans to see one of the sport’s biggest stars, playing for the first time in Chile.

The former No. 1 again faced questions about his knee after the match, despite saying Tuesday he was tired of talking about it.

“I have to be sure the knee answers well after a long time without playing at the top level of our sport,” he said. “If the recovery goes well and I am able to play week by week at 100 percent, and I am able to practice every day as much as I want — and that happens quick — then we’ll talk about ambitious objectives.”

If not, Nadal said he would have to rethink his game, and probably his knee treatment. So far he has avoided surgery.

“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll talk about different goals,” Nadal said. “Let’s see how things improve in the next couple of months, in the next couple of weeks. Let’s talk in a few weeks, in a few months.”

Nadal said he is playing with some discomfort, and his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, said it would continue until the end of the month.

Nadal has fallen behind his main rivals — Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — and now will be scrutinized as he attempts to win his eighth French Open, which starts in late May.

Nogueira Defeats Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Rashad Evans

Don’t ever count out Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

In a bout that was expected to bring some clarity to the UFC’s light-heavyweight division, the 36-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist – considered a heavy underdog – earned a unanimous decision victory over former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira & Rashad Evans

Nogueira (21-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) controlled the match with superior striking and wrestling defense, and all three judges scored the bout 29-28.

Nogueira entered the bout after a 14-month layoff, and Evans after a 10-month layoff.

Neither fighter clearly took any round, so the scorecards proved to be a crapshoot. In the end, though, the judges sided with Nogueira via 29-28 scores.

The victory marked Nogueira’s second straight win.

Evans (17-3-1 MMA, 12-3-1 UFC), meanwhile, suffers the first back-to-back losses of his career and faces a long road back to the title shot.

Aldo Retains UFC Featherweight Champion Title

Make that 15-straight for José Aldo

The 26-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist defeated Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 156 over the weekend to retain his featherweight champion title.

Jose Aldo

Aldo used his precise striking and effective leg kicks to counter the constant pressure from the former lightweight champion, winning a unanimous decision for his 15th consecutive victory.

“I’m very happy and I don’t plan to lose my belt any time soon,” said Aldo through a translator after beinh hailed the winner.

Aldo looked solid in the first three rounds, controlling the fight and landing the more significant strikes. Edgar pressed forward in the final two periods, trying to spark a change in momentum, but the Brazilian champion was too elusive.

The judges’ scores were 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 in favor of Aldo, who improved to 22-1. Edgar fell to 15-4-1.

“It was a very difficult fight,” said Aldo. “Frankie is a very dangerous fighter and I had to take it step by step.”

Aldo remains among the UFC’s top handful of pound-for-pound fighters despite a 13-month absence from the cage caused by a series of injuries. His kicks are among the most vicious in MMA, and his overall agility in the cage can be stunning to opponents and fans alike.

Edgar was trying to become the third UFC fighter to win a title in two different weight classes.

“It was a close fight, I keep finding myself in these positions,” he said. “I’m just going to go home and take some time to think about things.”

Valenzuela Inducted into Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame

Fernando Valenzuela has earned his place in the hall

The 52-year-old legendary Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitcher and current Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster will be inducted into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend during a ceremony at the Universidad Sonora as part of the Caribbean Series in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Fernando Valenzuela

Valenzuela, born in Sonora, is being honored for his Major League Baseball career and his Mexican league play. Like those at Cooperstown, the Caribbean winter league inductees are required to be named on 75 percent of the ballots. Valenzuela garnered 175 of a potential 200 points.

During his illustrious career, Valenzuela was named an MLB All-Star for six consecutive years (1981-1986), earned his World Series champion ring in 1981 and won the Gold Glove Award (1986). He was also a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner (1981, 1983), the 1981 National League Cy Young Award and was named the 1981 National League Rookie of the Year.

Fernando Valenzuela

Valenzuela made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1980 as a 19-year-old with an exceptional screwball and spent 17 years in the majors.

Valenzuela threw out the first pitch Friday in the new 16,000-seat Estadio Sonora ballpark before the opening game of the 2013 Caribbean World Series between Mexico’s Yaquis de Obregón and the Dominican Republic’s Leones del Escogido.

Parra Agrees to $1 Million Deal with the Cincinnati Reds

Manny Parra won’t be in the red with the Reds…

The 30-year-old Mexican American left-handed pitcher and the Cincinnati Reds have agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract.

Manny Parra

Parra had previously spent all five of his Major League Baseball seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. After missing 2011 with back and elbow injuries, he went 3-10 with a 5.06 ERA last year in 16 starts and 26 relief appearances.

Parra could earn an additional $400,000 in performance bonuses based on games pitched in relief: $50,000 each for 45 and 50, and $100,000 apiece for 55, 60 and 65.

To clear a roster spot, Cincinnati designated right-hander Todd Redmond for assignment.

In addition, the Reds agreed Friday to a minor league deal with catcher Miguel Olivo.

The 34-year-old Dominican baseball pro hit .222 with 12 RBIs in 315 at-bats last year for the Seattle Mariners, his second season with the team. He made his MLB debut with the Chicago White Sox; and he’s also played with the San Diego Padres, the Florida Marlins, the Kansas City Royals and the Colorado Rockies.