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Extras: Young Braves, Gagne-Kovalchuk, The Big Ten and “Big Ern”

Apr 20, 2010, 3:10 PM EDT

Atlanta_braves_logo Tommy Hanson takes the mound for the Braves tonight as they kick off their first series versus the Phils. Hanson went 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA as a rookie last season, but he was 0-2 in two starts against the Fightins, while allowing seven earned in just five innings of work. The kid knows his team needs more from him. “I’m ready to get back out there,” Hanson said. “Any time you face the Phillies, it’s a big game." [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

More on the Braves, who have another rookie lighting the world on fire this year. Jason Heyward, ranked the fifth best prospect in '09, is off to an explosive start in his Major League career. The 20-year-old right fielder is batting .302 with three home runs and 15 RBI's through his first 12 games, and his teammates are all throughly impressed. Eric Hinske even says, "He's the one." I suspect Heyward will soon be able to jump inside the baseball and destroy its very existence. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

With the Flyers series against the Devils set to continue tonight, Phil Sheridan explains that while Simon Gagne and Ilya Kovalchuk have both been frustrated on the scoreboard thus far, it's for entirely different reasons. Gagne, the top goal scorer versus Martin Brodeur in team history, has been getting plenty of opportunities that haven't found the net. I believe he's due. Kovalchuk, on the other hand, has disappointed with his lack of production and dumb penalties. Flyer defenders have really made things tough on the Devils' star. [Inquirer]

The Big Ten is planning to expand sometime in the near future, and it's going to do so with or without Notre Dame, which is why it's time for an ultimatum. Either the Irish join the conference now and reap the benefits of doing so, or the Big Ten moves forward and finds universities who will. 12-team majors are becoming the norm in college football, with the possibility of growing to 14 or 16 teams, and ND could be left out in the cold some day if they refuse to act on such an offer. [The Columbus Dispatch]

Ernie-sims Count Ray Didinger among those who are excited for the addition of Ernie Sims, calling him an "explosive tackler" who knocks ball-carriers backward. He's certainly in a position to improve the Eagles' run defense, and adding a sure-tackler into the mix probably can't hurt, but I'm always weary whether a linebacker can learn a new scheme. Sims has played his entire NFL career in the Cover-2 and drawn multiple comparisons to Derrick Brooks, a Cover-2 linebacker. Either way, it's a solid use of the 137th pick in the draft. [CSN]

Extra point: we should all be happy the Redskins are denying interest in Terrell Owens—for now at least. Owens is coming off a horrible season in Buffalo, and he's certainly lost a step, but he still has rare size and athleticism, and in the right situation he could thrive. That would certainly be Washington, catching passes from the quarterback with whom he had arguably the best season of his career. One wide receiver, particularly at 36-years-old, would not make them a Super Bowl contender, but they'd be much more dangerous than they are right this moment.