Preps Talk

Amdist lineup changes, Rizzo won't budge


Amdist lineup changes, Rizzo won't budge

With Starlin Castro entering his third year in the majors, Dale Sveum and the Cubs decided to place the young star in the No. 3 spot in the order in hopes he would stick there long-term.

It didn't work out as they had hoped and Castro was moved back to the two-hole on a regular basis, beginning a merry-go-round at the No. 3 spot on the lineup card.

Sveum tried Joe Mather for seven games, but the utilityman only mustered a .222 average and didn't drive in a single run. David DeJesus (.162 AVG in 11 games), Bryan LaHair (.489 OPS in four games) and Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 in his only game) didn't fare much better.

But with top prospect Anthony Rizzo's call-up this week, Sveum finally has his guy.

"He's our third hitter," Sveum said of Rizzo. "I don't see changing that in the future."

The first-year manager described his ideal No. 3 hitter and Rizzo currently fits the bill.

"One thing you want from your third hitter is some power and grinding for RBIs," Sveum said. "When guys get out there on base, he'll understand how to get them in...When you lead off with a single and a double and runners on second and third, he's mature enough to get 'em over and get RBIs in situations you don't want to falter in.

"You want a real solid guy that can do a lot of things. Obviously, home runs are nice, and average is nice. But those key RBIs in the first inning are the biggest of all to take the lead or tie the game. Those are a lot of key situations that come up for a third hitter over the course of 162 games."

In the first inning Friday, Rizzo came up with the bases empty, but worked a seven-pitch walk before he was stranded on third base on a LaHair ground out. He finished the contest 0-for-3 in his third game since his call-up.

LaHair, Rizzo's predecessor at first base before a move to the outfield, collected three singles in the win over the Astros to raise his average to .288 and OPS to .902. But the late bloomer may not see many at-bats during the rest of the series.

Houston is slated to send two lefties out to the mound over the weekend, with J.A. Happ first up on Saturday before Wandy Rodriguez goes on Sunday.

LaHair has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching, compiling a .086.200.171 slash line in 40 plate appearances so far this season. By contrast, he is hitting .320.396.604 against righties.

Despite those numbers, Sveum said he was entertaining the thought of leaving LaHair in against a left-handed starter here or there.

"You just have to see some results," Svuem said. "Unfortunately, the results just are not real competitive. But you do also need to give him a chance once in a while."

As for Rizzo, Sveum said the 22-year-old slugger was going to stay in the lineup against lefties for the foreseeable future. This weekend will be a good test for the potential franchise cornerstone.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball


Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.