Reds sign Cuban RHP Iglesias to 7-year contract

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Cincinnati Reds are hoping for more success with a Cuban pitcher.

The team signed right-hander Raisel Iglesias to a seven-year contract Friday. Several media outlets reported the deal is worth $27 million.

The 24-year-old Iglesias will join the Reds organization once his visa problems are resolved.

Iglesias defected from Cuba in November, two months after a failed attempt in Mexico. He held a workout in Haiti for major league scouts.

Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty suggested Iglesias will begin his Reds career at the club’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic before being sent to the Arizona Rookie League.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, with two quality breaking pitches, a curveball and power slider, and has the makings of a quality changeup,” Jocketty said. “Our scouts feel he can be a starter and be a starter very soon. The more pitching we can acquire, the more flexibility it gives us going forward.”

The Reds won a bidding war to land their current closer, Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman, who signed a $30.25 million, six-year deal in 2010.

“The decision was based on the evaluation of our scouts, the same group of guys who went to see Chapman,” Jocketty said. “I guarantee you we saw him pitch more than any other club. I have tremendous respect and appreciation for the evaluation of our scouts. They’re hard-working and very diligent.

“It was a great organizational effort to get this done,” he said. “We’re very excited about it.”

Iglesias pitched for Isla de la Juventud in Cuba’s National Series for three years, compiling an 8-12 record with a 3.47 ERA over 88 appearances, all but five in relief.

He also pitched for the Cuban national team and appeared in the World Baseball Classic last year for Cuba.

Jocketty said Iglesias, a converted shortstop, can throw the ball up to 96 mph.

Detroit Tigers closer Joe Nathan began his professional career as a shortstop in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Manziel: ‘I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong’

BEREA (AP) – Johnny’s gonna play and Johnny’s gonna party.

Tired of scrutiny about how he spends his weekends away from football and drained by the spotlight that follows him, Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel said he has no plans to tone down his lifestyle.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong,” he said.

Speaking at a PLAY 60 event with other AFC rookies, Manziel said he’s been bothered by recent criticism about his behavior.

Since being drafted by the Browns in the first round in May, Manziel’s weekend adventures – hanging out poolside with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in Las Vegas, photographed on a swan raft while drinking champagne, shown in a video talking into a stack of money as if it were a phone – have added to the legend of Johnny Football.

Manziel understands it may not be a good look, but he’s not a party animal.

“I’m going out,” he said. “Everybody goes out on the weekends and enjoys their life and lives their life. And just for them, they don’t have people that when they walk into a place pull out their phones and all they want to do is follow me around and record everything. My situation is unique and different and now more than ever I’ve seen that it’s an every weekend thing wherever I’m at – whether it’s in Cleveland on a weekend, or in Dallas or anywhere on a weekend, people want to record what I’m doing because they think it’s a story.

“Everybody goes out and has fun. Everybody goes out and does that and I’m not doing anything that’s putting myself in a harmful situation.”

In the past few days, Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana and Warren Moon have all said Manziel should focus on his playing career, and it might help if he curtailed some of the other stuff.

Manziel respects the opinions of the legends, but says some of the media reports about him have been distorted.

“Just what’s getting out on social media doesn’t mean that’s all I’m doing in my life,” he said. “Just my weekends aren’t what I’m doing, seven days a week. That’s two days out of the week and there’s five to six other days when I’m here at this building going through my playbook and working out just like every other rookie, so nothing that I’m doing on the weekends is affecting my job.”

Manziel spent the morning throwing touchdown passes to wide-eyed youngsters, who were thrilled to be around him. Manziel greeted each with a high-five or handshake and “What’s up?” As they put the kids through some drills, the Browns’ other rookies enjoyed giving Manziel a hard time about his celebrity.

“Which one of us is Johnny Manziel?” linebacker Chris Kirksey asked one group.

Manziel said the endless attention on him has made things tougher for teammates, who have been asked for their take on all things Johnny.

“They’re tired of that,” he said. “They’re tired of the hype. I’m tired of it as well. I want to wake up one week and not have my name going through something and I’m working on getting better at that. But if I want to go home and spend time with my friends or go out on my weekends, I absolutely have the right to do that.”

Browns coach Mike Pettine has said the team will not intervene with Manziel – or any of Cleveland’s players – as long as they’re not involved in criminal activity and it’s not affecting their work.

Wie a shot off lead at NW Arkansas Championship

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) – Michelle Wie didn’t let a little thing like a hectic national media tour slow the momentum following her U.S. Women’s Open victory last week at Pinehurst.

The former prodigy continued her resurgence on the LPGA Tour on Friday, shooting a 5-under 66 to finish a stroke behind leader Alena Sharp after the first round of the NW Arkansas Championship.

Wie spent much of her week leading into the tournament busy on the national morning television circuit, only arriving at Pinnacle Country Club on Thursday.

Following a practice round and 12 hours of much-needed sleep, the most recognizable name on the LPGA Tour shot a bogey-free 66 on the 6,375 yard layout – closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th and upstaging local favorite Stacy Lewis.

“Definitely running on fumes right now,” Wie said. “… I think it definitely struck me on the back nine, a little bit tired, but I just was really excited to get out here and start playing again.”

New York was fun, but it’s just fun to get back to playing golf.”

Sharp, the Canadian ranked 234th in the world, had only 27 putts in her opening 65, while Mexico’s Alejandra Llaneza matched Wie with a bogey-free 66.

The top-ranked Stacy Lewis, who played at the nearby University of Arkansas, was 2 over after four holes before recovering to finish with a 70.

Ten players, including major champions So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng, shot 67.

Sharp entered this week having missed the cut in six of her 11 LPGA Tour events this year, though she did win the Symetra Tour’s season-opening event in Arizona in February.

The Canadian entered the week 137th on the LPGA Tour with an average of 31.34 putts per round, but she credited a recently putting lesson for Friday’s improvement.

“I’m trusting it more and just trying to relax,” Sharp said. “It’s been a part of my game that hasn’t been the greatest this year. I’ve hit a lot of greens and not making a lot of birdies, so today was definitely a step in the right direction.”

While Sharp controlled the leaderboard following the morning group, Wie overcame windy conditions to post the best round of the afternoon – closing with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

She closed with a birdie on the par-5 18th and needed only 28 putts in her first round since earning her first major championship at Pinehurst.

Wie, who was 64th on the LPGA Tour money list in 2012 and 41st last year, has yet to miss a cut this year and leads the money list with nearly $1.6 million.

“I just feel comfortable out there, and I’m trying to keep improving a little bit every day and still working on a lot of things,” Wie said.

Lewis earned an unofficial win in the rain-shortened event as an amateur in 2007, but the Texas native, who finished second to Wie in the Women’s Open, struggled early on Friday – much to the dismay of her large pro-Razorbacks gallery.

She was 2 over after four holes, thanks to a missed 4-foot par putt on No. 2 and a bogey from the greenside bunker on No. 4.

Lewis recovered with three birdies to finish 1 under, but she needed 31 putts on her way to settling for a tie for 43rd.

“It’s always hard playing here,” Lewis said. “People, I don’t think they realize how hard it is. There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s hard to not put too much pressure on yourself.”

European Solheim Cup star Caroline Hedwall also was in the group at 67 along with Jennifer Rosales, Moriya Jutanugarn, Emma Jandel, Gerina Piller, Ji Young Oh, Pornanong Phatlum and Paz Echeverria.