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Ask Aggrey: What can be expected of Rose's return?

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Ask Aggrey: What can be expected of Rose's return?

Each Monday throughout the season, CSNChicago.com Bulls insider Aggrey Sam will open up his mailbag and answer your Bulls and NBA-related questions. Do you want to get your questions answered by Aggrey? Click here to find out how and to submit your questions.

Long time, no see, right? It's already more than a month into the NBA season and here's my first mailbag in seemingly forever.

Well, I'm back and thanks to anybody who stuck with me during the hiatus, as well as any newcomers. In a way, I'm glad my first mailbag is taking place now, since the early-season gloom-and-doom following some rough moments -- such as the three-game losing streak on the Circus Trip and the infamous loss to Milwaukee, in which the Bulls surrendered a 27-point lead -- are over.

I think (hope) people can see what type of season this is going to be, one in which the Bulls don't necessarily have the star power to beat all of the elite teams on any given night, but are still capable, as evidenced by Saturday's home win over the Knicks.

There will be some disappointing losses, too, without the services of Derrick Rose to bail them out early in the campaign -- and even upon his eventual return, it's unlikely that he'll be the same player we last saw right away -- but in general, the Bulls should be a winning team, a bit over .500, a likely playoff team and have a real chance to maintain their stranglehold on an awful Central Division.

Anyway, with no further ado, here's the mailbag:

1. When Rip Hamilton returns, will Tom Thibodeau continue to give him the same number of minutes?

Rip's injury was a fluke thing, as he doesn't have a history with that particular ailment, but when Thibs limited his minutes at the start of the season, it was a bit of foreshadowing. Because Marco Belinelli has been playing so well in his absence, I could see Rip's minutes staying around 25 a night, fluctuating depending on matchups, his performance, whether Jimmy Butler is needed for a defensive upgrade or if Marco comes out hot off the bench. It's a tricky thing, as Rip had been playing well before he got hurt and in addition to his scoring, the mere threat of him on the court, as well as his playmaking, is something opposing teams game plan for. But I know Thibs was concerned about overusing him into the season and this injury just proved his point.

2. What's your prediction on when Rose returns and what kind of production can we expect from him when he's back?

I hate to make predictions when it comes to any injury, simply because nobody but the player knows how his body is feeling and the a combination of the player, the coaching staff and the organization as a whole -- as well as the player's camp -- will make the final decision when it comes to long-term injuries.

When it comes to Derrick, I've heard a few different scenarios and while the consensus view is that he'll return after the All-Star break, I've been told everything from he'll miss the entire season to he'll play the final 30 games, which seems highly optimistic. I'll go with March, which seems safe enough, as he'll have time to get off some of the rust prior to the postseason but I wouldn't be surprised if he's deemed physically able to play before that and with a nod to caution, he has extended practice time to prepare. As far as production, I believe his minutes will be limited so the gaudy stats won't really be there, but I do think he'll have stretches of games that will induce flashbacks, as well as some ugly moments due to timing. Assuming he plays 20 or so minutes a night, I'll go with 12 points and four assists a game.

3. Will the Bulls use their exception to sign a 14th player to help with minutes while Hamilton is out?

For now, the answer is no. I'm sure if there's a player that the Bulls feel would help the team, regardless of Rip's health, they would look into that. But right now with the way Marco is playing and Butler's progress in his second season, the Bulls will wait. If further injuries occur or a player at another position gets hurt, that may be another story. But at the moment the list of available players isn't exactly filled with amazing talents.

I was asked via Twitter about Chicago native Quentin Richardson and the name of another Windy City product, erstwhile Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, has come up. If and when the Bulls do add another player, expect those two to be seriously considered. However, unless they make a trade and need depth at another position or, as I mentioned an injury occurs, I think the Bulls will stand pat at the moment.

4. How should minutes between Belinelli and Butler shake out?

Marco has played big minutes in his first three games as Rip's replacement in the starting lineup and as long as he keeps shooting the ball the way he's been, I don't see that changing.

Aside from his play justifying his playing time, it also has the added benefit of boosting Marco's confidence and not having to alter the rotation -- something Thibs is big on. Also, Marco's ability to stretch the floor gives the starting unit more balance than Jimmy offers, even if he's a better defender. At the same time, it will be hard for Marco to keep up his numbers as teams watch more tape on him and make adjustments, and after Jimmy's start to the season, it's not like he's in the doghouse, so I suspect that he'll end up seeing the court a bit more, especially in blowout situations to rest Lu or when teams go small, as the Knicks did Saturday.

I'd guess the minutes will end up being distributed a bit more evenly, with Marco playing maybe a little under 30 a night, Jimmy playing 15 or so at shooting guard and then spelling Lu during the rare times he's off the court, as well as playing alongside him occasionally in small-ball lineups, though Taj can also be on the court for those situations, given his mobility.

