White Sox

...although Luck's rookie season is done

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...although Luck's rookie season is done

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- Andrew Luck was harried and hurried in his first career playoff appearance as the Indianapolis Colts' unlikely run came to a disappointing end.Chuck Pagano's emotional return to Baltimore also ended with a thud as the Colts fell 24-9 to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game Sunday."The Ravens made plays when they needed to and we didn't," Luck said. "Field goals in the red zone killed us. Some bad balls by me killed us. ... I wish we could have done better."After improving from 2-14 to 11-5 with No. 1 overall draft pick Luck running their high-octane offense, the Colts couldn't even score a touchdown against the Ravens, who advanced to the conference semifinals against Denver next weekend.But Pagano chose to emphasize the improvements the Colts made in a season filled with adversity, rather than dwell on the way it ended."The foundation is set, and we said we were going to build one on rock and not on sand," Pagano said. "You weather storms like this and you learn from times like this. This disappointment and the feelings they all have right now, that's what's going to propel us to 2013 and motivate us to come back and work even harder."One key moving forward will be Luck, who reached the playoffs as a rookie.Luck was 28 for 54 for 288 yards and an interception, but was often under pressure and forced to scramble by a Ravens defense energized by the return of linebacker Ray Lewis from a torn triceps."My only focus was to come in and get my team a win. Nothing else was planned," the 37-year-old Lewis said. "It's one of those things, when you recap it all and try to say what is one of your greatest moments. I knew how it started, but I never knew how it would end here in Baltimore. To go the way it did today, I wouldn't change nothing."Lewis, who announced earlier this week he would retire after Baltimore's playoff run, was playing the final home game of his 17-year career."We still had opportunities," said Luck, who was sacked three times. "We still put ourselves in positions to score and didn't take advantage of them, and a lot of credit goes to the Baltimore defense. What a great, great unit. I wish we could have capitalized on a couple of those drives, but we didn't."Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator who missed 12 Colts games this season while undergoing treatment for leukemia, coached his first playoff game. But offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who had a 9-3 record coaching in Pagano's absence, missed the game after being hospitalized for an undisclosed illness, leaving play-calling duties to quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.After the game, Pagano said Arians would remain hospitalized in Baltimore overnight for observation and likely rejoin the Colts in Indianapolis on Monday."Just precautionary," Pagano said. "I think every test they've done on Bruce came back negative. He's in good shape. ... He'll be back with us tomorrow."Indianapolis had won five of its final six games to clinch a wild-card berth, and moved the ball during the first half, but had to settle for a pair of field goals by Adam Vinatieri and trailed 10-6 at halftime."As good as that defense is, it's hard to go on sustained drives," Pagano said. "We moved the ball, we did some things. But we weren't able to get some chunk plays."Luck completed 13 of 23 passes for 143 yards in the first half, and a 15-play drive in the third quarter stalled at the Baltimore 8-yard line, with Vinatieri kicking his third field goal.Vinatieri pushed a 40-yard field-goal attempt wide right early in the fourth quarter. He was previously 10 of 11 between 40 and 49 yards this season."In games like this," Vinatieri said, "you have to make them all."The Ravens followed up Vinatieri's miss -- his first after 18 successful kicks against the Ravens -- Baltimore retaliated with a five-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin.Until that point, even with an offense that couldn't manage a touchdown, it was still a one-score game."It's always come down to a one-score game, a 10-point deficit, and this team has always been able to overcome that for many weeks," Pagano said. "Sitting on the sideline and looking in everybody's eyes, the faith and belief was still there that we were going to get the job done."Owner Jim Irsay said the Colts' future is promising."This year was incredible," he said. "It was special and unique in so many ways. It was one of the most special seasons in Colts history and probably in NFL history. I couldn't have imagined how this season would have played out. We had a coach fighting for his life, we reorganized, won 11 games and went to the playoffs. ... To say that our future is bright is an understatement."Boldin set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown, setting up the showdown with the Broncos. Denver beat Baltimore 34-17 three weeks ago."It's huge for us," Boldin said. "It's huge for this city, they've supported us this entire year and they expect a lot from us. In return, we want to give it to them."Sunday's victory also enhanced the Ravens' success rate in opening playoff games. Flacco has won at least one postseason game in all five of his pro seasons, the only quarterback to do it in the Super Bowl era.Baltimore overcame the first two lost fumbles of the season by Ray Rice, too, as John Harbaugh became the first head coach with wins in his first five playoff campaigns.

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria wants you to be ready for the White Sox to win in 2020: 'People, have expectations'

SAN DIEGO — Rick Renteria isn’t shy about what he wants for his White Sox.

No, he’s not out there on Twitter, demanding the front office adds Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Nicholas Castellanos and Dallas Keuchel. But every chance he gets, he talks about where he expects his team to be in 2020.

