AP Sports SummaryBrief at 6:15 p.m. EST


Russia’s sports exile persists 1 year after invading Ukraine

Russia’s reintegration into the world of sports one year after the invasion of Ukraine began threatens to create the biggest rift in the Olympic movement since the Cold War. Russia remains excluded from many international sporting events but that could soon change. Next year’s Paris Olympics are fast approaching and qualifying events are under way. The International Olympic Committee is working to bring athletes from Russia and ally Belarus back into competition but not everyone agrees. Ukraine and several of its allies say any return for Russia would be unacceptable. The IOC says excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes entirely would be discriminatory.

NBA teams get ready to make 4th-quarter push for playoffs

There are six teams in the NBA that look pretty comfortably in playoff position. There are four other teams that pretty much know they’re not going anywhere. That leaves 20 teams for the last 10 playoff spots. The NBA’s All-Star break ends Thursday night. And there’s only 28% of the season left, which means it’s time for teams to start really jostling for playoff position.

MLB curtails infield shift, hopes for more singles, speed

PHOENIX (AP) — One of MLB’s most visible rule changes for 2023 is a sizable curtailing of infield shifts. The practice had grown exponentially over the past several years and has been partially blamed for a steady league-wide decline in batting average. The new rule states that all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield — and two infielders must be on each side of second base — when the pitch is delivered. MLB has also mandated that the infield dirt cutout have uniform dimensions in all 30 ballparks. The outfield edge of the dirt must be 95 feet from the front of the pitching rubber.

PGA Tour money makes it tough on LIV players’ Ryder hopes

Players who joined Saudi-funded LIV Golf can still play in all the majors. That also includes the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America is the last organization to weigh in on criteria for its major. There was one tweak. Otherwise, the PGA Championship still wants the strongest field. But the Ryder Cup will be a tough road because of all the $20 million purses on the PGA Tour. PGA of America officer Kerry Haigh says a LIV player likely will have to win at least one major to have any chance of earning one of six automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Mets’ Beltrán won’t discuss role in Astros’ cheating scandal

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Carlos Beltrán refused to discuss his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, preferring to concentrate on his new role with the New York Mets. Beltrán was hired by the Mets in November 2019 to replace Mickey Callaway as manager. But the team announced Beltrán’s departure the following January without him managing a game. Beltrán’s departure was announced three days after he was the only Astros player mentioned by name in Major League Baseball’s report that concluded that Houston broke rules by using electronics to steal signs en route to the 2017 World Series title.

MLS says San Diego, Las Vegas top candidates for 30th team

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer hopes to pick a 30th team by the end of the year. MLS Commissioner Don Garber says San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely candidates. He mentioned Detroit; Phoenix; Sacramento, California; and Tampa, Florida, as other possibilities. St. Louis, the league’s 29th team, opens play Saturday at Austin. Garber did not rule out expanding beyond 30 teams.

Leafs pin hopes on O’Reilly to help end playoff frustrations

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Toronto Maple Leafs’ latest bid to end a near 20-year run of failing to get past the first round of the playoffs revolves around the addition of center Ryan O’Reilly being acquired in a trade with St. Louis. The move is already showing signs of paying off with the two-way veteran finding instant chemistry with his new linemates following a dominating outing in a 6-3 romp over the Buffalo Sabres. The challenge now for coach Sheldon Keefe is to continue building chemistry to prepare for what appears will be a first-round playoff meeting against Tampa Bay come April. It would be a rematch from last year, when the Maple Leafs blew a 3-2 series lead and were eliminated in the first round for a seventh consecutive playoff appearance.

Inconsistent Penguins scrambling as stretch run looms

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ run of 16 straight playoff appearances could be in jeopardy. Pittsburgh is on the outside of the NHL’s postseason picture looking in with seven weeks to go in the regular season. Injuries and erratic play have bedeviled the Penguins throughout the season. It’s unlikely a major shakeup is on the way, meaning Pittsburgh will have to find the answers from within. Captain Sidney Crosby says he’s encouraged by the team’s play and that the Penguins are close to turning things around.

Djokovic hopes to play in US despite being unvaccinated

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic says he has asked American authorities for special permission to enter the United States to play tennis tournaments in California and Florida despite being unvaccinated against the coronavirus. The Transportation Security Administration has said the requirement for foreign air travelers to be fully vaccinated against the disease would be in place at least until mid-April. The tournament in Indian Wells will be played from March 6-19 and the Miami Open is scheduled from March 20-April 2. The top-ranked Serb says “I have a big desire to be there.” Djokovic is one of the most high-profile athletes who is unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Alex Ovechkin returns to Capitals following death of father

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Alex Ovechkin has returned to the Washington Capitals after missing the past week for the death of his father in Moscow. Ovechkin practiced to get some of his conditioning back after flying to and from Russia and skating only once during his absence. He’s eager to get back on the ice while he and his family are still morning Mikhail Ovechkin’s death at age 71. Washington’s longtime captain and leading scorer could play as soon as Thursday against Anaheim. The Capitals went 0-4 without Ovechkin and have lost five in a row in regulation for the first time in nine years.