5. Which player has been the most unexpected surprise OR disappointment in how their game has changed with Rose out?

Since the Bulls have a fairly experienced roster with holdovers who have played extensively without Derrick, I can't say anybody's early season performance has shocked me either way. If anything, Taj has struggled a bit, but I'd attribute that more to the rest of the "Bench Mob," particularly Omer Asik, leaving than Derrick's absence. I'd be curious to see how Jimmy would play with Derrick, as he didn't get much playing time as a rookie behind Ronnie Brewer and his ability to score in transition would seem well-suited to complement Derrick's game.

READ: Knicks' Brewer has fond memories of time in Chicago

Lu and Jo, especially the latter, have really stepped up their games offensively and been much more assertive, which is necessary without Derrick to manufacture points, whether scoring them himself or creating easy opportunities for others. To be honest, and I know this going back a bit, since they last played together in the 2009-10 season, I think Kirk could benefit most from Derrick's eventual return, as he'll have less ball-handling responsibilities when the two of them are playing in the backcourt together and will be able to go up against second-unit players.

With breakout homestand in the books, The Eloy Jimenez Show heads to Wrigley Field

With breakout homestand in the books, The Eloy Jimenez Show heads to Wrigley Field

Eloy Jimenez’s hot stretch dates a little further back than just the beginning of the just completed six-game homestand. You’ll remember the ball he hit to the other side of I-70 in Kansas City.

But playing before big crowds of White Sox faithful, Jimenez announced his arrival as the kind of slugger everyone’s been waiting to see.

Until recently, the biggest positive surrounding Jimenez was simply that he was a big leaguer. He wasn’t yet a terribly effective big leaguer, he spent a long time on the injured list and was routinely making onlookers worry with his play in left field.

But that’s not the case anymore. Jimenez blasted his first homer on the South Side in Tuesday’s game against the Washington Nationals, an absolute bomb that touched down on the fan deck. Three nights later, he hit a pair of three-run homers to power a win over the New York Yankees. All in all, he went 7-for-21 on the homestand, with three homers, a double, eight RBIs, six runs scored and three walks.

“I was very impatient,” Jimenez said Saturday of what was going wrong earlier in the season. “Now, I'm more patient at the plate and I see the ball better. And I get more pitches to hit.

“This is the guy who I've always been. Right now, I feel that it's there. I'm seeing the ball well, hitting the ball really on the barrel right now. I'm taking more walks than the first two weeks. I feel really good.”

Indeed, this is the guy that generated all that hype, the guy that had fans demanding he be called up throughout the 2018 season. This is the guy that’s projected to spend the next decade in the middle of the White Sox lineup.

This is the guy White Sox fans have been waiting for since he was acquired in that 2017 trade with the Cubs.

“I know from the first moment we saw him in camp a few years ago, you could see that there was obviously a talent within this young man,” manager Rick Renteria said before Sunday’s game. “What I do see is the experience he's gaining at the major league level. He's starting to make adjustments in the box.

“The other things I see, though, is the work he's put in in the outfield. He's really starting to improve out there. I think his jumps, his line to the ball are very good. His all-around game is starting to get a little more comfortable at the major league level.

“You look at him and you forget he just turned 22. He's a youngster. He continues to get better, and hopefully it's an exponential growth here in the next month or two when we really see a lot of things happen.”

And for his next trick? He’s going to Wrigley Field.

White Sox fans are annually jazzed for the Crosstown series, and there’s no doubt it’s a fun time of the year. But this season’s edition will pack a little extra punch. Not only are the White Sox playing a lot better baseball than they have in recent seasons, seasons during which the Cubs have been World Series contenders — and one of the main drivers of that, Lucas Giolito, gets the ball in Wednesday’s game — but Jimenez is now a major leaguer.

The headlining return piece in the Jose Quintana trade has looked like a bit of a steal for a while now, considering the prospect rankings and all the hype that came with them. But now Jimenez will square off against the team that signed him, in the park he always assumed he’d call his major league home.

The fun-loving Jimenez doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to hold a grudge or want to show the Cubs what they traded away, but he might end up doing the latter anyway.

Imagine the frenzy White Sox fans will be whipped into if Jimenez parks one on Waveland Avenue.

“Everybody gets excited about going over to that part of town,” Renteria said. “For him, in specific, coming from the organization originally, I'm sure he wants to go out there and show them what he's made of. And hopefully it's something pretty solid.

“He'll be able to control himself. The excitement will maybe play in his favor, assuming it's contained and directed in the right place.”

There were bright spots all over this organization before Jimenez started swinging a hot bat. Giolito’s been a Cy Young candidate through the season’s first two and a half months. Tim Anderson still boasts one of the highest batting averages in the American league. Yoan Moncada is much improved from his disappointing 2018 season. James McCann has been one heck of a discovery at catcher.

But Jimenez represented and continues to represent the bright future of this organization more than any of them. And now that he’s one of those 2019 bright spots, too, that future looks more realistic than ever before.

It doesn’t really matter who Jimenez homers against. But if he can do it against the Cubs, at Wrigley Field, his permanent smile might grow a little bigger. And he won’t be the only South Sider with a big smile if the ball hawks at Wrigley are tracking down a mammoth homer off a White Sox bat.

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Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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