Bears

Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

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Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Earlier this week, Mike Trout had a chance to meet Al Kaline, the Hall of Famer who played for the Detroit Tigers and won a batting title in 1955 when he was 20 years old. After another four-hit night, Trout looks like he's on his way to a similar feat. Trout raised his American League-leading average to .355 on Tuesday night with the fourth four-hit game of his spectacular rookie season. His 430-foot shot in the second inning was the second of five Los Angeles homers, and the Angels went on to rout the Tigers 13-0. Trout, who turns 21 next month, said he met Kaline on Monday. "My mom lived in Michigan. She was a big fan of him growing up," Trout said. "That was pretty neat meeting him." Trout, Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols all homered off Jacob Turner in the first two innings, and Alberto Callaspo and Kendrys Morales went deep later in the game. The Tigers were shut out for the first time in 159 games, a franchise-record streak that began last July 17 -- exactly a year earlier to the day. Garrett Richards (3-1) allowed three hits in seven innings, easily outdueling Turner (0-1) in a matchup of top pitching prospects. The Detroit right-hander lasted only two innings, giving up seven runs and six hits on a 100-degree night. "Jacob is a potential top-of-the-rotation guy who just needs more seasoning," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I still expect to see him high in a rotation someday, but he's not ready yet." The Angels lead the major leagues with 14 shutouts. Pujols opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first, and Trumbo followed with his 26th homer of the year, a three-run shot. Trout's two-run homer in the second was the most impressive -- an opposite-field drive to right-center that made it 6-0. "It felt good off the bat," Trout said. "I was running pretty hard, because it's a big park." Pujols added a solo shot in the second. Trout now has 100 hits this season in 69 games. He entered the day with a 20-point lead over Joe Mauer in the AL batting race. Pujols and Howard Kendrick had three hits each. Trumbo has six homers in his last eight games. Detroit needed to send Turner to the mound because of an injury to fellow rookie Drew Smyly. Leyland talked a bit before the game about the challenges young pitchers face when they have to learn on the job at the major league level. The 21-year-old Turner was recalled from the minors before the game to make his fifth career start, and he was in trouble from the beginning in a game that began amid triple-digit heat. Trumbo's homer went an estimated 415 feet to left. Trout's was even longer, landing in the outfield seats and bouncing up onto a concourse above Sparky Anderson's retired No. 11. Trumbo playfully disputed the estimated distances of the homers, which put Trout's farther than his by 15 feet. "That didn't go farther," he said. "Conspiracy. League-wide conspiracy. You've got to hit it to the middle of the field, I'm convinced now." Pujols' homer was the 461st of his career, tying Chipper Jones for 33rd on the career list. The Angels put their leadoff man on in each of the first six innings. Morales drove in another run in the sixth with a single, and Callaspo's three-run homer later that inning made it 11-0. In the bottom half, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hit a line drive to right, but Torii Hunter made a diving catch. Richards, who is three years older than Turner, walked four but pitched comfortably with a big lead. Morales hit a solo homer in the eighth, and Peter Bourjos hit an RBI double in the ninth. NOTES: Detroit's Doug Fister (3-6) takes the mound against C.J. Wilson (9-5) of the Angels on Wednesday night. ... Angels RHP Dan Haren (lower back stiffness) made a rehab start Monday night, pitching five innings for Class A Inland Empire. OF Vernon Wells (right thumb surgery) is expected to start a rehab assignment this weekend. ... Trout's homer was his 13th of the year. Pujols' was his 16th. ... Detroit's Austin Jackson had his streak of 13 games with a run snapped. ... Detroit's last game without a run was last July 16, a 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”