Monday Sports in Brief

BASEBALL

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Houston ace Justin Verlander has a mild strain of a back muscle and said it would “probably take a miracle” for him to pitch on opening day against the Los Angeles Angels.

In an effort to remain positive, Verlander quickly added, “but I don’t want to leave miracles off the table.”

The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner was hurt on his second-to-last pitch in Sunday’s exhibition game against the New York Mets. He had an MRI on Monday and was diagnosed with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle. There is no timetable for his return.

“Talking with doctors and looking at the scans, it’s definitely not worst-case scenario,” the Astros right-hander said. “Best-case scenario would be nothing. It’s just probably somewhere in the middle of that.”

The 37-year-old’s velocity was down from his previous start, and he was removed after two scoreless innings of what had been scheduled as a four-inning outing.

“Hardly noticed it to be honest,” Verlander said of the injury-inducing pitch. “It didn’t quite feel right, just felt maybe I was a little off mechanically or something — kind of one of those spring things. Then in between innings it started to tighten up a bit.”

WNBA

Maya Moore has always been known for hitting the big shot on the grandest stage. She just got the biggest assist of her career.

A judge on Monday overturned the 1997 burglary and assault convictions of a Missouri man whose case has been championed by the WNBA star to the point she stepped away from her career to help the family friend.

Cole County Judge Dan Green found the defense for Jonathon Irons provided enough evidence to prove he was wrongfully convicted, a decision first reported by the Jefferson City News-Tribune. He has been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16.

Moore called Irons after Monday’s court hearing. When he answered the phone, Moore and a group of supporters cheered to let him know the judge had ruled in his favor. Irons thanked his supporters and even broke into song at one point.

Some 23 years after the incident, Irons could be freed within 30 days of the judge’s order, unless the St. Charles County prosecutor’s office decides to retry him. The judge also stayed his order pending a review by the Missouri attorney general’s office, which could decide to appeal.

“It’s a surreal feeling, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Moore said in a telephone interview with the AP. “It will when he walks out those doors. It’s like we got to the Final Four, but still have some work left to do. I have mixed emotions as I’m elated it happened but the decision could have been made so much faster.”

The Minnesota Lynx star put her career on hold last season to help Irons. The four-time WNBA champion said last month she planned to sit out a second season and miss the Tokyo Olympics this summer. She told the AP those plans haven’t changed despite the court ruling.

GOLF

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The PGA Tour announced an expansive media rights deal that brings ESPN back into the fold with its streaming service, joining two networks as part of a package designed to deliver more video content and reach a broader audience.

For regular television, the nine-year deal that begins in 2022 looks the same.

Network coverage stays with CBS and NBC, with CBS getting roughly twice as many events, just like the current nine-year deal that ends next year. Golf Channel stays on as the cable partner providing weekday and early weekend coverage, along with fall events and a few tournaments at the start of the year.

The change is in digital, the first time the tour negotiated such rights. ESPN won the rights to “PGA Tour Live,” the popular subscription video service the tour began five years ago. It will have four live content channels, including the featured pairings that shows the entire round of star players.

The deal comes about 18 months after the PGA Tour signed a 12-year agreement with Discovery for direct-to-consumer content in international markets. With the domestic deal Monday, the tour now has partnerships with Comcast (NBC and Golf Channel), Viacomm (CBS), Disney (ESPN ) and Discovery (GolfTV).

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Marcus Zegarowski is doubtful for No. 7 Creighton’s first game in the Big East Tournament because of a right knee injury.

The school announced that the sophomore guard has a meniscus injury. The Bluejays’ next game is Thursday against Georgetown or St. John’s.

Zegarowski got hurt during Saturday’s 77-60 victory over Seton Hall and left the arena on crutches. He didn’t have crutches while attending practice Monday, but he walked with a noticeable limp.

Creighton (24-7) is the top seed in the conference tournament after finishing in a three-way tie for first place in the regular season.

Zegarowski scored 23 points and made all five of his 3-point attempts in the victory over the Pirates.

He has started 30 of 31 games and is second on the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game. He’s third in the Big East in 3-point shooting at 42.4%. He was named to the All-Big East second team on Sunday.

“Any time you take someone that has his fingerprints all over your team both on offense and defense and off the floor, it has an impact,” coach Greg McDermott said. “We haven’t played a lot with him or Mitch (Ballock) or Ty-Shon (Alexander) off the floor. If we have to play without him, obviously it’s going to be an adjustment.”