White Sox

Urlacher tweaks knee; replacement refs work Bears practice


Urlacher tweaks knee; replacement refs work Bears practice

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. Because the Bears are no longer giving veterans days off Julius Peppers sat by, in uniform, during much of Saturday and Sunday practices the absence of linebacker Brian Urlacher from practice Wednesday was cause for at least a little concern.

Urlacher suffered a left-knee injury in game 16 last season and has rehabbed much of the offseason, then taking a full workload from the outset of training camp. Consider it a longshot for him to miss days when they matter: Urlacher has played all 16 games in 11 of his 13 seasons, missing time only in 2004 (hamstring) and 2009 (wrist).

Wide receiver Eric Weems, having a strong camp after making strides during OTAs, also was sidelined Wednesday.

Weve got a couple bumps and bruises going on right now, coach Lovie Smith said. Brian Urlacher, knee was a little sore today, so we kept him out, and a few other guys, but we should be OK.

In place of Urlacher, veteran strong-side linebacker Nick Roach moved into Urlachers spot while Geno Hayes, acquired last offseason after three years as a starter with Tampa Bay, made his first appearance with the 1s in Roachs spot.

Roach started three games at middle linebacker in 2009 after Urlacher suffered a season-ending wrist injury in the first half of the opener at Green Bay.

Each year the NFL sends a crew of officials to each training camp to acquaint players with rules changes and to simulate game calls under those rules.

Officials were working Bears practice on Wednesday. But they were some of the replacement officials brought in by the league in case negotiations with the regular officials breaks down completely. So for officials in Bourbonnais on Wednesday, this was to acquaint them with the NFL game, even at a camp level.

We've had some discussions and there may be some more in the next couple of days; hopefully there will be, said NFL Chairman Roger Goodell, making a stop to meet with Bears officials and meet with fans in a forum with Bears Chairman George McCaskey. We'd like to get it resolved, but we're preparing, and we have been for the past couple of months, to get replacement officials on the field, and we're confident that they could do the job.

But we want to overall improve officiating. And we've got some ideas on how to do that. Clearly there are economic differences, but we're thinking about expanding the number of officials rosters from 121 to 142 to bring in three more crews that we can use to try and help develop younger officials, improve the quality, and maybe be able to move them in and out.

Call it a near-miss.

Defensive end Israel Idonije forced a turnover on Wednesday but not the way the Bears want, at least not just yet.

Idonije bore down on quarterback Jay Cutler and inadvertently hit Cutlers hand as the quarterback was releasing a pass. The ball fluttered up in the air and was grabbed by defensive tackle Henry Melton, who carried it 10 yards for the first camp TD for the defensive line.

It was a turnover and score, however, that no member of the defense particularly celebrated. No one is permitted to hit the franchise quarterback. Period.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries


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?


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.”