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After Eduardo Rodriguez’s departure, which free-agent starters could Red Sox be targeting?

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After Eduardo Rodriguez’s departure, which free-agent starters could Red Sox be targeting?

Eduardo Rodriguez is officially gone to Detroit, leaving the Red Sox without a pitcher who was a core member of their their starting rotation. So, where do they go from here?

Even without Rodriguez, if spring training started today, a reasonable five-man rotation could be projected. Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale are locks at the top of the staff. Nick Pivetta, who made 30 starts and tossed 155 innings, will be back. And Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock could fill the back of the rotation.

But it’s almost a certainty that the Red Sox will sign another starter in free agency. They were interested in bringing Rodriguez back, and without him, they lack starting depth. It’s not a certainty just yet that Whitlock will transition to the bullpen and their best starting options in the minors, including Connor Seabold, probably aren’t ready.

There are plenty of options available on the market, including some premier arms like Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray and Marcus Stroman. The Red Sox have money to spend, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom hasn’t been willing to splurge just yet in two years on the job. It’s more realistic to think he’ll go bargain hunting again for a mid-rotation starter.

Which pitchers could Bloom and the Red Sox target this winter? Here are some possible names:

RHP Alex Cobb: Bloom was in Tampa when the Rays took Cobb in the 2006 draft and worked in their player development department as the right-hander rose through the farm system, so there is some clear familiarity there. Traded from the Orioles to the Angels last winter, the veteran had a productive season despite missing six weeks with a right wrist injury, finishing with a 3.76 ERA across 93 1/3 innings, and a career-high 24.9% strikeout rate. Cobb seemed to renew himself a bit after three underwhelming seasons in Baltimore, so the Sox will certainly have to be cautious about how much stock to put into his 2021. But the 34-year-old — who’s originally from Boston — should command a reasonable multi-year deal.

LHP Steven Matz: It makes sense that the Red Sox would target a left-hander following Rodriguez’s departure — Sale is the only returning starting southpaw on their 40-man roster — and Matz could fit the bill. The 30-year-old did not receive a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays despite a bounce-back season in which he posted a 3.82 ERA, 3.79 FIP and 8.6 strikeouts per nine in 29 starts. He should command a contract somewhere in the vicinity of three years and $30 million, which is more than suitable for Bloom and the Red Sox.

LHP Alex Wood: The soon-to-be 31-year-old Wood has some recent injury history, which will likely drive down his price. But the left-hander proved to be a formidable rotation option for the National League West-winning Giants in 2021, with a 3.83 ERA, 3.48 FIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine across 138 2/3 innings. He’s just four years removed from a breakthrough All-Star season in 2017 with the Dodgers, so the ingredients are there. If he can remain healthy enough to give the Red Sox 150-plus innings, he could slot in well as a back-end starter.

RHP Anthony DeSclafani: Originally drafted by the Red Sox in 2008, DeSclafani could cost more than other mid-rotation arms after he produced his best major league season with the Giants — 3.17 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 152 strikeouts in 31 starts and 167 2/3 innings. He also showed great command with a 6.2% walk rate, which was among the best in baseball, so there’s plenty of value in the right-hander even if the Red Sox had to pay a little more. He’s projected to earn a multi-year deal at $11-$13 million per season.

RHP Jon Gray: The Rockies reportedly offered the 30-year-old Gray a three-year contract extension worth $35-40 million, but the right-hander rejected it and then, shockingly, Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt decided not to extend him a qualifying offer, making him a free agent. The contract he wanted Gray at is certainly a reasonable one for the Red Sox. The seven-year veteran — who has spent his entire career in Colorado — has a career 4.59 ERA, but teams may be inclined to think he would flourish away from the hitter’s friendly Coors Field. A No. 3 overall pick in 2013, some of Gray’s peripherals — fastball velocity, strikeout and walk rate that’s better than league average — suggest he could be a bargain.

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Timberwolves’ offensive outburst continues in shootout win over Brooklyn

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Timberwolves’ offensive outburst continues in shootout win over Brooklyn

The Timberwolves’ formula for success has shifted over the past couple weeks.

A team that used its defense to stay afloat amid offensive struggles for the first half of the season is slowly reverting back to the form it showed at the end of last season — all offense, few stops.

And when you have as much offensive talent as Minnesota possesses, that can be enough on a lot of nights, as it was Sunday.

The Timberwolves outscored Brooklyn 136-125 to win at Target Center.

Minnesota has the best offensive rating in the NBA since Jan. 3. It’s won games with offense and a high-degree of shot making. Sunday was no different.

Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points on four triples. D’Angelo Russell added 23 points and 10 assists.

Minnesota shot 52 percent from the floor, 44 percent from 3-point range and went 26 for 31 from the free-throw line.

That was more than enough firepower to stave off Brooklyn — another of the League’s top offenses. The Nets themselves shot 51 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep, led by 30 points from Kyrie Irving. The Wolves have had defensive slippage of late, but it’s been masked by their offensive aptitude.

Minnesota has scored 108-plus points in each of its last eight games. It’s gone over 119 points in six of those contests, and Sunday marked the third time it cleared 130 points in that stretch.

The offense that was so far behind the defense at the season’s outset — which Timberwolves coach Chris Finch has attributed to the shear amount of attention paid to the defense in training camp — has now caught up and passed the other end of the floor. The Wolves now more closely resemble the team everyone expected at the start of the season.

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Chiefs rally past Buffalo 42-36 in OT in wild playoff game

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Chiefs rally past Buffalo 42-36 in OT in wild playoff game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone early in overtime, and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills 42-36 on Sunday night in a sizzling finish to a wild divisional-round weekend.

The lead changed hands three times in the final two minutes of regulation before Harrison Butker, who earlier missed a field goal and extra point, drilled a 49-yarder for Kansas City as time expired to force overtime.

The Chiefs won the coin toss, marched swiftly downfield against the NFL’s top-ranked but exhausted defense, and right into their fourth straight AFC title game. They’ll play the Bengals next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl.

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

Most U.S. states should hit their omicron variant peak soon, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday as the Bay State and other New England states are already on the surge’s downslope.

In Massachusetts, the daily average of COVID-19 cases has dropped by 62% in recent weeks as the Boston-area coronavirus wastewater data has plunged — a signal that fewer cases are on the way.

Most states across the country should follow this trend soon, said Fauci, who is President Biden’s chief medical adviser, noting that most regions should reach an omicron peak by mid-February.

“Things are looking good,” Fauci said on ABC News “This Week.”

“We don’t want to get overconfident,” he added. “But they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”

Fauci said he’s “as confident as you can be” about that mid-February prediction.

“You never want to be overconfident when you’re dealing with this virus … because it has certainly surprised us in the past,” Fauci said.

“But if you look at the patterns that we have seen in South Africa, in the U.K., and in Israel, and … in the Northeast and New England and upper Midwest states, they have peaked and starting to come down rather sharply,” he said. “There are still some states in the southern states and western states that continue to go up.”

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