Bears

Theo Epstein's not hitting the panic button

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Theo Epstein's not hitting the panic button

MIAMI - The Cubs will have to do something to shake up this 3-10 team. It just won't involve promoting Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, or making any other type of panic move.

The Cubs flew out of Miami after Thursday's 5-3 loss to the Marlins, which completed a three-game sweep that should help take the heat off Ozzie Guillen.

The Cubs are saying the right things and sticking to baseball, not politics. Their clubhouse is more professional without Carlos Zambrano, who warmly greeted Theo Epstein by the batting cage.

But the changes won't happen overnight. A road trip that began with some promise - beating the Cardinals after they raised their World Series banner - ended on a five-game losing streak.

The Cubs were outscored 34-10 during that time and the schedule doesn't get any easier from here, not with the Reds and Cardinals coming into Wrigley Field.

"You don't want to do any kind of panicking 13 games into the season," manager Dale Sveum said.

The fans would love to see Rizzo and Jackson, top prospects who are supposed to be foundation pieces for years to come. But the president of baseball operations isn't the reactionary type.

"Those guys are continuing their development at Triple-A," Epstein said. "We're also not giving up on guys after a homestand and a road trip. Guys need time to get into the rhythm of the season and show what they can do. Baseball's best understood from bigger samples and from a distance sometimes.

"No one wants to get off to this kind of start and the lineup's not performing really well right now. It's a little bit early to be thinking about those kind of moves, and specifically with your better prospects.

"Once they're fully developed, then you look and see how it fits into the big picture, what's going on with the big-league team."

Epstein - who met the team in Miami after a scouting trip for the draft - could be thinking about incremental moves. Like adding another bullpen piece, especially if Kerry Wood's right shoulder doesn't feel better by the weekend.

But the 2012 Cubs were built on starting pitching, and the Marlins (7-6) knocked out Jeff Samardzija in the fourth inning. Samardzija (2-1, 5.71 ERA) gave up five runs on eight hits and five walks. The Cubs got swept, even with the top of their rotation going this series.

"We got to win, man, that's really all there is to it," Samardzija said. "Pitchers got to pitch better, position players got to play positions better. It's all-around. There's not one thing that we need to improve on. Everybody needs to improve. It starts with yourself."

As a team, the Cubs have hit only five home runs. Alfonso Soriano doesn't have an extra-base hit yet. Marlon Byrd (.075) continues to spiral downward. Geovany Soto (.167) is also struggling at the plate.

"Nobody's going to put our head down right now," outfielder David DeJesus said. "It's not like we're coming here to just hang around and have fun. We want to win baseball games and we just got to get better as a team.

"We got to focus and take every at-bat the way professionals do. And I feel that will lead to better, big innings and Ws in the win column."

This front office has promised to block out all the noise. Sveum sees effort, and there's not much he can do with the lineup. The clubhouse chemistry seems to have improved. But it still might be time for some earplugs.

"There are things we can do," Epstein said, "smaller moves that we can make, and probably will make, over the course of this season to try to put together a club that can be more competitive - (while) also looking out for the best long-term interests of the organization.

"View those things through that lens - not through what we look like two weeks in. You got to keep the big picture in mind sometimes."

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The Bears haven’t revealed the full extent of Floyd’s injury, but coach John Fox did confirm this week the 2016 first-round pick didn’t tear his ACL. 

That’s potentially good news for Floyd’s recovery timetable, even if he won’t return in 2017. The Bears can probably hope to have Floyd back for, at the least, training camp next year, if not possibly OTAs in six months, thought that’s more speculative than concrete. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

The fight for which national team Bastian Schweinsteiger's kid will play for is on

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USA TODAY

The fight for which national team Bastian Schweinsteiger's kid will play for is on

Whenever a famous couple in the world of soccer has a child, there are always jokes about what national teams the kid could play for.

The latest such addition to the gossip columns is the announcement from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ana Ivanovic that they are expecting a child.

Ivanovic, a former tennis pro who won the 2008 French Open champion, announced the news on Twitter with a sponsor-heavy photo.

Schweinsteiger, who played with the Fire this past season, also took to Twitter to share a photo and the news.

Schweinsteiger's future with the Fire remains unclear, but him and Ivanovic seemed to be happy living in Chicago, making various appearances at sporting events in the city. If he returns and the child is born in Chicago, does that mean we could one day see a Schweinsteiger repping the U.S. national team in 20-something years? Maybe the men's team won't be a national embarrassment by then, but then again, if it's a girl she'd be able to pick between the only multiple-time World Cup winning nations (U.S. and Germany).

Perhaps the child would take after Ivanovic and hit volleys with a racket instead of a foot, or maybe he or she will not take after the professional athlete parents.

In all seriousness, congratulations to both Schweinsteiger and Ivanovic.