From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte will be back on the mound in the Bronx on Sunday, and the New York Yankees are hoping he can again be a reliable presence in their rotation.Pettitte is set to start against the Seattle Mariners in his first major league outing since retiring after the 2010 postseason."I think it will be a great day at the Stadium," manager Joe Girardi said.The lefty, who turns 40 next month, returned to the team in spring training and has made four minor league starts. Even though Pettitte was shaky over five innings in a Triple-A start Sunday, general manager Brian Cashman says the time is right."I think everybody's in agreement that he's not going to really benefit from any more time down there," Cashman said.One thing the Yankees management does agree on is the rotation needs help. Expected to be a strong part of the team after the addition of Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda in the offseason, the Yankees' rotation has struggled this to a 5.54 ERA and a .292 opponents' batting average -- only Minnesota and Colorado have worse averages against.Pineda is out for season following shoulder surgery and Freddy Garcia was demoted to the bullpen. Rookie David Phelps is scheduled to make his second start against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, then is a likely candidate to return to the bullpen. But Girardi would not say whose spot Pettitte will take.Pettitte is 240-138 in 13 years with the Yankees and three with Houston. He was a steady force in the Yankees' rotation for five World Series championships and is a fan favorite as one of the Core Four with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.Cashman, though, is trying to be realistic in his expectations for Pettitte, who will be making his first big league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010."There's still the unknown," Cashman said. "There's a gap between what the old Andy Pettitte is and what we're going to get? I just don't know yet. But we're looking forward to adding another healthy arm to the mix here because depth has been challenged and some of our healthy starters inconsistent. It would be nice to obviously start pulling together a string of consistently strong starts by all of our starters one through five and, hopefully, that could include Andy."Pettitte already has completed his testimony at Roger Clemens' trial in Washington, D.C. so that shouldn't weigh in his mind. He will be facing one of only two AL teams he doesn't have a winning record against: He's 11-11 against Seattle and 8-8 versus Cleveland.His locker -- the same one he occupied in his last season with the Yankees -- is filling with gear that includes 10 pairs of footwear and a full mail basket. Pettitte will be working out in Westchester, where he has a New York home, until he is added to the big league roster Sunday.Tampa Bay rays manager Joe Maddon thinks Pettitte will have an immediate positive influence on the team regardless of his performance in his first few starts."You can't underestimate what he's going to do for the clubhouse being minus the other guy," Maddon said, referring to closer Mariano Rivera, who is likely out for the season with a torn knee ligament.Cashman said there had been a complication with Rivera's medical exams Monday in New York but wouldn't say what it was. Rivera saw team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad at New York Presbyterian Hospital and by Dr. Russell Warren, a knee specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, said Dr. David Altchek, who performed surgery on the pitcher's shoulder following the 2008 season, also looked at him."It's something I think Mo will talk to you guys about," Cashman said. "It doesn't affect anything for next year."He did say that the injury sustained while shagging fly balls last week in Kanasas City is fixable."It's all about next year," Cashman said.NOTES:RHP Jose Campos, obtained from Seattle along with Pineda, went on the disabled list of Charleston, S.C., with elbow inflammation. Pineda is sidelined for the season following shoulder surgery. The Yankees sent C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Mariners in the trade. ... Brett Gardner played in left field for Triple-A Scranton-WilkesBarre in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday night as part of his rehabilitation for a strained right elbow. He singled twice in three at-bats.
Michael Kopech's recovery from Tommy John surgery put an unanticipated item on this offseason's to-do list for Rick Hahn's front office: The White Sox now need to fill a 2019 rotation spot that was supposed to belong to Kopech.
There are numerous ways to fill that hole in the rotation, though are any more attractive, perhaps, than simply bringing James Shields back for another season on the South Side?
Shields' third year in a White Sox uniform has undoubtedly been his best. After he posted a 5.60 ERA and allowed a combined 67 home runs during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the 13-year major league veteran has done impressive work this season. After six innings of two-run ball Thursday night in Cleveland, Shields has a 4.48 ERA in 2018.
Of course, that's not a number that will have fans picketing Guaranteed Rate Field if the White Sox opt to move on from Shields this winter. But don't let that one figure overshadow how reliable Shields has been during the campaign. Thursday night marked his 19th quality start of the season, and he ranks in the top 10 in baseball in innings pitched.
