HESTER SIGNS WITH THE FALCONS: The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with return specialist Devin Hester.
The team announced the deal Thursday. The 31-year-old Hester is a three-time Pro-Bowler who last year tied an NFL record with his 19th scoring return in eight seasons with the Bears. Coming off a dismal 4-12 season, the Falcons are hoping he can bolster a unit that ranked 28th in the league in kickoff return yards and 21st in punt return yards.
Hester has scored on 13 punt returns, five kickoff returns and off a missed field goal. In 2013, he led the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,436) and total return yards (1,692).
In addition, Hester has 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career.
CHAPMAN RECOVERS FROM GETTING HIT BY LINE DRIVE: Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was undergoing surgery Thursday to repair a broken bone above his left eye but has no other serious injuries after being hit in the face by a line drive in a spring training game.
Team medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek said Chapman could begin throwing off a mound in six to eight weeks, a timetable that could get him back in games in late May. The left-hander with a fastball that has reached 105 mph could start exercising and throwing on flat ground in a couple of weeks, Kremchek said.
The doctor called Chapman "a very lucky guy."
Kremchek said a metal plate will be inserted in the bone above Chapman's left eyebrow, with perhaps a bone graft as well, and will remain there permanently. Chapman has a very mild concussion but no other brain injury and no injury to his eye, Kremchek said.
"He's feeling better and he has some pain management. We're optimistic that he is going to be on the mend," Reds manager Bryan Price said after meeting with players Thursday morning at the team's spring training facility. "Obviously, we'll stay in touch. We will make sure we follow the process as we continue to get familiar with the injury itself. We will let him know how much support he has and that we care about him. Hopefully, we will see him here very soon."
BLACKHAWKS SIGN CAREY: The Blackhawks have agreed to a two-year contract with free agent forward Matt Carey.
The 22-year-old Carey had 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games this season as a freshman at St. Lawrence University.
MARINERS SHUT OUT SAMARDZIJA, CUBS: Robinson Cano had two more hits and Erasmo Ramirez pitched four-hit ball for six innings, enhancing his chance of earning a spot in the Mariners' rotation and helping Seattle beat the Cubs 3-0.
Ramirez, who has a 0.96 ERA, struck out four without allowing a walk. He hit one batter. Cano was 2 for 3 to raise his average to .567.
Valpo grad Jeff Samardzija, in his next-to-last spring outing before his opening-day start for the Cubs, gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Another Cactus League attendance record was set at Cubs Park with an overflow crowd of 15,191.
CUBS TRADE GRETZKY'S SON TO ANGELS: The Los Angeles Angels and Cubs included a pair of big names in a minor league trade.
The Angels dealt first baseman Matt Scioscia, the son of manager Mike Scioscia, to the Cubs on Thursday for outfielder Trevor Gretzky, the son of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
The Cubs selected Gretzky in the seventh round of the 2011 amateur draft; the younger Scioscia was picked in the 45th round the same year out of Notre Dame.
Scioscia, 25, has hit .222 with three home runs and 46 RBIs in three minor league seasons, never advancing past Class A. He batted .194 with three clubs last year.
Gretzky, 21, hit a combined .274 with a home run and eight RBIs in 2013 for Class A Boise and Kane County last year.
SSC STAYS ALIVE IN NATIONALS: South Suburban College used a 21-8 advantage in bench scoring to beat Lake Michigan College, 74-71, in Thursday's losers bracket of the NJCAA Div. II National Championship in Danville.
Charles Knowles led the Bulldogs (29-6) with 14 points, Jalen Brown added 13 and Anthony Strickland 10.
SSC plays Garrett College at 1 p.m. today.
VALPARAISO SWEPT IN HORIZON LEAGUE OPENER: Valparaiso lost all of its singles matches in straight sets and were swept 7-0 in its Horizon League opener by Illinois-Chicago. Paige Heuer (Munster) lost 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3.