White Sox

Thibodeau finishes second in Coach of Year voting

745118.png

Thibodeau finishes second in Coach of Year voting

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the NBA's 2011-12 Coach of the Year, the league announced Tuesday. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau finished second in the voting, receiving 27 first-place votes to Popovich's 77.

Thibodeau was considered an early frontrunner to win unprecedented back-to-back honors in his second season as an NBA head coach, but the team's relative April struggles and the Spurs' strong regular-season finish likely played a part in the decision-making of voters. The Bulls and Spurs finished tied for the league's best regular-season record at identical 50-16, but the Bulls earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Spurs, as the Bulls won at San Antonio shortly after the All-Star break, in the two teams' lone matchup of the season.

Both teams won their playoff openers over the weekend, but Thibodeau's best player, reigning league MVP Derrick Rose, is now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a devastating torn ACL injury in his left knee late in Saturday's Game 1 win over the 76ers at the United Center. Popovich, who has won the award once before, in 2003, has won four NBA championships while coaching future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and his strategy of rebuilding through young, unheralded players--Popovich also has an extensive say in the Spurs' personnel decisions -- as well as managing the minutes of veterans Duncan, All-Star point guard Tony Parker and sixth-man extraordinaire Manu Ginobili, while shifting to a more run-and-gun style compared to their previous half-court, defensive-oriented system has been widely lauded across the league.

Frank Vogel of the Bulls' Central Division rival Indiana finished third in the voting, winning seven first-place votes. Lionel Hollins of the Grizzlies and Thibodeau's former boss, Boston's Doc Rivers, were the only other two coaches to receive first-place votes.

Thibodeau frequently downplays individual honors, but it can be argued that without Rose for approximately half of the regular season, starting backcourt mate Rip Hamilton for the majority of the campaign and All-Star Luol Deng also missing significant time, the coaching job he did was even more impressive than last season, in which the Bulls also had the league's best regular-season record in Thibodeau's first shot at being an NBA head coach. While Thibodeau has faced criticism for leaving Rose in Saturday's game with the Bulls up by double figures and under two minutes to play, that didn't factor into the award, as voters had to submit their choices by last Friday, a day before the contest.

Prospects highlight White Sox spring training invitees

kopech-317.jpg
USA TODAY

Prospects highlight White Sox spring training invitees

Pitchers and catchers report in just over three weeks and the White Sox announced the list of spring training invitees on Monday.

The White Sox signed six players to minor-league contracts to get them to camp, but, as has been the case for the past year-plus with the White Sox, all eyes will be on the prospects.

Pitchers Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease and position players Luis Robert, Zack Collins and 2017 first-round pick Jake Burger are among the top prospects the White Sox invited to spring training. The team’s top prospect, Eloy Jimenez, is already on the 40-man roster so he was already set to be included. Jimenez, Kopech, Hansen, Robert and Dunning were just included on Baseball America's top 100 prospects.

Kopech and Collins were in spring training last year and Jimenez was in spring training with the Cubs in 2017 so it’s not an entirely new experience for them, but White Sox fans will be able to get a more extended and accessible look at Jimenez for the first time. Robert will likely have extra attention on him due to this being his first professional baseball in the U.S. Robert played in the Dominican Summer League after signing with the White Sox last summer.

The other non-roster invitees are pitchers Chris Beck, Tyler Danish, Jordan Stephens, Connor Walsh, Brian Clark and Jordan Guerrero and position players Alfredo Gonzalez, Seby Zavala and Jacob May.

The players signed on minor-league contracts are Rob Scahill, Chris Volstad, Michael Ynoa, T.J. House, Patrick Leonard and Matt Skole. Volstad and Ynoa both pitched with the White Sox in 2017, but have since been removed from the 40-man roster. Scahill is a Chicagoland product who graduated from Willowbrook High School and pitched at Bradley in college.

The Brewers have emerged as a darkhorse in the race for top starting pitchers

yu_darvish_brewers_cubs_article_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

The Brewers have emerged as a darkhorse in the race for top starting pitchers

The Milwaukee Brewers are making sure nobody forgets about them in the National League Central.

While the St. Louis Cardinals continue to make trades and the Cubs remain linked to the top starting pitchers on the market even after signing three pitchers, the Brewers have been rather quiet. All winter, the only noteworthy moves from Milwaukee came in the form of under-the-radar pitcher signings — starters Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo plus reliever Boone Logan.

Beyond that, the Brewers have added a bunch of other low-leverage players — catcher Christian Bethancourt and relievers J.J. Hoover, Ernesto Frieri, Michael Brady and Erik Davis. (Nobody would blame you if you haven't heard of any of those players before.)

But maybe the Brewers have just been saving their cash for one of the big guys, with Ken Rosenthal confirming a report Sunday night Milwaukee is not only one of the teams in on Yu Darvish, but they've even made a formal offer:

The Brewers securing Darvish or one of the other top pitchers — Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb — would be a huge development in their effort to keep pace with the Cubs and Cardinals in the division.

Milwaukee was a surprise contender in 2017 before they faded down the stretch. The main reason they hung around the top of the NL Central all year was a shockingly-effective pitching staff.

However, the Brewers have some serious pitching questions long-term that need to be addressed. Beyond Chase Anderson and Zach Davies in the rotation, there are no sure things. 

Jimmy Nelson underwent shoulder surgery last fall and it's currently unknown when he can be counted on again, though things are progressing ahead of schedule. Junior Guerra — the 33-year-old right-hander formerly of the White Sox — went 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 20 starts in 2016 but followed that up with some serious struggles in 2017 (5.12 ERA, 1.48 WHIP).

Chacin, 30, was good in 2017 (13-10, 3.89 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), but struggled with health and inconsistent performance in the five seasons prior. Gallardo, 31, has a 5.57 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over the last two seasons. 

All that adds up to a staff that doesn't inspire much confidence behind a high-powered offense led by Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Eric Thames plus up-and-comers Lewis Brinson and Orlando Arcia.

Adding Arrieta or Darvish would certainly go quite far in improving the Brewers' biggest weakness and even Cobb could be a serious game-changer in Milwaukee.

As an interesting footnote to the whole Darvish rumor, the minute after Rosenthal confirmed the report, the Brewers official Twitter account took a shot at the Cubs:

Cubs Twitter — never one to back down from a good-natured social media spat — responded Monday morning with a sick comeback: