Around the Nation (Jan. 6): Indians sign free-agent RHP Atchison

Associated Press Published:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BASEBALL

Free agent RHP Scott Atchison agrees with Indians

CLEVELAND -- Free agent reliever Scott Atchison has agreed to a minor league contract with the Indians.

Atchison will report to major league spring training camp, where he'll have a chance to win a spot in Cleveland's bullpen. The 37-year-old appeared in 50 games for the Mets last season, interrupted by two trips to the disabled list. He became a free agent last month when New York failed to offer a 2014 contract.

The right-hander's best season was 2012, when he had a 1.42 ERA in 42 games for Boston. Atchison has a 10-10 record with one save and a 3.64 ERA in 205 major league appearances. He also has pitched for Seattle, San Francisco and Hanshin in Japan's Central League.

The Indians need help in the bullpen after losing Joe Smith and Matt Albers in free agency. They also released closer Chris Perez.

FOOTBALL

Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman fired

MIAMI -- Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has been fired, marking the first offseason change for a team that missed the playoffs because of a late-season collapse.

Owner Stephen Ross was expected to demand some sort of shakeup following the team's dismal finish. Sherman joined the Dolphins when Joe Philbin was hired as head coach two years ago.

Philbin announced the move in a statement Monday.

Sherman's unit ranked 27th this season in the NFL in yards, allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks and scored once in its final 24 possessions. The Dolphins (8-8) would have made the playoffs if they had won one of their final two games against the Bills and Jets. Instead, they were beaten by a combined score of 39-7.

Colts sign former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts signed former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch six days before playing his ex-team in the divisional round.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch caught 518 passes for 6,644 yards and 39 TDs over a career spent mostly with the New England Patriots. Branch also has 64 receptions for 948 yards and four TDs in 17 postseason games. He won two Super Bowls and was MVP during the Pats' third title run.

To make room, Indy (12-5) put starting cornerback Greg Toler and defensive end Fili Moala on injured reserve. The Colts promoted receiver Josh Lenz and defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad to the active roster. Toler has been dealing with a groin injury and left Saturday's 45-44 victory over the Chiefs after giving up two big plays.

NFL Wild Card games deliver big weekend numbers

NEW YORK -- The New Orleans Saints' 26-24 win against the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Saturday Wild Card game on NBC with 34.4 million viewers. The Indianapolis Colts' 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs had 27.6 million viewers.

NBC said Monday the average of 30.8 million viewers for the two games was an increase of 14 percent from last year's weekend.

On CBS, the San Diego-Cincinnati game was seen by 30.9 million, the highest viewership in 19 years for an early AFC Wild Card game.

Gruden, Franklin top Washington coach candidates

ASHBURN, Va. -- Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin are among the latest candidates for the Washington Redskins coaching job.

Gruden said Monday that the Redskins were among several teams to request permission from the Bengals for an interview.

Franklin is expected to interview with the Redskins this week. The team's interest in him was confirmed by John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that encourages the hiring of minorities in the NFL.

Others expected to draw interest from the Redskins include San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

The Redskins were scheduled to host New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Monday, making him the fifth known candidate to interview for the job.

Lions' coaching search hits a week with some clues

DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions have been officially looking for a coach for a week.

The candidates to replace Jim Schwartz include: San Diego Chargers offensive Ken Whisenhunt, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

A person with knowledge of the process tells The Associated Press that the Lions asked for permission to interview Gruden. The person -- who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't made information about the search public -- says Minnesota, Tennessee and Washington also asked to speak with Gruden.

The Lions interviewed Caldwell last week and have expressed in Whisenhunt to replace Schwartz, who was 29-51 in five years.

AUTO RACING

Hornish to drive Nationwide for Gibbs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sam Hornish Jr. will drive seven Nationwide Series races for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Hornish will share the No. 54 Toyota with Kyle Busch, who will drive the car in 26 races.

He moves to Gibbs after 10 years with Penske Racing. Hornish finished second in the Nationwide series championship race last season.

But Penske decided not to bring Hornish back this year, partly because of sponsorship issues and partly because the organization believed it was time for Hornish to move on to a Sprint Cup Series ride.

With very few open seats available, Hornish landed at JGR in the shared seat.

Hornish will drive at Talladega in May, both Iowa events, at Road America, Chicagoland, Mid-Ohio, and Kentucky in September.

NAPA tabs Elliot to race Nationwide

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chase Elliott will race for the Nationwide Series championship this season with JR Motorsports.

NAPA Auto Parts will sponsor Elliott, reversing its decision to leave NASCAR.

NAPA ended its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Martin Truex Jr. one year into a three-year contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing. NAPA's decision was fallout from MWR's September attempt to manipulate a race to get Truex into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Now the Atlanta-based company has decided to return for a 19th season in NASCAR to back the son of former Cup champion Bill Elliott. The Elliotts are from Dawsonville, Georgia, about an hour from NAPA headquarters.

Elliott will drive his father's trademark No. 9 for JRM, and will be paired with crew chief Greg Ives.

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