Bulls

Vitters Hoping For Big Fall

Vitters Hoping For Big Fall

Sunday Oct. 17, 2010
Posted: 8:20 a.m.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The Arizona Fall League can be used as a springboard or a showcase for some players, letting them finish the calendar year on a positive note. Very often a good a good AFL showing will also create some buzz around a player heading into spring training the following year.

Josh Vitters falls under the former category while Kyle Smit can, at least for the moment, be classified as part of the latter. Both are playing for Mesa this fall and each played a big part in Saturday nights 10-1 victory over the Peoria Saguaros.

The Cubs made Vitters the third pick in the 2007 draft yet he hasnt lived up to such a lofty selection. Hes made a steady climb through Chicagos system and played well enough but has yet to dominate the way a high draft pick is expected to dominate. He split this season between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, struggling when he reached the Southern League before a broken hand ended his year in July.

To say that Vitters has something to prove this fall would be an understatement. A big showing in the AFL would go a long way toward putting some polish back on his young career despite the fact he only turned 21 in August. More efforts like Saturdays would accomplish that task.

Vitters had a homer and four RBIs and has four hits and five RBIs in his last two games. He had only 39 RBIs in 91 games at two levels during the regular season so this marks a fine start for the third baseman. Ryan Flaherty went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

As for Smit, well, it certainly appears as if the Cubs found a gem when they acquired him from the Dodgers in a deadline deal this July. He pitched two scoreless innings and earned his first AFL victory. He hasnt allowed a run in four AFL innings after pitching to a 1.96 ERA and winning five of the 12 games in which he appeared for Tennessee following the trade.

Based on what he did after the deal and how he has performed thus far in the AFL, Smit should have a wonderful opportunity to open some more organizational eyes in spring training.

Chris Carpenter also pitched two innings, allowing a run on two hits and a pair of walks. Hes walked three and allowed five hits through four AFL innings.

The Saguaros, who have a healthy contingent of White Sox prospects, managed only seven hits. Jared Mitchell, who drew two walks, had one of them. Jason Bour, who split the season between Birmingham and Winston-Salem, went 0-for-1 in his AFL debut while Eduardo Escobar went 0-for-3.

Anthony Carter made his debut and struck out three batters in his inning of work. He appeared in 46 games for Birmingham during the regular season. Charlie Leesman allowed a run in one inning for the second time in as many outings.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.