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Orioles bring up Asencio, designate Jurrjens

BALTIMORE – The Baltimore Orioles selected the contract of right-handed reliever Jairo Asencio and designated pitcher Jair Jurrjens for assignment.

Asencio had 20 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 34 games with Triple-A Norfolk. The 30-year-old broke into the majors with Atlanta in 2009 and has also pitched for Cleveland and the Cubs.

Manager Buck Showalter said the Orioles want to see if Asencio can provide bullpen help now and after the July 31 trade deadline.

Jurrjens was removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Asencio. Jurrjens appeared in two games with Baltimore but has been pitching for Norfolk this month.


Braves hope Heyward can avoid disabled list

ATLANTA – Braves outfielder Jason Heyward said his strained right hamstring feels better and he’s hoping to avoid the disabled list.

Heyward left Thursday night’s game against the Reds after hurting the hamstring while running the bases and was not starting in last night’s game.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the All-Star break could help Heyward avoid the 15-day disabled list “if he keeps getting better.” If Heyward is held out this weekend, he would have a full week off before the Braves resume play after the break at the Chicago White Sox on July 19.


Cowboys release FB Vickers as focus shifts to TE

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys released fullback Lawrence Vickers, not a surprising move considering their recent emphasis on an offense with two tight ends.

The move announced yesterday came after Vickers had back surgery following the season and worked only on the side during offseason practices.

Dallas is unlikely to carry a fullback on the roster after loading up on tight ends behind Jason Witten. The Cowboys drafted Gavin Escobar in the second round and signed veteran Dante Rosario. Second-year player James Hanna is also in the mix.

The 30-year-old Vickers played in all 16 games in his only season in Dallas, finishing with three carries for 11 yards and 13 catches for 104 yards. He had two tackles on special teams.


Ex-Bear Zorich gets probation in tax case

CHICAGO – A now-broke former Chicago Bear has been sentenced to three years of probation for failing to file federal income tax returns over several years.

Chris Zorich told the court before the federal judge in Chicago announced the sentence yesterday that he was “very sorry” for his actions.

The 44-year-old Chicago native was on Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team and went on to play defensive tackle for the Bears from 1991 to 1996.

Guidelines called for a prison sentence of between 10 and 16 months. Defense lawyers cited Zorich’s charity work in requesting probation. The judge cited his “otherwise exemplary life.”

Zorich had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to file income tax returns from 2006 to 2009. Over that time he made from than $1 million.


LSU’s Hill pleads guilty to misdemeanor battery

BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU running back Jeremy Hill remained out of jail after the Tigers’ top rusher from last season pleaded guilty yesterday to a misdemeanor battery charge in connection with a late-April fight outside a bar.

His legal problems are not over, though, and his college football future remains in doubt.

Hill, who was already on probation at the time of his most recent arrest, entered his latest plea in state district court in Baton Rouge and received a six-month suspended sentence and two years of probation. Afterward, District Attorney Hillar Moore said he would file a motion to revoke Hill’s earlier probation, which he received following his January 2012 guilty plea to a misdemeanor stemming from his sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl at his high school.

Moore said it will be up to state District Judge Bonnie Jackson, who handled Hill’s earlier case, to decide whether the running back should serve his first suspended six-month sentence, or remain on probation under conditions the judge sees fit and possibly return to the Tigers.

Coach Les Miles, who suspended Hill after the bar fight, was not immediately available for comment.


Franchitti wins pole at Toronto

TORONTO – Dario Franchitti won the pole for the first of two weekend races through the streets of Toronto.

Franchitti is coming off his first podium finish of the year Sunday at Pocono and hoped to use some momentum at Toronto. But he had a small crash in the morning practice session yesterday, and his Target Chip Ganassi crew had to hustle to repair his car in time for qualifying.

He responded with three flawless qualifying sessions to take the top starting spot in today’s race.

Sebastien Bourdais was second, followed by Will Power, Tony Kanaan, James Jakes and Scott Dixon.


Isner advances in Newport by beating Karlovic

NEWPORT, R.I. – Two-time defending champion John Isner won the battle of the tallest players on the ATP tour, defeating Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3), yesterday to advance to the semifinals of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

In the other quarterfinal match, No. 4 seed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia beat qualifier Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, setting up a rematch up of last year final when Isner captured the title in straight sets.

The second-seeded Isner, listed at 6-foot-9, served 23 aces, including three in each of the tiebreaks. The 6-foot-10 Karlovic had 14 aces, but double faulted on the match’s final point.

Karlovic played his first ATP tournament since being sidelined with spinal meningitis from late April to early May.


Romanians Halep, Cadantu to meet in Hungarian GP

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Simona Halep defeated Hungary’s Timea Babos, 7-5, 6-1, yesterday to set up an all-Romanian semifinal against Alexandra Cadantu at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Halep won three consecutive games to close out the first set at the Romai Tennis Academy after Babos failed to convert any of her four set points while leading 5-4.

Cadantu beat Shahar Peer of Israel, 6-0, 7-5.

The other semifinal will match South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers against Austria’s Yvonne Meusburger. Scheepers defeated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (5), while Meusburger knocked out Annika Beck of Germany, 6-4, 6-1.


Errani, Vinci through to semifinals in Palermo

PALERMO, Sicily – Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the top two seeds, cruised into the semifinals of the Italiacom Open yesterday.

No. 1 Errani, who won the tournament in 2008 and 2012, beat seventh-seeded Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, 6-4, 6-0. No. 2 Vinci won, 6-1, 6-4, over fifth-seeded Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Errani next faces fourth-seeded Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic. Zakopalova ended Dinah Pfizenmaier’s impressive tournament, beating the German, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1.

Vinci plays another Spaniard after Estrella Cabeza Candela – ranked 108th in the world – beat Renata Voracova, 7-5, 6-4.


Top seeds Berdych, Almagro lose at Swedish Open

BASTAD, Sweden – The top two seeds – Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro – were knocked out in the Swedish Open quarterfinals yesterday.

Unseeded Thiemo De Bakker of the Netherlands beat No. 1 Berdych, 7-5, 7-5, while No. 2 Almagro was defeated by Spanish compatriot Fernando Verdasco, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

In the third quarterfinal upset, fifth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria defeated third-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina, 6-3, 6-2.

Carlos Berlocq of Argentina beat Albert Ramos of Spain, 6-3, 6-4, to set up a semifinal against De Bakker.

Verdasco will face Dimitrov in today’s other semi.

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