White Sox

Bulls look to extend home winning streak vs. Philly

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Bulls look to extend home winning streak vs. Philly

Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 3:48 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Joakim Noah hit the nail on the head

"We feel like were never out of it," said the charismatic center, who recorded his first double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) since March 9 in Saturday's win at Milwaukee. "Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting.

"Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now."

From early in the season, the Bulls--their double-overtime win at Phoenix in November, for example--have played with a fierce determination that should have enlightened observers that this team would be a factor, if not a serious contender, this time of the year. Even in most of the team's disappointing losses, such as their last defeat, an overtime setback at Indiana, it wasn't a question of effort. And with a groundswell of support on the road--Saturday's game had so many Bulls faithful in attendance, you could substitute "United" for "Bradley" in the Bucks' home arena--that inner confidence the players have continues to grow.

"You get it from the crowd," explained Ronnie Brewer. "The crowd builds the energy. you go on the roadwe have a large following in any arena we got toyou get a defensive stop here, defensive stop there and you get an 'and-one' play from 'D-Rose' or him distributing the ball, you cant help but want to play hard and get back into the game."

Added Noah: "Its unbelievable. The love weve been getting on the road latelyI dont know what it isbut it really makes you feel like the peoples champ team.

A lot of that sentiment among fans, as well as the Bulls' fortitude, comes from their on-court leader, Derrick Rose. Unintentionally vying to be the youngest MVP in NBA history--his "I haven't done anything yet" remark postgame in Milwaukee, while showing the proper perspective, could very well be inaccurate in a month's time--the All-Star point guard's inspired play goes well beyond the nightly highlights upon which fans outside of Chicago base his popularity.

"Hes playing his best basketball since hes been here, hes playing with a lot of swag and we feed off that. When your star player is playing at that level, it just makes you want to go to bed early, eat right and do all the right things to get right for this final stretch. Its all about affecting winning and he does it in so many different ways," said Noah. "The way hes contesting shots now, with his passing ability. He understands the plays and knows exactly what he wants out of them. Hes an unbelievable scorer and its unbelievable at the end of the game, how composed he is out there."

Chimed in Brewer: "Sometimes you get bad habits because youre watching him instead of playing the game. So if he misses a shot, sometimes leak out and get back, and Thibs is on your back, but its amazing to watch some of the moves he makes, some of the shots that he makes. Even some of the passes that he makes to guys; hes not even looking them in the eye and finds them crosscourt right on a dime. Hes a blessing to play with and Im just glad hes on my team."

"A lot of people say hes a scoring guard, but you dont find many guys in the league who can have 17 assists and drop 30 points. Hes able to mix it up and take over a game whenever he wants to," he continued. "Theres not a point in the league who has the same athleticismand if there is, you can say a Russell Westbrook, but he doesnt do the things Derrick Rose doesand thats why I think hes one of the best point guards in this league."

Rose takes joy in creating opportunities for his teammates, perhaps more than scoring a boatload of points. His "just win" mentality has allowed him to embrace shouldering more of the scoring load as his career has progressed, but his background as a team-first player and pass-first point guard--his reputation as an elite high school prospect was forged as a result of his playmaking, not scoring--makes the times when he can pile up assist totals more gratifying.

"It makes me feel good. If anything, Im happy for my teammates. They were knocking down shots, making the right cuts and I was just trying to get them the ball," he told CSNChicago.com. "When youve got that going, everybodys playing hard and weve got confidence right now."

Coupled with his fierce competitiveness, that spells trouble for Bulls opponents, especially point guards, as the Chicago native prepares for a potentially deep postseason run.

"Theres no off time right now," Rose told CSNChicago.com. "If Im playing against you, Im definitely going to come at you."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”