Rodgers’ side return to the Potteries this Sunday just three months on from their 6-1 capitulation on the final day of the 2014-15 season, a loss which rounded off a dismal run-in for the five-time European Cup winners. New Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson recently revealed he is still haunted by the memories of the club’s heaviest reverse in 52 years, but they will get a chance to exact a measure of revenge in their first contest of the new campaign. Hughes acknowledges lightning is unlikely to strike twice when they host Rodgers’ new-look outfit again and believes the thrashing they administered will serve as motivation. “I don’t think there’s too many of us that feel what happened in that game will be repeated,” the Welshman said. “We’d like to think it would be but Liverpool will have a lot to say about it. “At the beginning of the season expectations are always high for everybody and no less so from a club the stature of Liverpool. “They’ll be wanting to address that, it was certainly a blot on their copybook. “I’ve heard their players talk about how they want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. The reverse of that is obviously we’ll have something to say about that as well. “We’re hoping for a positive start to what we hope is going to be a very successful season.” The jaw-dropping manner of Liverpool’s loss, coupled with Steven Gerrard’s departure, meant Stoke’s feat of finishing ninth with a best ever Premier League points tally was pushed down the list of events to emerge that afternoon. Press Association Hughes has presided over two ninth-placed finishes since arriving at the helm and now wants to take the next step by bringing European football back to the Britannia Stadium. The Potters played in the Europa League under Tony Pulis four seasons ago after reaching the FA Cup final and Hughes does not believe achieving qualification for a continental competition is beyond his current players. He added: ” We look to improve year on year, we’ve been able to do that and we want that to continue. “If we are able to continue in the same vein then that would bring Europe into view. We’re not frightened by that prospect. “This club had a great experience the last time we were in Europe. We’d like to replicate that if we can. “I’m of the view that if we keep progressing – and with the talent and ability we’ve been able to add to the group – I think we can go close.” Stoke boss Mark Hughes is braced for a Liverpool backlash at the Britannia Stadium as Brendan Rodgers’ men make an immediate return to the venue of one of their most embarrassing defeats.
“I’m not positive what we’ll do,” Friedman said. “We’ll take these six weeks to figure it out.”Ellis re-framing skillsCatcher A.J. Ellis said he worked specifically with a Milwaukee-area catching coach, Marcus Hanel, to improve his pitch-framing skills over the winter. According to one list, Ellis ranked 99th out of 104 major league catchers last year in gaining or losing strike calls via pitch framing.“I worked on stances, different ways to set up,” he said. “It’s no secret somewhere I’ve struggled, based on the statistical information, is framing metrics. … Hopefully I can turn that from a weakness into a strength.” Of course, the pressure on Ellis to maintain a spot in the lineup goes beyond framing pitches. He slashed .191/.323./.254 last season and missed significant time with an injury to the meniscus of his left knee. Ellis said that staying healthy and maintaining his focus at the plate are just as important as improving his pitch-framing skills. But considering that new teammate Yasmani Grandal ranked sixth out of 104 catchers on the same list, Ellis realizes he has some catching up to do.“We have to accept it,” he said of the framing statistics, “because baseball people are making decisions about which guys they want to target, which guys they want to have.”Greinke mum on contractPitcher Zack Greinke said he doesn’t plan to announce whether or not he’ll opt out of his contract before the end of this season. Greinke is owed a base salary of $24 million in 2015, $23 million in 2017 and $24 million in 2018 — likely below market value if Greinke has another standout season. The veteran says he’s open to re-negotiating a multiyear extension before the end of the season, but the team hasn’t broached that possibility yet.“Everyone’s always open to signing a contract if the contract is right,” he said.AlsoFriedman said that he’ll leave the daily lineup decisions to Mattingly. “Obviously the lineup is Donnie’s call,” Friedman said. “It should be.” … Brett Anderson, who finished last season on the disabled list following back surgery, is on track to have a healthy spring. The left-hander said he’s thrown off a mound “four or five” times already and used all his pitches. … Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Scott Schebler, O’Koyea Dickson and non-roster invitee Matt Carson were among the position players who reported to camp early. GLENDALE, Ariz. — All of the Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on time Thursday with one big exception: a 6-foot-5 pitcher who used to be a catcher.Kenley Jansen had surgery to remove a growth from a bone in his left foot Tuesday in Los Angeles. He is expected to begin the season on the disabled list and miss up to the first month. Jansen certainly wasn’t going to be walking much this week; apparently he isn’t ready to fly, either.In Jansen’s absence, a question lingered: Who will begin the season as the Dodgers’ closer?“I don’t feel it needs to be one guy,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It could be a number of guys. I think each situation you come into in the eighth, the seventh, the ninth, who’s coming up to bat really a lot of times makes the decision who’s best for that spot.” Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said that the team’s active trade talks are currently focused exclusively on relief pitching. With every team scattered predictably across Arizona and Florida, Friedman said his scouts will be “out smothering the other 29 teams and figuring out what the best configuration is as we break camp.”That attitude suggests the Dodgers are more likely to obtain a reliever via the trade market than free agency — if they obtain someone at all. Veteran right-handers Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano, both of whom closed for playoff-contending teams last year, are still available to sign.But signing an established — and likely expensive — pitcher to close for only one month doesn’t jell with Friedman’s philosophy on relief pitchers. To him, Rodriguez and Soriano’s combined 555 career saves are about as revealing as a 555 area code.“Most guys, what they’ve done last year and the previous few years is pretty indicative of what they’ll do in the next year,” Friedman said. “Relievers, it’s certainly not the case.”Friedman portrayed no sense of urgency to bring someone into camp, a bluff, perhaps, but maybe an eagerness to see the fruits of his labor building a roster the last four months. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error