Sports Briefs 3-20-13

JANIE McCAULEY AP Sports Writer Published:

SAN FRANCISCO -- When new 49ers kicker Phil Dawson explained to his children he might no longer have uniform No. 4, one of his sons quickly suggested he go with 8. Dawson explained that, too, might be tough -- considering it belonged to Hall of Famer Steve Young.

But the Super Bowl runner-up 49ers found their man to replace David Akers, signing the veteran Browns free agent to a one-year contract Tuesday after he spent the day at team headquarters.

The 38-year-old Dawson went 29 for 31 on field goals last season in his 14th year with the Browns, making all 13 of his attempts from 40 yards or beyond, including 7 for 7 from 50-plus. He is the ninth-most accurate field-goal kicker (84.0 percent) in league history. His signing with San Francisco ends a 14-year odyssey in Cleveland, where he became one of the Browns' most popular players, a team leader, and holder of many franchise records.

• Baseball

Shutout in finals: Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominican Republic capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the World Baseball Classic with a 3-0 win against Puerto Rico for the championship. Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back winner Samuel Deduno, and the demonstrative Dominican righty threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.

Billingsley scratched: The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig went 4 for 4 with a two-run home and a triple for the Dodgers in a 7-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. Puig is hitting .500, a startling 23 for 46. Right-hander Chad Billingsley was scratched from his start because he bruised his right index finger in a bunting drill Friday.

Fister slammed: Luke Scott hit a grand slam off Tigers starter Doug Fister to lead the Rays to an 11-5 win on Tuesday, raising his spring batting average to .375. Fister saw his earned run average rise to 7.36 after allowing seven runs - two earned - in 32⁄3 innings. Devon Travis homered for the Tigers, and Austin Jackson and Jhonny Peralta each had two hits.

Reds blast Danks: Chris Heisey and Jay Bruce hit consecutive home runs and the Cincinnati Reds tagged John Danks and the Chicago White Sox 10-6 Tuesday. Brandon Phillips singled twice in his first game since returning to the Reds from the WBC.

• Football

Rule changes: NFL owners have passed two rule changes to enhance player safety. The owners outlawed peel-back blocks anywhere on the field; previously, they were illegal only inside the tackle box. A player makes a peel-back block when he is moving toward his goal line, approaches an opponent from behind or the side, and makes contact below the waist. Also banned is overloading a formation while attempting to block a field goal or extra point. Defensive teams can now have only six or less players on each side of the snapper at the line of scrimmage.

Leaving the Irish: Quarterback Gunner Kiel is leaving Notre Dame without ever playing a down. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday that the former standout from Columbus, Ind., who was one of the top-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school a year ago, plans to transfer. He was the scout team quarterback his freshman season as the Irish went 12-1.

• Elsewhere

Prize money up: After a year of closed-door meetings with tennis players seeking a greater say in the sport and a larger slice of Grand Slam revenues, the U.S. Open is ready to make big changes.

The U.S. Open will increase its annual prize money to $50 million by 2017 -- roughly double what it was last year -- and permanently schedule the men's tennis semifinals on Friday and men's final on Sunday as of 2015.

Change revealed: The two conferences growing out of the old Big East are moving forward. Butler, Creighton and Xavier will join the so-called Catholic 7 schools in the new basketball conference keeping the Big East name, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement will not take place until Wednesday, when it will be made in conjunction with a news conference on the league's broadcast deal with Fox. Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul left to form a new league for next season.

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