Blackhawks

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Thursday Dec. 16, 2010
Posted: 1 p.m.

Tennessee AA
The Smokies announced that former major leaguer Brian Harper will be the teams manager for the 2011 season. Joining Harper on next years staff will be pitching coach Marty Mason, hitting coach Mariano Duncan and athletic trainer Nick Frangella.

Harper arrives to the Smokies after leading the San Francisco Giants Class A San Jose Giants to the 2010 California League Championship. He also spent two years in the Giants organization as its roving minor league catching instructor (2008-09). Prior to this time with the Giants, he was in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheims minor league system, managing its rookie league team in the Arizona League (2001-05) and the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees (2006-07).

Harpers major league career spanned from 1979-95 and included a World Series appearance with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and World Series championship with Minnesota Twins in 1991. He hit .295 in 1,001 big league games and caught behind the plate for a total of seven teams.

Mason comes over from the Cardinals, where hes spent the last 25 years coaching. Prior to his most recent stint as the teams major league bullpen coach (2000-10), Mason coached in the Cardinals minor league system at Advanced-A St. Petersburg (1986-87, 1989), A-Savannah (1988), AA-Arkansas (1990-96), AAA-Louisville (1997) and AAA-Memphis (1998-99). He played in both the New York Yankees and Cardinals minor league systems from 1980-86.

Duncan has been in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization the past eight years, most recently as the teams first base coach since 2006. He also coached at AAA-Las Vegas (2005), AA-Jacksonville (2004) and for the teams rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League in 2003. Duncan is a 12-year major league veteran infielder (1985-97) and was a member of two World Series championship teams, the 1990 Cincinnati Reds and 1996 New York Yankees.

Athletic trainer Nick Frangella will return for a fourth season with the Smokies in 2011, his sixth overall in the Cubs' minor league system.

All three members of the Smokies 2010 staff will remain within the Cubs organization. Manager Bill Dancy will manage the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, while coaches Dennis Lewallyn and Tom Beyers have been promoted to minor league pitching coordinator and hitting coordinator, respectively.

Peoria A
The Peoria Chiefs announced the 2011 Chiefs field staff, which includes a pair of familiar faces. Manager Casey Kopitzke returns for a second season after leading the Chiefs to a 71-66 record in 2010. He will be joined by pitching coach Jeff Fassero, a Springfield, IL native and a former Cubs reliever, hitting coach Ricardo Medina who was with the Chiefs in 2005 and athletic trainer A.J. Larson.

We are excited to have Casey return to the Chiefs staff for 2011, said Chiefs President Rocky Vonachen. He did an outstanding job with a very young Chiefs team in 2010 and we are happy to welcome him and his family back to Central Illinois for another season. Its also exciting to have a Central Illinois native and former Cub hurler on our staff in Jeff Fassero and Ricardo Medina was a great Chiefs player in the early 1990s and was on our first staff back with the Cubs in 2005. Overall this is a great staff and we are looking forward to the start of the 2011 season.

Kopitzke, 32, has spent 12 seasons in the Cubs organization as a player, coach and manager. He led the Chiefs to a 71-66 overall record in 2010 with a third place finish in the first half. Under Kopitzkes leadership the Chiefs had the third best batting average in the Midwest League last season with a .266 mark.

This off-season he managed the Mesa Solar Sox in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Before joining the Chiefs, Kopitzke made his managerial debut in 2009 going 34-42 with the Boise Hawks of the Short Season-A Northwest League. Before managing the Hawks in 2009, Kopitzke served as the Cubs roving catching coordinator from 2007-2008 and made numerous stops in Peoria and other venues around the Midwest League to work with Chiefs catchers and hitters.

Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kopitzke was drafted by the Cubs in the 27th round in 1999 out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. A graduate of East DePere High School in Wisconsin, Kopitzke earned a bachelors degree in criminal justice from UW-Oshkosh in 2001. He and his wife Erin currently live in DePere, Wisconsin with a newborn son. He began his pro career as a catcher with Eugene in the Northwest League in 1999.

Kopitzke spent the 2000 season in the Midwest League with the Lansing Lugnuts hitting .224 with 22 RBI in 68 games. The following year he moved up to the Florida State League and hit .240 for Daytona. Kopitzke spent the 2002 and 2003 seasons with Double-A West Tennessee in the Southern League. In 2002 he hit .221 and in 2003 batted a career-best .261. He caught for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2004 hitting .215 with a homer and 17 RBI before going back to West Tennessee for the 2005 season. Kopitzke retired after the 2006 campaign in which he hit .239 in 30 games for Iowa.

Overall Kopitzke played in 495 Minor League games hitting .230 with two homers, 44 doubles, 122 RBI. He was known as a defensive catcher committing just 11 errors in 2,057 chances between 2002 and 2006.

