Youkilis' homer helps take down former team


Youkilis' homer helps take down former team

BOSTON -- Imagine if Kevin Youkilis played here all the time.

The former Boston Red Sox star continued to torment his old team in his return to Fenway Park on Tuesday night. Youkilis reached base twice, including a three-run home run in support of Philip Humber as the White Sox downed the Red Sox 7-5 in front of 37,771. The victory was Humbers first since June 16 and helped the White Sox increase their lead in the American League Central to 3 12 games over the Detroit Tigers.

One night after he pummeled them for three hits, including two doubles, Youkilis continued his assault on the team that traded him to the White Sox last month after 8 12 seasons. Youkilis started a two-run rally in the first inning with a one-out walk against Boston starter Jon Lester (5-7) and later scored on Paul Konerkos RBI double.

But Youkilis real damage arrived in the fourth inning with runners on second and third and two outs in a one-run game. After falling behind Youkilis 3-0 in the count, Lester elected to pitch to the two-time All-Star with first base open and threw two strikes. Lesters next pitch, however, was up and over the middle and Youkilis crushed it over the Green Monster to give the White Sox a commanding 6-2 lead.

As he rounded the bases, Youkilis unbelievably continued to receive more Youk chants and cheers from Red Sox fans.

Alejandro De Aza, who earlier had an RBI double, gave Humber and the White Sox even more room to breathe in the sixth with an RBI single.

Humber knew just what to do with the big lead even after he got off to a shaky start. The right-hander, who was activated off the disabled list prior to the game, threw strikes on 71 of 104 pitches in his first start since June 16.

Out of the gate, Humber yielded two singles and three hits and looked like he might not survive the first inning. But he settled in to retire 17 of the last 21 batters he faced and didnt issue a walk.

Humbers outing was a big lift for the White Sox, who placed Gavin Floyd on the DL Tuesday with tendinitis in his right elbowforearm. Though Floyd could be back as soon as Monday, the White Sox are in need of experienced pitchers. John Danks is also on the DL and no timetable for his return has been established.

The Red Sox rallied for three runs in the eighth inning against Matt Thornton. Carl Crawford, who singled three times, scored on Will Middlebrooks RBI single and Kelly Shoppach followed with a two-run homer.

Alex Rios went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the White Sox. Addison Reed pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his 15th save in 17 tries.

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.”

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry


Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).