Playing first base isnt completely foreign to Tyler Flowers. He filled in twice at the position last year for the White Sox.The problem was, Flowers didnt even have a first-basemans glove when he was thrust into playing. So he borrowed one from Adam Dunn the first time, then got a loaner for Paul Konerko the next.At least this time Flowers will have his own glove. Flowers, Chicagos back-up catcher, makes his first start of the season -- and only third career -- at first base tonight when the Sox play Toronto in the second of a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.Im prepared, Flowers said regarding the glove. I got mine actually right when the season ended last year. The last thing you want to worry about is playing first base for the first time and then using someone elses glove. Im very comfortable with my glove.Flowers gets the start at first as Konerko remains out of the lineup with a bone chip in his left wrist. Its the same thing that kept Konerko off the field for a short stretch last season.Konerko underwent a procedure Tuesday at Rush University Medical Center to dislodge the chip from where it was resting in his wrist. The fragment remains inside Konerkos lower arm, but he needed another day of rest due to soreness from that procedure.The bone chip got me again, Konerko said. Now its just sore from having a couple needles stuck in there and a lot of fluid pumped in to try and get (the fragment) out of there. We felt pretty confident when we left (the hospital) that it was out. I could feel it wasnt restricting me anymore.Konerko said he expects to return to the lineup for the series finale against Toronto on Thursday, and no later than Fridays opener against Houston.The bone chip has been there for a few years, though Konerko said it has only become a problem these past two seasons. He said he intends to have offseason surgery to remove it, but chose against doing that after last season.At that point the fragment had been flushed to an area where Konerko and the medical staff figured it wouldnt be a problem anymore.The thinking was we kind of solved it, Konerko said. Somehow or another that wasnt the case. It came back in almost a year and a day later.In other injury news, left-hander John Danks is getting closer to returning from his left shoulder strain that put him on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 20. Danks threw in the bullpen for the third time since Friday.It went great, Danks said. This was leaps and bounds better from where we were. Threw all four pitches pain-free for strikes. Ready to go, man. Its been a long time.Danks expects to make a rehabilitation start in the minor leagues early next week, and could be ready to return to the Sox rotation sometime in the middle of the month, perhaps as early as the Dodgers series, which starts June 15 in Los Angeles.Meanwhile, outfielder Kosuke Fukodome remains out with an abdominal injury on his right side.Third baseman Brent Morel continues to rehab with Triple-A Charlotte. Morel is hitting .320 with a double and five runs scored in seven games. Sox manager Robin Ventura said he wasnt sure when Morel would return to Chicago.
MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”
In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.
The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.
The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.
And he saw it.
“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”
No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.
While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.
“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.
“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”
This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.
And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.
“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.
“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”
While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.
Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.
Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.
“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”
High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.
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