Thursday's Sports Briefs

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) Baseball's business season began when 121 players became free agents, a group that includes World Series champion San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval, Michael Morse, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong.

James Shields, Nori Aoki and Jason Frasor of AL champion Kansas City also were among the players who became free. Approximately 28 more players can become eligible, depending on contract options.

Top free-agent pitchers also include Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Among the top hitters are shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Nelson Cruz and designated hitter Victor Martinez.

The first big deadline is Monday, when teams must decide whether to make $15.3 million qualifying offers to their eligible players who became free agents. An offer can only be made to a free agent who was with the team for the entire season, and players have until Nov. 10 to accept.

Free agents can start discussing money with all teams starting Tuesday.

Rather than test the market, reliever Koji Uehara agreed to an $18 million, two-year contract to stay with the Boston Red Sox, a deal announced just a few hours after he had become free.

Center fielder Denard Span's $9 million option was exercised by Washington, which declined its half of first baseman Adam LaRoche's $15 million mutual option and reliever Rafael Soriano's $14 million club option.

Cincinnati exercised pitcher Johnny Cueto's $10 million option and declined a $9 million option on outfielder Ryan Ludwick and a $4 million option on infielder Jack Hannahan.

NEW YORK (AP) - An estimated 23.5 million people watched San Francisco's 3-2 win over Kansas City in Game 7 on Wednesday night, enabling the matchup to escape the distinction of least-watched World Series.

The Nielsen company said that more people watched the previous night's contest than any other World Series game since the 2011 Game 7 between St. Louis and Texas (25.4 million). It was 10 million more people than tuned in to any of the previous six games between the Giants and the Royals.

The series averaged 13.8 million viewers overall, second only to the Giants' four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 2012 as the series with the smallest audience.

PRO FOOTBALL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Carolina's Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy's domestic violence appeal trial set for Nov. 17 has been postponed until after the NFL season, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person said the new trial date has not been set. The person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced.

The change could signal the end of Hardy's season - and perhaps his career - with the Panthers.

The NFL and the Panthers have said Hardy would not play until after his trial was resolved, although he is still collecting more than $770,000 per week as Carolina's franchise player. Hardy will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and it is high unlikely the team will re-sign him.

The Panthers placed Hardy on the exempt-commissioner's permission list on Sept. 17 after he was convicted in July of assault on a female and communicating threats.

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts judge denied a request from former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez to move his trial in the fatal shooting of a semi-professional player to a different county.

Hernandez is charged in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiance. Lloyd's body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's home in North Attleborough.

In Fall River Superior Court, Hernandez's lawyer, Michael Fee, urged a judge to move the trial out of Bristol County, citing what he called ''sensational and inflammatory'' media coverage he said has prejudiced potential jurors against Hernandez.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The NFL asked a judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by former players who allege team officials gave them powerful painkillers and other drugs to keep them on the field without regard for their long-term health.

The NFL's lawyer argued that the league is not responsible for the medical decisions of its 32 teams. The lawyer also said that the issue should be addressed by the players union, which negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that covers player health.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup didn't indicate which way he would rule. He said he wanted to hear from the players union before making a decision on whether to toss out the lawsuit.

TENNIS

PARIS (AP) - Andy Murray clinched a spot in the ATP Finals, beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals in the Paris Masters.

Murray will face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, a 6-3, 7-6 (2) winner over Gael Monfils. Second-seeded Roger Federer kept the pressure on Djokovic in their battle for the year-end No. 1 spot, beating Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Milos Raonic.

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) - Garbine Muguruza moved a step closer to the semifinals in the season-ending WTA Tournament of Champions, beating Flavia Pennetta 0-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the group stage.

The seventh-seeded Spanish player is the only undefeated player in her Serdika group.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies will begin the season the same way they ended the last one - atop The Associated Press women's basketball poll.

Connecticut received all 35 votes, marking the 10th time that the Huskies have topped the preseason poll. Six of those years UConn went on to win the national championship.

UConn has won its last 46 games, including going 40-0 en route to a ninth national championship last April. South Carolina was second in the poll, followed by Notre Dame, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

GOLF

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Tom Pernice Jr. shot a 5-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer and three others in the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Pernice rebounded from a bogey on the par-3 17th with a birdie on the par-5 18th on Desert Mountain's Cochise Course. Langer won the Charles Schwab Cup points title last week in San Antonio.

Jay Haas, Kenny Perry and Joe Durant matched Langer at 66. Haas won two weeks ago in North Carolina to become the 18th player to win a Champions Tour event at 60 or older.

The top 30 on the money list qualified for the tournament.

COLLEGE

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The NCAA's Board of Directors delayed its first major vote under the new governance structure.

Rather than choosing members of the first big committee, the board asked conference leaders to submit a more diverse pool of candidates before the rescheduled vote within the next month. The committee, known as the Council, is scheduled to begin its work in January by selecting a chair person.

CYCLLING

AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) - Austrian rider Matthias Brandle broke cycling's hour record, covering a distance of 32 miles, 386 yards kilometers at the UCI Velodrome.

The 24-year-old Brandle, the Austrian time trial champion, broke Jens Voigt's mark by 811 yards.

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