Bulls

Birmingham Bounces Huntsville To Snap Losing Streak

Birmingham Bounces Huntsville To Snap Losing Streak

Monday April 25, 2011
Posted: 10:04 p.m.
WHITE SOX Birmingham AA
The Barons snapped a two-game losing streak and pounded their way by Huntsville, 6-2 at Joe Davis Stadium Monday night. The Stars had been tied with Tennessee for first place in the Southern Leagues North Division and remained there after the Smokies were bested in Jacksonville.

Christian Marreros two-run triple snapped a 2-2 tie and sparked a three-run sixth inning. Marrero would then score on a wild pitch to help Birmingham keep pace in second place in the South Division. Tyler Kuhn had two hits, including a two-run homer in the second inning, for the Barons.

Justin Edwards picked up his first victory in four starts of the season, striking out four and allowing two runs over five innings. Greg Infante pitched two scoreless innings for his fifth save.
Charlotte AAA
Charlotte remained mired in an early-season slump Monday night, dropping a 4-3 decision to Gwinnett County at Knights Stadium. It was the 10th loss in 12 games for the Knights.

Julio Teheran made it a difficult evening for Charlotte, scattering six hits and striking out seven over eight innings. While he allowed three runs, two of those came in the seventh. Prior to that late Knights burst, Teheran was dominant.

Lucas Harrell 1-1 allowed all four runs and took the loss despite striking out seven in his six innings of work. He was undone by the long ball, allowing a pair of homers. Alejandro De Aza had two hits for the Knights.
Winston-Salem A
The Dashs woes continued Monday night at BB&T Park as they dropped a 14-7 decision to Frederick, marking the eighth time in 10 games that they have lost.

The Keys banged out 15 hits and withstood a seven-run fifth inning by Winston-Salem, an inning that saw their lead dwindle from eight runs to one. Frederick, however, wouldnt let the Dash draw any closer, scoring six runs over the final three innings to put the game out of reach.

Starter Terry Doyle 0-2 took the loss after allowing eight runs on nine hits over six innings. Jake Oester had three hits for the Dash while Austin Yount two-run and Andy Wilkins three-run each hit homers in the fifth. Jose Martinez was 2-for-5, pushing his average to .391. In other news, right-hander Justin Collop was place don the disabled list with an undisclosed injury. Collop made his first start of the season Sunday and was hit hard by Wilmington.
Kannapolis A
Lexington scored the winning run Monday night on a passed ball in the bottom of the 10th to edge by the Intimidators, 7-6, at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Telvin Nash led off the inning with a single and was then pinch-run for by Ben Orloff, who went to third on a Chris Wallace double. After Jimmy Ballinger intentionally walked Mike Kvasnicka to load the bases, Blanke couldnt handle a pitch with Tyler Burnett at the plate, allowing Orloff to come home with the winning run.

Drew Lee, who joined the club from Bristol last week, was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs after coming on a pinch runner for Ross Wilson in the first inning. There was no immediate word on any injury.
CUBS Peoria A
The Chiefs exploded for eight second-inning runs and coasted to 14-3 victory Monday night over Clinton at Alliant Energy Field to move over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Arismendy Alcantara and Pierre LePage each had two-run singles in the inning while Peoria added runs on a pair of bases-loaded walks to end any doubt as to the games outcome. The top of the Chiefs batting was marvelous throughout with each of the first three batters picking up a pair of hits.

Peoria had 13 hits in all with LePage, Alcantara and Greg Rohan each picking up three RBIs. Rohan has a team-leading 17. Eric Jokisch 3-0 went a career-high five innings and picked up the victory in relief after starter Hayden Simpson went only four innings. The former top pick allowed five hits, walked a batter and gave up two runs.

Micah Gibbs also had two hits, extending his hitting streak to a career-high five games. The run total was Peorias highest since scoring 16 against Cedar Rapids on Aug. 30, 2009. Marcus Hatley was activated from the DL while Casey Harman will be added from Extended Spring Training. To make room on the roster, pitcher Eduardo Figueroa has been promoted to Daytona while catcher Chad Noble has been sent back to Mesa.

Iowa AAA
It may still be April but Lou Montanez is making some Triple Crown noise in the Pacific Coast League as he continues to assault opposing pitching. He had another big evening on Monday as Iowa out-slugged Memphis, 12-8, at Auto Zone Park.

Montanez had four hits, including a homer, and drove in four runs to lead the 15-hit I-Cub effort. He pushed his average to .438, putting him in the top five in the PCL batting race. Montanez also has 25 RBIs, temporarily putting him in the lead pending Anthony Rizzos performance with Tucson late Monday night.

Brad Snyder added a homer and three RBIs to help make a winner of Robert Coello 2-2. Esmailin Caridad tossed three scoreless innings to pick up the save.
Tennessee AA
Jacksonville went the double nickel route Monday night, scoring five runs in the fifth inning to power its way to an 8-4 victory over visiting Tennessee.

Luke Montz three-run homer off Ryan Buchter proved to be the decisive blow in the inning and the game. Rafael Dolis, however, also had a hand in the inning and took the loss, allowing four runs on six hits in 4 13 innings.

