Brian D. Kersey(MESA, Ariz.) -- Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant has arguably been the best player in the Major Leagues during spring training. Despite the dominance he's shown at the plate, he's still expected to start the season in the minors.
Bryant is leading all Major League players this season with nine home runs while also hitting .406 and has 15 RBIs.
"I look at it as 'Why not me?' " Bryant said Friday morning. "I think I'm the type of guy that can go out there and do it. I've made it a point of mine to come out here and show them that I can."
This has not come at of nowhere as Bryant is regarded as one of the best minor league prospects in all of baseball. Which could be why the team could ultimately decide to keep him in the minors, for now.
If Bryant makes the Cubs' Opening Day roster, he'll be a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Cubs keep him in the minors till at least mid-April, he won't be eligible for free agency till after the 2021 season.
"I've never put a guy on an Opening Day roster who hadn't played in the big leagues previously. In 13 years, I've never done it," Epstein told ESPN. "I'm not saying I'd never do it, but the general rule, the presumption, is to allow those guys to go out, play, get comfortable, get in rhythm, and come up when you handpick just the right moment for them to have success."
In AA and AAA combined in 2014, Bryant hit .325 with 43 home runs and 110 RBIs.
National Football League(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Jonathan Martin has a new home as the Carolina Panthers have claimed him off waivers.
Martin was released by the 49ers this past Thursday. He spent just one season with the team, appearing in 15 games, starting nine at right tackle.
"Our goal is to build the strongest roster possible and add competition at every position," Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman said in a team release. "Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots.''
Martin was infamously the center of a bullying scandal when he was a member of the Miami Dolphins in 2013 by now Buffalo Bills guard Richie Incognito.
Because of the incident involving Incognito and other Dolphins players, Martin lef the Dolphins in October 2013 and never played them again.
As a result of claiming him off waivers, the Panthers are now on the hook for Martin's cap hit which will count around $1 million against the 2015 salary cap.
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images(SALT LAKE CITY) -- After spending the first 3 1/2 seasons with the Utah Jazz, center Enes Kanter is playing some of the best basketball of his career since being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kanter is thoroughly enjoying playing for a new team.
"I love it," Kanter said of his change of scenery. "It's a team I've never experienced before and I actually like playing basketball there. I'm just so comfortable and everything is in the right place. I'm just really happy to be there."
The number two overall pick by the Jazz back in 2011, Kanter played solid basketball, but never quite lived up to expectations. But with the Thunder, he's averaging a career-high 17.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, also a career-high.
"I think the difference is, I like playing basketball there," Kanter said. "I think that's the most important thing. I never liked playing basketball before in my NBA career and this is the first time I felt like playing basketball there, for my team, for the fans, for my teammates for my coaches, for everybody. So, that's the first time."
Kanter will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR(MARTINSVILLE, Va.) -- Joey Logano edged out Ryan Newman on Friday to win the pole at Martinsville Speedway for Sunday's Sprint Cup race.
Logano finished with a third round lap of 98.461 mph and took home his second pole of the season and tenth in his career.
"You win anything at Martinsville, it's a big deal," said Logano, who already won the Daytona 500 this year. "Nothing but good things happen from starting first."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at Martinsville for the first time in his career last October.
"We head to Martinsville," Earnhardt said on the "Dale Jr. Download" on Dirty Mo Radio this week. "We want to try to go down there and win another clock. I think we've got plenty of places we can put one around here so looking forward to this week."
Both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have eight career victories at one of NASCAR's smallest race tracks.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- The Duke Blue Devils (32-4) are headed back to another Elite Eight round after taking care of fifth-seeded Utah (26-9) 63-57 on Friday night.
Justise Winslow had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the win and head coach Mike Krzyzewski was proud of the entire team.
"This has been one of my favorite groups. They've been easy to coach and they really get along. There's only a good attitude, only a good attitude and a willingness to learn," Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes freshmen don't learn that until they're older. But these guys knew it from the beginning. That's why they've had a special year."
Duke will playing in their 20th regional final and 14th under Krzyzewski and will take on second-seeded Gonzaga on Sunday.
"He played phenomenal. He was outstanding. He was the best player on the floor," Duke center Jahlil Okafor said of Winslow's performance. "Maybe because he's in Houston or maybe because he's 19 now. It was fun to watch."
Utes guard Brandon Taylor scored 15 and forward Dallin Bachynski added 11 in the loss.
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) -- Tom Izzo has done it again. Michigan State (26-11) is back in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year after beating third-seeded Oklahoma (24-11) 62-58 on Friday night.
The seventh-seeded Spartans have won their last 11 of 14 games and can thank junior guard Denzel Valentine for guiding them past the Sooners with his 18-point effort.
"The first half, I felt like that was my first time playing basketball," Valentine said, who scored 13 in the second half. "But I just kind of snapped out of it. I was like, `I'm in Sweet 16, and we've got a chance to go to the Final 4. I'm a junior, what the heck.' I just smacked the ground and I woke up I guess."
Izzo will take on a familiar face in Rick Pitino and the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinal in the East final on Sunday.
"I get to work another day. I can't tell you how excited that makes me," Izzo said. "I'm just tickled to death to still be playing."
It was a great season for the Lon Kruger led Sooners, who were seeking their first trip to an Elite Eight matchup since 2009.
"Their defense definitely bothered us in the long run," Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas said. "They're tough. They got stops when they needed to and we didn't."
Thomas finished with 16 points in the loss. Sooners guard Buddy Hield added 21.
ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Shaquille O'Neal was inducted into the Orlando Magic's Hall of Fame Friday.
O'Neal was selected with the first pick of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Magic and played his first four seasons in Orlando. During that time, he led the Magic to a berth in the 1995 NBA Finals.
Shaq ultimately decided to leave Orlando for the bright lights of Los Angeles. While he won three titles with the Lakers, he still wonders if he should have ever left the home of Mickey Mouse.
"Do I regret it? I never fully answer it," O'Neal said of leaving Orlando. "I regret it sometimes. Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career."
O'Neal also believes that 1995 Finals team, which also featured Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson, could have returned to the NBA's biggest stage.
"That's why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team," O'Neal said. "We really did. And it's a shame that we got torn apart. But I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on 'ifs' or 'would've, should've,' but do I regret leaving here in '96, yes I do."
Robert Rogers/MLB Photos via Getty Images (DUNEDIN, Fla.) -- Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander left his spring training start against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday, with cramping in his right triceps.
Despite leaving the game in the third inning, the former American League MVP doesn't seem too concerned about the injury. He cites not drinking enough water and a tweak in his mechanics as being possible reasons for the cramping.
"I don't think I'm injured," Verlander said. "The only concern I have is if it would linger. Just felt crampy."
Verlander pitched 2 2/3 innings of one-hit ball before exiting.
"Not overly concerned," Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus said. "He said it felt like more of a cramp than a strain. It doesn't mean we're out of the woods. It's not as concerning of an area."