Sports Briefs 1-16-14

TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer Published:

CLEVELAND -- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is asking Cleveland fans to be patient as he looks to replace the coach he fired after one season.

With criticism growing as the search drags on, Haslam sent a letter to fans Wednesday in which he explained the Browns' "methodical" hunt for a "strong coach."

Haslam fired Rob Chudzinski last month following a 4-12 season, forcing the Browns to look for their seventh full-time coach since 1999 and fourth in six years.

"We have purposefully been very methodical in our approach," Haslam said in the letter released by the team and posted on its website. "We believe it is very important to stay disciplined to this process and to interview all of the candidates on our list. We are strongly committed to finding the right person to coach the Cleveland Browns."

Buffalo confirmed Wednesday night that it had granted the Browns permission to interview Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

• Football

Johnson had surgeries: Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson recently had surgeries on his right knee and a finger.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters Wednesday that Johnson's knee surgery was a relatively minor arthroscopic procedure.

Vikings hire Zimmer: Mike Zimmer is finally a head coach in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings think now is the time for the veteran defensive coordinator.

The Vikings announced Wednesday night that they had hired Zimmer for their top coaching position.

• Baseball

Indians sign Outman: The Indians have avoided salary arbitration with reliever Josh Outman by signing him to a $1.25 million, one-year contract.

With Outman signed, the Indians still have five players eligible for arbitration. No. 1 starter Justin Masterson, left fielder Michael Brantley and pitchers Marc Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin filed paperwork on Tuesday.

Kershaw agrees to deal: Clayton Kershaw agreed Wednesday to a $215 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The deal makes the two-time Cy Young Award winner baseball's first player with a $30 million average salary.

Replay expansion: The head of the committee that developed Major League Baseball's plan to expand instant replay is optimistic the system will be in place this season, even though owners and unions for players and umpires have yet to approve.

• Elsewhere

Cavs fall: LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 18 rebounds, scoring nine straight points that pulled Portland in front in the final four minutes, and the Trail Blazers beat Cleveland, 108-96.

Luol Deng had 25 points for the Cavaliers while Kyrie Irving added 21.

NCAA proposal: The NCAA board of directors will propose giving the nation's most powerful conferences more autonomy over some legislative items and athletic directors a larger voice in a new governance structure.

Board Chairman Nathan Hatch told The Associated Press on Wednesday that there is a broad consensus that Division I should not be split up. Instead, the division wants to provide more flexibility to what the governing body calls high-resource institutions and conferences.

Sharapova wins: Soaked with sweat and clinging desperately for survival, Maria Sharapova was only a point from victory when Australian Open organizers finally decided that the searing heat was extreme enough to suspend matches.

She was serving at 5-4 in the third set against No. 44-ranked Karin Knapp on Thursday. But the reprieve wouldn't apply to the pair on Rod Laver Arena, because the long-delayed Extreme Heat Policy only kicks in at the end of sets in progress. It took another 50 minutes before Sharapova converted her fourth match point for a grueling 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 win.

Seeded winners included No. 1 Rafael Nadal, No. 6 Roger Federer and No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men's bracket and No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki in the women's.

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