Pitching coach Jeff Fassero is very familiar with Central Illinois having grown up in Springfield where he played high school and college baseball before embarking on a 16-year Major League career as a left-handed pitcher. The 37-year old is a 1981 graduate of Griffin High School in Springfield and he pitched two seasons at Lincoln Land Community College before transferring to the University of Mississippi. A 22nd round draft pick in the 1984 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Fassero pitched in the Midwest League with his hometown Springfield Cardinals in 1985 with a 4-8 record in 29 games. After reaching Triple-A with the Cardinals, Fassero was signed by the Montreal Expos as a free agent and he made his MLB debut in 1991. Fassero pitched six seasons with Montreal, mostly as a starter going 58-48. He was traded to Seattle after the 1996 season and went 33-35 in three years as a starter for the Mariners.

After making 23 starts for Boston in 2000, Fassero signed with the Cubs for the 2001 season and made 82 bullpen appearances, a franchise record for a left-handed pitcher. He was 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA, 12 saves and 25 holds. The following season Fassero was 5-6 with a 6.18 ERA in 57 outings before he was traded in August to the St. Louis Cardinals for two players to be named later. Both players ended up being former Chiefs in Jason Karnuth and Jared Blasdell. Fassero went 1-7 in 62 outings for the Cardinals in 2003 before making 12 starts in 40 games for the Colorado Rockies in 2004. Fassero finished his 16-year career with the San Francisco Giants making 48 appearances in 2005 and 10 more in 2006.

Overall he was 121-124 with a 4.11 ERA in 720 career outings for nine different teams. Fassero made 242 starts with 17 complete games and 25 saves. In 1996 he finished ninth in the National League Cy Young Award voting after going 15-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 34 starts for the Montreal Expos. He pitched in the playoffs with Seattle in 1997, Texas in 1999 and St. Louis in 2002 with a career 1.46 ERA in the post-season. Of his six post-season appearances, one was a start, a dominating win over Baltimore in the 1997 ALDS in which he allowed just one run on three hits over eight innings. He picked up two relief wins in the 2002 NLDS against Arizona without allowing an earned run. The 2011 season makes the second as a coach for Fassero in the Cubs organization as he worked on the Boise Hawks staff last season with a team ERA of 4.43.

Ricardo Medina returns to the Chiefs for the second time as a hitting coach, having served in the same position on Julio Garcias staff in 2005. In that return to the Cubs organization in 2005, Medina worked with future Major Leaguers Sam Fuld, Eric Patterson and Lou Montanez while also helping Ryan Harvey to a 24 home-run season. A 39-year-old native of Panama, Medina signed with the Cubs in 1989 and played in Peoria as a first and third baseman from 1991 to 1993. He finished his playing career with Advanced-A Daytona in 1994 and worked as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. As a player with the Chiefs, Medina hit .302 in 1991, .263 in 1992 and .254 in 1993. He had a career .991 fielding percentage at first base and collected 27 doubles in the 1992 season with 120 hits and 67 RBI in 125 games.

Medina is in the top 20 on the Chiefs career lists in RBI, at-bats, games played, plate appearances, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and walks. For the Cubs he has worked as a hitting coach with Mesa from 1999-2003, in Boise in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and he managed the Mesa team to a 27-29 record in 2007. Medina has also worked as a coach with the Panama National Team in numerous international tournaments including Olympic qualifiers, the World Cup and the World Baseball Classic.

Iowa AAA
The Cubs announced Bill Dancy has been named manager of the Iowa Cubs for the 2011 season. Dancy ranks fourth among active Minor League Managers in wins with 1,604 total victories.

Dancy, 59, spent last season managing the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He led Tennessee to Division titles in both the first and second half. The Smokies posted an 86-53 (.619) record, the best in the Southern League. The Florida native was also named the Double-A Southern League Manager of the Year.

Dancys managerial career began in 1979 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization at Class-A Spartanburg. He then managed at Peninsula (A, 1980-82), Reading (AA, 1983-84, 1988, 1994-95), Portland (AAA, 1985-86), Maine (AAA, 1987), ScrantonWilkes-Barre (AAA, 1989-91) and Clearwater (A, 1992-93, 1998-99). Dancy left the Phillies organization for two years to manage the Class AAA Richmond Braves (1996-97). He led Peninsula, Clearwater and Reading to league championships in 1980, 1983 and 1995 respectively, and has a 22-year minor league managerial career record of 1,604-1,467 (.522).

Dancy will be Iowas 17th manager since their affiliation with the Cubs began in 1981. He replaces Ryne Sandberg, now with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

In 2000 Dancy left managing to become an infield coordinator for the Phillies, and then served as the teams field coordinator from 2001-2004. After two years as the Phillies third base coach (2005-06), he was the teams field coordinator in 2007 and 2008. He spent 2009 in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Joining Dancy with Iowa are returning members Pitching Coach Mike Mason, Hitting Coach Von Joshua and Athletic Trainer Matt Johnson.

Mason begins his fourth season as pitching coach of the Iowa Cubs. It is his fourth year in the Cubs organization as he served as the Kansas City Royals minor league pitching coordinator in 2007 and as their Minor League Pitching Instructor for three seasons before that.

Joshua will return to the Iowa Cubs for his sixth year as hitting coach and his ninth year with the organization. Joshua is in his 28th season as a hitting coach in professional baseball. Joshua was named the Chicago Cubs hitting coach on June 14, 2009, replacing Gerald Perry.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

blackhawks_jackets_usa.jpg
USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”