Preps Talk

Oft-injured pitcher set to return for Opening Day


Oft-injured pitcher set to return for Opening Day

From Comcast SportsNet
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- After a spring full of injury-related news, finally some relief for the New York Mets: Johan Santana will start on opening day. The left-hander, returning from shoulder surgery performed in September 2010, met with manager Terry Collins in his office Sunday. Later, Collins announced that Santana was set to pitch at home against the Atlanta Braves. "After we talked to Johan yesterday after he threw, I walked by him and he said to me at the end, You've got your pitcher for Thursday,'" Collins said. Santana made his last spring training start Monday against St. Louis and worked a brief bullpen session Saturday. "It means a lot," he said. "It means that everything we've done from surgery to today has paid off. We worked hard, and I'm very happy." "I'm happy to have the opportunity to start the season from Day One with the team. That's something I was really looking forward to," the two-time Cy Young winner said. Santana was 0-1 with a 3.44 ERA in five exhibition starts. "He said to me in the winter, I came to New York to be the opening day starter. If I can do it, I'll be there.' He's ready to go," Collins said. The 33-year-old Santana has been rehabbing the anterior capsule in his shoulder since the surgery that cut short his 2010 season. He pitched briefly in the minors last year. Collins will have a built-in luxury that will help with easing Santana into the mix. Six of his first seven scheduled starts will include an extra day of rest simply because of the way New York's schedule unfolds. Left fielder Jason Bay was eager to see Santana return, especially after the Mets lost shortstop Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins in free agency. "(Johan) brings a lot of the same type of energy that Jose had brought. We obviously lost Jose and not having Johan around all year last year, so getting him back is getting the energy back," Bay said. "It's almost like picking up another guy because you've missed him for the whole year. It's nice to have that back," Bay said. Right-hander Dillon Gee said the club will immediately feel the impact of Santana's return. "It's important to see him back," Gee said. "Everyone wanted to see Johan on opening day. The prestige of Johan on opening day is a benchmark." Collins said R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Gee would round out the rotation in that order behind Santana.

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

Stagg's Kyle Neputy leads through action during offseason

While many athletes talk about leadership and the importance of being a leader, others let their actions do the talking. One of them is Stagg senior quarterback Kyle Neputy (6-foot-4, 234 pounds).

Neputy, who is signed and will play this fall at Cornell, participated in last year's annual Franklin Middle School Charity Dodgeball tournament. The tournament had such a positive impact on Neputy and his fellow Charger teammates that they decided to rally together and support a worthwhile cause for a second straight year. 

I had a chance to catch up with the Kyle Neputy at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. 

Neputy shares why he and his Stagg teammates decided to support the event. He also had a chance to reflect on making the move to Cornell later this year.

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.