Thursday Sports in Brief

MLB

HOUSTON (AP) — The Astros have fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for directing inappropriate comments at female reporters following Houston’s pennant-winning victory over the New York Yankees.

The team released a statement Thursday that said Taubman’s conduct did not reflect the organization’s values “and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action.”

Taubman has previously apologized for using language that was “unprofessional and inappropriate” in the clubhouse following the victory. Sports Illustrated reported he repeatedly yelled toward a group of female reporters about closer Roberto Osuna, who was suspended for 75 games last year for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy before being traded from Toronto to the Astros.

Taubman shouted “Thank God we got Osuna!” according to SI, which said he made similar remarks several times, punctuating them with a profanity.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Phillies hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi to replace Gabe Kapler on Thursday. Girardi will be introduced at a news conference Monday.

Kapler was fired after an injury-depleted team went 81-81 despite significant offseason additions highlighted by Bryce Harper’s arrival. He was 161-163 in his two seasons. The Phillies also interviewed Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter.

Girardi led New York to its 27th World Series title, beating the Phillies in six games in 2009.

He succeeded replaced Joe Torre after the 2007 season and spent a decade in pinstripes. He also managed the Marlins one season and was NL Manager of the Year after going 78-84 in 2006. His record with the Yankees was 910-710, the sixth most wins in team history.

The 55-year-old Girardi hit .267 as a catcher for 15 seasons in the majors. He won three championships with the Yankees in the 1990s and was an All-Star for the Cubs in 2000.

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs have hired former catcher David Ross to replace Joe Maddon as their manager, hoping he can help them get back to the playoffs after missing out for the first since 2014.

The Cubs announced Thursday a three-year deal with Ross with a club option for the 2023 season.

Ross played the final two of his 15 major league seasons with the Cubs and was a revered leader on the 2016 team that won the World Series, ending a championship drought dating to 1908. He spent the past three years in Chicago’s front office and was widely viewed as a potential replacement for Maddon, who compiled a 471-339-1 record in five seasons.

Ross has no coaching or managing experience.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres are turning to another rookie manager as they try to bridge the difficult gap between rebuilding and contending.

The Padres have hired Jayce Tingler from the Texas Rangers to take over a team that has missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons and hasn’t had a winning record in nine years, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The person spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the hiring hasn’t been announced.

Another person familiar with the process said the team is still finalizing a contract with Tingler, 38. An introductory news conference won’t be held until next week, after the World Series ends.

Tingler has most recently been on the Rangers’ coaching staff as major league player development field coordinator, working with outfielders and baserunners.

—By AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he is planning to attend the World Series on Sunday if it goes to a fifth game.

The president confirmed his plans Thursday while presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Roger Penske, a businessman and founder of one of the world’s most successful motorsports teams.

The Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros are playing, with the fifth game scheduled for Sunday in Washington. The Nationals lead the series 2-0 and could conceivably win it before Sunday’s game.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Big league umpire Rob Drake has apologized for sending a politicized tweet this week that referenced an assault weapon and criticism of President Donald Trump.

Drake unlocked his Twitter account on Thursday and posted several messages to say he was sorry.

A day earlier, before Washington played at Houston in Game 2 of the World Series, commissioner Rob Manfred said Major League Baseball would investigate Drake’s comments.

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

NFL

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Washington quarterback Case Keenum left the Redskins’ game at Minnesota because of a concussion.

The Redskins made the announcement about Keenum, just as the second half started Thursday night. He was sacked by nose tackle Linval Joseph on his second-to-last play, a second-down fumble late in the second quarter that Washington recovered at the Minnesota 12. Keenum threw an incompletion on the next play, and the Redskins kicked a field goal.

Because the Vikings kept the ball for the remainder of the first half, there was no clear sign that Keenum was woozy until rookie Dwayne Haskins Jr. entered on the first series of the third quarter.

The Vikings beat the Redskins 19-9.

NBA

NEW YORK (AP) — Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has been suspended for 25 games without pay by the NBA for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for a diuretic.

The NBA announced the suspension Thursday night.

The first overall pick last year out of Arizona, Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds as a rookie. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night in the Suns’ season-opening home victory over Denver.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The University of Louisville Athletic Association will pay Papa John’s founder John Schnatter $9.5 million over 5½ years in a settlement to terminate the pizza chain’s naming rights to Cardinal Stadium.

The school last year removed the Papa John’s name and logo from the 60,800-seat stadium amid fallout from a report that Schnatter used a racial slur during a company conference call.

Some Cardinal players had also called for its removal. ULAA and the Board of Trustees approved the agreement Thursday that will immediately pay Schnatter $1.5 million with four subsequent annual payments of $2 million every July.

Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra said the settlement allows the school to reclaim and resell naming rights to help pay the remaining installments.

MMA

MOSCOW (AP) — Conor McGregor will return to mixed martial arts in January with a UFC fight in Las Vegas.

The Irish fighter said Thursday he will return “fully focused” on Jan. 18 at the T-Mobile Arena.

The 31-year-old McGregor hasn’t fought since losing by submission to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. He was banned for six months and fined $50,000 for his part in a post-fight brawl.

McGregor said he is targeting two more fights, including a rematch with Nurmagomedov in Moscow. He also aimed a string of insults at the Russian fighter.

After the Jan. 18 fight, McGregor said he would then like to fight the winner of the Nov. 3 bout between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal, followed by either Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson.

SLED DOG RACING

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has joined a new global partnership billed as the World Series of long-distance sled dog racing and aimed at bringing more fans to the cold-weather sport.

The Iditarod has teamed up with Norway pet food supplement company and series creator, Aker BioMarine, and other races in Minnesota, Norway and Russia for the inaugural QRILL Pet Arctic World Series, or QPAWS, next year.

Logistics were still being worked out, but the series will use a joint point system over a still-undetermined time frame, GPS tracking and an online platform to follow the racing teams. Talks with potential broadcast outlets also are under way, organizers say.

SPORTS BUSINESS

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence took a swipe at Nike and the NBA on Thursday in a speech criticizing communist China’s record on trade and human rights, saying American corporations have been too willing to ignore censorship and repression in pursuit of profits.

Pence singled out the shoe company for removing Houston Rockets merchandise from stores in China after the team’s general manager angered the Chinese government with a tweet supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The NBA was acting like a “wholly owned subsidiary” of China’s “authoritarian regime” for failing to stand up to the government’s criticism of Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, he said.

“Nike promotes itself as a so-called ‘social-justice champion,’ but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” the vice president said in a speech laying out the Trump administration’s approach to China.