Cubs

Youkilis excited to return to Fenway tonight

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Youkilis excited to return to Fenway tonight

BOSTON -- Kevin Youkilis is back in town and it hasnt gone unnoticed.

As he walked from the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park to a press conference on Monday afternoon, two female Red Sox employees whispered to each other as Youkilis strode past in his black and white No. 20 White Sox jersey.

Outside on Yawkey Way, a young fan in a Red Sox jersey and cap also spotted Youkilis as he passed an opening in the stadium and pointed. Even the grounds crew at Logan Airport chanted Youk late Sunday night when the two-time All-Star and former Red Sox star arrived from Kansas City with his new teammates.

Youkilis said hes excited to return to his former home of eight-plus seasons.
But as soon as the subject of his departure and disagreement with Boston manager Bobby Valentine surfaced, Youkilis made it clear hes here on business.

Im not here to talk, Youkilis said. I dont understand why this is still a big rift and things are going on. Im just here to play baseball and things will happen and thats all it is, going out and playing the game. Im not worried. Theres no Bobby V. vs. Kevin Youkilis or vice versa. Its about Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox and just playing baseball.

One day earlier and three months after he originally questioned Youkilis desire to play, Valentine fired off more comments about the veteran, noting Youkilis never let the comments go.

But Youkilis stood firm on his refusal to discuss the past.

There have been a lot of great moments, there have been a lot of down moments and a lot of in between, Youkilis said. So Im not going to reflect on those, Im just going to keep moving forward and playing ball and thats what its all about.

Youkilis said one of his favorite things about his new locale is the focus on baseball, that theres less drama than there was in Boston. He also appreciates how his new team has welcomed him with open arms and how hes already considering a return to the club next season.

Youkilis quickly dismissed the idea, however, when asked if he and White Sox general manager Kenny Williams have discussed the club picking up his 13 million option for next season.

I got a lot more hitting to do to get to that club option, Youklis said.
Youkilis also took several opportunities to mention his love for Red Sox fans.
Teammate Alex Rios said he was impressed how Youkilis handled a barrage of questions for 16-plus minutes.

He addressed it the right way, said Rios, one of several White Sox players who watched the press conference live from the clubhouse. It was well-played.

Youkilis mentioned that as excited he is to return to Fenway, his teammates might be more excited. On Sunday, Youkilis said he believes the fans will give him a similar reaction to the standing ovation they delivered after his final at-bat on June 24 when it was clear he would be traded.

I dont think the fans have anything bad to say about him, Rios said. It makes it exciting. Theres a lot of people who want to see how it turns out.

Reliever Matt Thornton has a pretty good idea how it will based off the way Youkilis was treated in his final game and again on the jet way at Logan on Sunday.

He was a special player for them, Thornton said. The Boston franchise and the Boston fans, they love him. Theres no doubt about it. You saw it when he was pulled out of game with the standing ovation he got when the rumors he would be traded were flying. It was pretty special. They love him. You kind of expect it.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: