White Sox

Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

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Without Hamilton, Bulls 'have more than enough to win'

MILWAUKEE When Rip Hamilton came off the United Center floor early in Mondays win over the Pacers, following a collision with Indiana center Roy Hibbert, the first thought of fans and members of the organization alike was, Here we go again. A day later, his right-shoulder injury was termed a contusion and mild sprain" and his status was listed as day-to-day. Prior to the Bulls Wednesday-morning shootaround at the Bradley Center, the 13-year veteran shed some light on his situation.

Its sore. It still hurts. When I first did it, I felt it pop, but when I ran downcourt, I could still move my hands, so I knew that it wasnt broken. But it was a lot of pain just to lift my arm up, he said. Sometimes you say, Why you? but thats a part of the game you have to deal with. It comes with the territory. Its just tough for me because Ive never been like this my whole career, especially one minute and 20 seconds into the game. All these little freak things. Its crazy, man.

I want to be out there. I want to play. Its crazy because even when I was out there and I was getting limited minutes, for it to happen so freaky like that, its crazy. Ive just got to stay mentally strong, mentally tough and keep trying to prepare myself to get better, he continued. Im just trying to lift my arm up. Aint no miracle going to happen tomorrow or anything like that, so just trying to get the swelling out, just trying to get my range of motion back, so its going to be a minute.

I thought, at first, that it was just a stinger. Like, Bam! I got hit. OK, Rip. I always tell myself, Dont fall, get up. I thought it would loosen up by the time I got down to the other end of the floor and it didnt. Thats when it kind of scared me.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: You never can tell with those things. Youre just hopeful that its not serious. It wasnt, so were encouraged by that.

You never know how theyre going to feel tomorrow and thats the way that I want them to approach it. Put a lot of work into your rehab, do as much as you can and when youre ready to go, youre ready to go, he continued. Weve had injuries throughout the year. Were disappointed for him because he put a lot of work into it, but we feel good about all the guys that we have. We have more than enough to win with. Ronnies played extremely well as a starter, so we feel good about that and our bench has played great all year long.

Thibodeau said that while Hamiltons injury history was considered before signing him, the pros outweighed the cons.

You look at everything. You look at what hes done throughout his career and I think the good certainly outweighs anything negative, so we felt good about it from the start, he explained. Hes had misfortune this year. Its an unusual year for everybody and hopefully hell be back quickly.

Hamilton believes the leagues condensed schedule has a great deal to do with the rash of injuries throughout the NBA, not just his, but has taken comfort in how supportive the Bulls have been.

From the whole leagues standpoint, you see guys going down. All the back-to-back games, the travel. People dont look at it, but it has an effect. Weve seen it in football. You dont want to say it, but its one of those things where your bodys not accustomed to going this way all of the time, but it is what it is. You have to deal with it, he said. The Bulls have been great. Theyve been awesome. I spoke to general manager Gar Forman last night and the biggest thing is, in speaking to my teammates, on one side, Im shaking my head, like Why? weve had so many injuries this year on this team and on the other side, Im saying, Hey, you know what? Just get right, man. Just get right and come back, so we can do what weve got to do.

It could be an eventual positive that Hamilton will at least be fresh when the postseason arrives, but he didnt take solace in that notion.

That could be a bright side, but you dont think about it right now, he said. Your motivation is to be out on the floor, to be out there battling with your teammates, so its really hard to even think about stuff like that.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

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?

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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.”