“We left the season last year, the last series of the year, talking about this year, what we were going to expect and what we wanted to do and the things that we want to accomplish,” the skipper said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “Obviously winning more games and being a part of a relevant season is important to us, so we're going to ask a lot of these guys.

“It's time. We talked about it being time. Guys are going to have to step it up. We've made tremendous strides, made growth, but we still have to continue to add pieces to put us over the top to give us an opportunity to be relevant.”

Don’t misconstrue those words as Renteria poking his front office. Rick Hahn & Co. know very well they’ve got more work to do in the wake of giving the richest contract in team history to free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal.

But a generally silent first two days at the Winter Meetings — there is a rumor suggesting the White Sox are trying to trade for Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara — have not lived up to the sky-high expectations of fans, who anticipated hearing the South Siders tied to the biggest names on the free-agent market.

Because the White Sox have been so quiet, it’s hard to figure out what new toys Renteria will have to play with in 2020. It’s hard to figure out if the White Sox will even be ready to leap into contender status by the time March rolls around.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Renteria, though, who was talking about the 2020 postseason while still wrapping up an 89-loss season in 2019. He’s instructing the fan base to start thinking the same way.

“People, have expectations,” he instructed. “Have them on me. Have them on our team. Have them on everyone.

“What scares me is if people don't have expectations. That scares me because then it means you're not striving to be better. We want to be better. We want our guys to improve.”

The idea that all the young White Sox who broke out in 2019 still have a good deal of growing and improving to do is what makes the future so bright on the South Side. And it’s what drew Grandal to sign with the team. It’s what Hahn says should make the White Sox a destination for all free agents.

Renteria agrees.

“There's no one, I don't think, that we've talked to, even toward the end of last year and even people that we've spoken to in terms of possibly coming here that don't see where we're at right now,” Renteria said. “I think there is an optimism and an excitement about the South Side right now that is legit. I don't think it's made up. It's not. It's real.”

As Hahn has alluded to for some time now, any skeptical fans out there likely won’t believe the White Sox have arrived as contenders until they see it, be it through the huge splashes of offseason additions or the fusion of the young core into a true force to be reckoned with. Rumors of reclamation-project outfielders and stopgap solutions in the starting rotation aren’t exactly bringing folks to Renteria’s level of excitement.

But any stretches of offseason inactivity shouldn’t make anyone forget about Yoan Moncada or Lucas Giolito or Tim Anderson or Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal. Or, you know, Grandal.

That’s what’s real. That’s what’s got Renteria so excited.

Playoffs? A Jim Mora style reaction to that question wouldn’t be unwarranted. But Renteria is asking you to dream bigger.

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Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

Cubs still trying to break through on extension talks with current players

SAN DIEGO — While the rest of the baseball world is occupying their time on free agent signings and trades, the Cubs have been waiting for their number to be called.

They've been trying to nail down extensions with key players that are only a couple years away from free agency, though nothing appears imminent on that front. 

Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all free agents after the 2021 season, leaving the Cubs two years to work out a deal or trade the player before losing them for nothing but a compensation pick. Willson Contreras is a free agent after 2022. Theo Epstein's front office reached a four-year, $55.5 million deal with Kyle Hendricks in spring training, extending his team control through the 2023 season.

The Cubs won't comment specifically on the current extension talks, but they'd ideally hope to wrap anything before spring training this year, so the players can focus solely on baseball by then.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

Bryant has long been thought of as the toughest of the group to lock up long-term given that his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises clients to hit the open market and maximize their value. Boras reiterated Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings he and Bryant are still open to extension talks with the Cubs.

Baez and Rizzo loom as the two most likely to extend their Wrigley Field stays, with the two emerging as the faces of the franchise in their own ways.

As the Cubs try to navigate an offseason where they're "serving two masters" (trying to compete in 2020-21 while also enhancing the long-term future of the franchise), a potential extension would check both boxes in a major way. If Hoyer and Theo Epstein knew Baez would be locking down shortstop and the middle of the lineup for the next six seasons, they could breathe a bit easier thinking about the big picture and long-term health of the franchise. 

At the same time, they can't operate as if anything is a certainty. Bryant could decide he likes the Cubs' offer and make Chicago his forever baseball home. Baez could conclude the opposite. 

It's what makes this particular offseason so tricky for the Cubs.

"We have to be able to have parallel tracks in our mind," Hoyer said. "We have to be able to do multiple things at once. It doesn't make it more difficult. We have a lot of really good players. We've had them for a long time. When we talk to these players about contracts, there's no player that we talk to that we haven't had a conversation with at some point before about a contract. 

"We've talked about these players for five years in some way, shape or form. When we sit down with these players, we're not covering a ton of new ground. We've already been over a lot of it. I think we're able to have parallel tracks."