White Sox

Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

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Heisman winner could go pro after Alamo Bowl

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Since winning the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III is often shadowed by a bodyguard of sorts to dissuade autograph seekers, and this week tucked his dreadlocks under a hat in hopes of strolling through Sea World incognito. "I got a lot of double-takes," the Baylor quarterback said. "If you can get a double-take, you can walk far enough away to where they'll be discouraged to approach you. But it was cool. I didn't mind." Now it's a question of whether RG3 is about to give college football its last look at him altogether. The nation's most electrifying player leads No. 15 Baylor (9-3) into the Alamo Bowl against Washington (7-5) on Thursday night while keeping his decision about leaving for the NFL private for now. Griffin, who says he can't "go to Wendy's and get a cheeseburger without signing 1,000 autographs" since winning college football's top award, reiterated in San Antonio that he's undecided about forgoing his senior year. He said his parents are looking at his draft prospects but denies having any substantial talks with them. Baylor can hardly feel jilted if this is Griffin's last game. The fourth-year junior, who also won the Davey O'Brien Award and is the AP Player of the Year, has raised the program's profile to unseen heights. He rescued the Bears from their perennial status as the Big 12's punch line and has Baylor on a five-game winning streak, its longest in 20 years. A win against Washington would match the school record of 10 wins when Mike Singletary was a senior in 1980, and merely playing in back-to-back bowls is a first for Baylor in two decades. Simply put, it's been a magical season the school doesn't want to see end. Washington won't exactly say the same. The Huskies stumbled into a second consecutive bowl game dropping four of their last six and losing badly to all four ranked teams they played this season. That included Stanford and Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up to Griffin, who coasted in a 65-21 win that began Washington's second-half slide. Yet tailback Chris Polk and other seniors still vividly remember going 0-12 just four years ago under Tyrone Willingham. According to the school, Washington is the first BCS program to go from winless to back-to-back bowl appearances in three years since Central Florida in 2004. "I would have never imagined this," offensive lineman Senio Kelemte said. "It was pretty hard for all of us, the 0-12 season. I'm pretty sure a lot of guys didn't really want to play football anymore or wanted to transfer or just ... just football wasn't fun." The Huskies have a shot at an eight-win season for the first time since 2001, but it might be a long night against Baylor. The Huskies will put one of the nation's worst defenses against the Bears, whose offense was the second-best in the country. Baylor averaged more than 570 yards of offense a game behind Griffin, who threw for nearly for 3,998 yards with a Big 12-leading 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That made him the nation's most efficient passer. Baylor averaged 43 points a game. Washington's let opponents score an average of 33. "We've had a huge challenge this whole year playing against good offenses," Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. "This is good offense and the only difference this time is that we're playing against the best player in the country and a Heisman Trophy winner who has a great supporting cast." Anything else? "And, oh yeah," Holt added. "They run an up-tempo, no huddle offense and can score really quickly." Griffin is the first Heisman winner to play in a bowl game before New Year's Day since Ty Detmer led BYU to the Holiday Bowl in 1990. Two years later, Baylor won its last postseason game in the Sun Bowl. Ending that drought may be the last thing left for Griffin for do. "We know why we're here and we came to win our 10th game," Griffin said. "Washington just happens to be in the way."

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?

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USA TODAY

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.”