Mar. 16 Sports Briefs

Minor league rules changed to speed up baseball games

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Extra innings throughout the minor leagues will start with a runner at second base. In addition, the pitch clock that began at Triple-A and Double-A in 2015 will be lowered from 20 seconds to 15 when there are no runners on base, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues said. The timer will remain at 20 seconds with runners on. Looking to speed up the pace of play, Major League Baseball had hoped to have a similar rule for spring training and starting in the 11th inning of the All-Star Game but was stymied by the Major League Baseball Players Association, which refused to agree. New limits on mound visits without pitching changes also will be added, the minor league governing body said.

Top-ranked Federer cruises into Paribas Open quarterfinals

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Roger Federer defeated Jeremy Chardy of France 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open, and at 15-0 the world's top-ranked men's player is off to his best start since 2006. The 36-year-old Swiss superstar can equal his seasonbest start of 16-0 with a win in the quarterfinals, where he will meet Chung Hyeon of South Korea in a rematch of their Australian Open semifinal. Federer advanced to the final in Melbourne when Chung retired in the second set trailing 6-1, 5-2 because of blisters on his left foot. Federer went on to win a five-set final against Marin Cilic for his 20th Grand Slam title. Chung, seeded 23rd at Indian Wells, beat 30th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-1, 6-3.

NASCAR: Lowe’s withdraws sponsorship for Johnson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Lowe's, one of the last remaining corporate giants in NASCAR, announced it will not sponsor seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson after this season, an ominous sign for the nation's top racing series. For Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports, it means the best NASCAR driver of his generation has a blank slate of "inventory" for the first time in nearly two decades.

Norwegian musher wins Iditarod sled dog race

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Joar Ulsom of Norway won the world's most famous sled dog race after a grueling dash across Alaska's rough terrain, but he earned tens of thousands of dollars less than last year's top musher at the struggling Iditarod. After nearly 1,000 miles, Ulsom and the eight dogs on his team came off the Bering Sea ice onto Nome's main street. He slapped hands with fans who lined the streets and went under the finish line at 3 a.m. local time. Ulsom's victory generated heavy media attention in Norway, a winter sports nation still basking in the glory of winning the most medals at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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