Cubs

Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

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Angels star rookie just isn't slowing down

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Earlier this week, Mike Trout had a chance to meet Al Kaline, the Hall of Famer who played for the Detroit Tigers and won a batting title in 1955 when he was 20 years old. After another four-hit night, Trout looks like he's on his way to a similar feat. Trout raised his American League-leading average to .355 on Tuesday night with the fourth four-hit game of his spectacular rookie season. His 430-foot shot in the second inning was the second of five Los Angeles homers, and the Angels went on to rout the Tigers 13-0. Trout, who turns 21 next month, said he met Kaline on Monday. "My mom lived in Michigan. She was a big fan of him growing up," Trout said. "That was pretty neat meeting him." Trout, Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols all homered off Jacob Turner in the first two innings, and Alberto Callaspo and Kendrys Morales went deep later in the game. The Tigers were shut out for the first time in 159 games, a franchise-record streak that began last July 17 -- exactly a year earlier to the day. Garrett Richards (3-1) allowed three hits in seven innings, easily outdueling Turner (0-1) in a matchup of top pitching prospects. The Detroit right-hander lasted only two innings, giving up seven runs and six hits on a 100-degree night. "Jacob is a potential top-of-the-rotation guy who just needs more seasoning," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I still expect to see him high in a rotation someday, but he's not ready yet." The Angels lead the major leagues with 14 shutouts. Pujols opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first, and Trumbo followed with his 26th homer of the year, a three-run shot. Trout's two-run homer in the second was the most impressive -- an opposite-field drive to right-center that made it 6-0. "It felt good off the bat," Trout said. "I was running pretty hard, because it's a big park." Pujols added a solo shot in the second. Trout now has 100 hits this season in 69 games. He entered the day with a 20-point lead over Joe Mauer in the AL batting race. Pujols and Howard Kendrick had three hits each. Trumbo has six homers in his last eight games. Detroit needed to send Turner to the mound because of an injury to fellow rookie Drew Smyly. Leyland talked a bit before the game about the challenges young pitchers face when they have to learn on the job at the major league level. The 21-year-old Turner was recalled from the minors before the game to make his fifth career start, and he was in trouble from the beginning in a game that began amid triple-digit heat. Trumbo's homer went an estimated 415 feet to left. Trout's was even longer, landing in the outfield seats and bouncing up onto a concourse above Sparky Anderson's retired No. 11. Trumbo playfully disputed the estimated distances of the homers, which put Trout's farther than his by 15 feet. "That didn't go farther," he said. "Conspiracy. League-wide conspiracy. You've got to hit it to the middle of the field, I'm convinced now." Pujols' homer was the 461st of his career, tying Chipper Jones for 33rd on the career list. The Angels put their leadoff man on in each of the first six innings. Morales drove in another run in the sixth with a single, and Callaspo's three-run homer later that inning made it 11-0. In the bottom half, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hit a line drive to right, but Torii Hunter made a diving catch. Richards, who is three years older than Turner, walked four but pitched comfortably with a big lead. Morales hit a solo homer in the eighth, and Peter Bourjos hit an RBI double in the ninth. NOTES: Detroit's Doug Fister (3-6) takes the mound against C.J. Wilson (9-5) of the Angels on Wednesday night. ... Angels RHP Dan Haren (lower back stiffness) made a rehab start Monday night, pitching five innings for Class A Inland Empire. OF Vernon Wells (right thumb surgery) is expected to start a rehab assignment this weekend. ... Trout's homer was his 13th of the year. Pujols' was his 16th. ... Detroit's Austin Jackson had his streak of 13 games with a run snapped. ... Detroit's last game without a run was last July 16, a 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

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USA TODAY

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. He is hitting .326, good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”