Detractors have some statistical ammunition, too, however. Shields is one of three White Sox starting pitchers ranking in the top 10 in the game in walks (74 after three on Thursday), and his 33 home runs allowed are the second most in baseball (back-to-back jacks by the Indians accounted for pair of runs he gave up Thursday).
But Shields, it should be noted, has plenty of value independent of the kind of numbers he's posted during his White Sox tenure. He is a veteran mentor to the team's young pitchers. That includes Lucas Giolito, whose locker has been next to Shields' all season — or rather it was until Kopech became Shields' new locker buddy when the organization's No. 1 pitching prospect got his promotion to the big leagues. That placement, by the way, was Shields' request. While Kopech will be in recovery mode during the 2019 season, bringing Shields back would allow him to continue to help Giolito and act as a resource for Kopech.
This team is young and will continue to be young next season. Having a few reliable veterans around to guide the youngsters is a valuable thing.
Plenty, though, might not be sold on the idea, a reasonable reaction as the team moves toward contention mode and might need to free up spots in a rotation that could soon star some of the young arms developing in the minor leagues. But what are the alternatives for plugging Kopech's empty spot in the 2019 rotation? And if Shields doesn't come back, that makes two holes that need filling.
There isn't a wealth of major league ready options within the organization. Dylan Covey has a 5.33 ERA after his 19 starts this season. At the Triple-A level, Spencer Adams and Jordan Guerrero would figure to be the next-best options. Adams had a 3.19 ERA in 15 starts at Charlotte, and Guerrero had a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Though it's possible the White Sox could want them to receive some more conditioning in Triple-A. Jordan Stephens' 4.71 ERA in 21 starts and Carson Fulmer, who was moved to the bullpen after getting sent down to Charlotte earlier this season, are less appealing options.
Of course, the White Sox could go outside the organization, and that would seem to be the most likely course of action. But whether that's via free agency or a trade, wouldn't the still-rebuilding White Sox rather do that once than twice? And while there's nothing to say that the White Sox can't spend big this offseason with a loaded free-agent class, is the time right to do so? Does spending big this winter line up with the timeline of this rebuilding effort? In simpler terms: Would signing a pair of free-agent starting pitchers be the kind of win-now moves that Hahn has tried to avoid during this rebuild?
The most attractive free-agent options include the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin and Charlie Morton. But those big names could be looking for instant contention or a gigantic contract that could put the White Sox out of the running. Going lower down the wish list, you'll see names like Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Hellickson, J.A. Happ, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi, Tyson Ross and Gio Gonzalez.
It's quite possible that even with Shields brought back, the White Sox will need to sign one of those guys. Here's the question: Are two of those guys — and the contracts they'll command — better than one of them and Shields?
Another thing to think about: With Kopech on the mend until spring 2020, how close could the White Sox get to contention by the time he returns? And if the team has reached the contention stage, could they afford any growing pains that Kopech could have during his first full season in the majors? Remember that Kopech's first start in 2020 will be just his fifth big league start. That could affect the approach the White Sox take this offseason, perhaps hoping to acquire a pitcher who could be around for a while — not just as a bridge to Kopech but as a safety net for him, as well.
So does a Shields return make sense? Given that the White Sox might still be playing the waiting game next season, having a reliable arm to save the bullpen and a veteran presence to help the still-developing young pitchers could be an attractive option this offseason.
The Bears are off to their best start since 2014, and the team seems to be playing well together through two games of the season.
The offense is finding creative ways to put points on the board early, and the defense has emerged as one of the top units in the league so far. It’s only resulted in one win, but Chicago seems to be on the right track for more success this season.
The analysts over at Pro Football Focus like what they’ve seen, and their grades are high on a number of individual Bears players. Six of them rank in the top five of their respective positions so far this season.
The highest graded edge defenders in the NFL through the opening two weeks of the season. pic.twitter.com/crEkJupjJF— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 19, 2018
Khalil Mack, Kyle Long and Charles Leno are all the second highest-graded players among their peers, Jordan Howard has the third-highest grade for a running back, Akiem Hicks is tied for fourth among defensive linemen, and Pat O’Donnell is the fifth-ranked punter.
Just missing the cut is Bryce Callahan, who currently ranks sixth among cornerbacks with an 81.8 overall grade. As a whole the Bears have PFF’s highest-graded defense, while the offense ranks 21st.
It’s clear the team has had a lot of individual success on both sides of the ball, and the next step is converting that into team success with more wins on Sundays.