Big Ten

Hoyer knows Rizzo cant be the savior for Cubs

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Hoyer knows Rizzo cant be the savior for Cubs

Across the Twitter universe, the Anthony Rizzo to Wrigley Field rumors caught fire on Sunday night.

But that was just someone being overanxious and connecting the wrong dots on the official Iowa Cubs account. Rizzo left that Triple-A game with a sore right wrist after a swing and miss. He wasnt catching a flight to Chicago.

The initial X-rays in Memphis were negative, and the Cubs were still gathering information on Monday, describing the injury as nothing serious.

During their 12-game losing streak, the Cubs had been shut out twice, and only two times scored more than four runs. But at the moment, theyre not looking at Rizzo to generate a spark.

No young player should ever be viewed as the savior or the changer of a major-league offense, general manager Jed Hoyer said. We have a lot of veterans on this team and were going to get through this and get on the right track because of those veteran guys, not because of young guys coming up from the minor leagues.

Whether thats Rizzo, whether thats other guys, we cant count on those guys as saviors. Theyre big parts of our future, but thats not their role for us in 2012.

Hoyer will be guided by experience. Last June, the Padres needed a jumpstart. They werent getting enough offense out of Brad Hawpe, so Hoyer promoted Rizzo, then 21, from Triple-A Tucson.

In 52 games there, Rizzo had hit .365 with 16 homers and 63 RBI. It didnt translate to San Diego, where he hit .141 with 46 strikeouts in 128 at-bats.

Rizzo has described that video as sickening to watch. Hes fixed his swing to the point where hes hitting .354 with 17 homers and 46 RBI in his first 48 games at Iowa.

Ive certainly taken the blame for bringing him up last year in almost an identical situation I might add when youre struggling to score runs, Hoyer said. We brought him up because we werent getting any production at first base. (And) as things sped up on (Rizzo), he had some mechanical flaws.

Hes worked hard to close those holes. It doesnt mean hes not going to have his struggles at times when he gets up here, like every young player. But I think weve liked what weve seen, his willingness to make adjustments and the way hes gone about his business in Triple-A.

Looking to add some power to his lineup, manager Dale Sveum said the front office could consider calling up Rizzo for road interleague series against the Twins (June 8-10) and White Sox (June 18-20), when the Cubs will need a designated hitter.

Everythings on the table this time of year, Hoyer said, but right now we got to get to the bottom of the reason he came out of the game (on Sunday). Were not going to bring him up until we feel like its his time to come up here and make those adjustments.

Were not bringing him up here as a changer of our fortunes. Thats not fair to him.

Team president Theo Epstein has implicitly downplayed the idea of major-league service time being at the center of this decision.

But the Cubs have obviously calculated that waiting until late June to promote Rizzo would preserve a year of club control and delay his free agency.

Were not going to rush him, Epstein said. Were going to wait until the time is right, his development being the primary factor.

So back to our regularly scheduled Rizzo Watch. Just dont believe every tweet you read.

I got to concern myself with Cubs standards, Epstein said. Its hard to also worry about journalistic standards sometimes, or whatever the heck happened down there. I guess it was our fault, or our affiliates fault. It happens. I understand it. Its part of the modern world.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”