One bright spot for the Smokies was Rebel Ridling, who remained red hot while taking control in the early race for the Southern League batting title. Ridling had three hits, including a homer, and three RBIs to push his average to .436 while extending his hitting streak to six games.
Daytona A
The Cubs were postponed at Dunedin because of rain.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

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USA TODAY

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Drilling further down on Matt Nagy after Bears OT loss to Miami Dolphins

The 31-28 overtime Bears loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday had myriad authors on the Chicago side of the ledger. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky correctly assessed the defeat as a team loss, which is pretty much the case in any NFL loss, but particularly so in this case.

“Growing pains” only goes so far in explaining the variety of problems that befell all three Bears phases in the heat of south Florida. And while devastating mistakes are inevitable for young, inexperienced head coaches and players, it falls to those coaches and players to demonstrate that Sunday in Hard Rock Stadium was an anomaly.

Because after five 2018 games, it is not clear that the Miami missteps are indeed exceptions, on the parts of players or coaches, both in fact. Regardless of whether the fault lies with offense or defense (special teams get a pass; Sunday should never come down to Cody Parkey needing to make a field goal from 53 yards).

The Bears have gone into four 2018 fourth quarters with leads and lost two of those games. The late-game defensive collapses at Green Bay and Miami should suffice to put a sock in mentions of the ’85 Bears defense and the ’18 iteration in the same conversation.

And the fact that the Bears offense has not scored more than 7 points in any of the five 2018 fourth quarters says that more than just the defense lacks a consistent finishing kick.

Coaching not to lose?

There is a fourth “phase,” and not the one (fans) that Lovie Smith once cited. It is coaching, which is intricately interwoven with each of the three main units but is its own phase. How well this fourth phase performed in Miami is a matter of some hazy perspectives.

“I’m a big boy; I can handle criticism,” Nagy said Monday. “You talking about the 53-yard field goal? No, I’m fine with that. I have no issue at all with the criticism. That’s where people are? That’s their own opinion. I felt good with what we did and, shoot, we’re all in this thing together and I trust our guys.”

Beginning with relative minutiae: Two flags were thrown (one declined) in Miami for illegal formations, in both cases for leaving the right tackle uncovered. A delay-of-game penalty on a second-and-3 at the Miami 44, led to a punt when the offense only made up seven of the resulting eight yards. That sloppiness pointed to issues on the sideline rather than in the huddle.

On multiple occasions coach Matt Nagy strongly defended Trubisky during training camp when interceptions occurred, the coach considering those acceptable temporary losses in the greater quest for his quarterback learning to stay aggressive in learning his limits and capabilities.

Yet in more than one situation Sunday, it was Nagy who dialed back the aggressive edge that he’s spoken of seeking to install in his quarterback and team. It left at least a small question as to whether Nagy lacked confidence in himself or his quarterback or his team to deliver in a critical moment.

Did Nagy second-guess himself the morning after? “Nope.”

Shaky confidence?

Whether the Bears were properly prepared coming into Sunday was an issue. A team on a three-game high came out of an off week with its poorest first-half performance of the season.

But it is what happened, or didn’t happen, later that warrants the some scrutiny.

As in: Nagy’s playcalling with the game there for the winning – the overtime possession starting from the Chicago 20, needing only a field goal for a win.

The point is not second-guessing a specific call or calls, but rather what may be at work with Nagy’s overall thinking and propensities.

After a short, high-percentage throw to Trey Burton on first down, Nagy called five straight runs. The first two, runs of 19 and 15 yards by Jordan Howard, worked. Howard went out for a two-snap break, then was back for a final run on third-and-4, which failed, leaving the ball at the Miami 35, Nagy’s minimum for attempting a field goal.

Beyond the obvious conservatism, the overall put the Bears in position of not only needing to convert a 53-yard field goal, but also leaving the Dolphins with field position at their 43 if the kick missed, which it did, although NFL kickers convert from 50-plus yards at a rate approaching 62 percent.

“To me, that 35-yard line [was the minimum], a 53-yard field goal, I have ultimate trust in [kicker Cody Parkey] making that,” Nagy said. “But at the same time, every yard that you get brings the percentage up a little bit.

“We just hit a [19]-yard run, we just hit a 15-yard run, and then we had a couple more runs right behind that. That’s just the decision we ended up making. Now, [if] he makes that kick and we’re good. He doesn’t and it’s ‘could you get a little bit closer?’ It would have helped, but at the same time I think Cody would be the first to tell you that he knows he can make that.”

One problem: Were Nagy’s defense playing at the level it had in the three previous games, he could be excused for trusting his defense to deliver a stop even with the Miami starting point. But the Dolphins had pushed the defense backwards for 344 total yards over the prior six possessions. There should have been no reasonable expectation that the defense, which already had driven backward 74 yards before a fumble on the first overtime possession, would suddenly rise up for a stop.

Nagy’s tactics also hint a lack of convinced confidence that his quarterback and offense could pull off an aggressive, under-control possession at that point. Exactly what Nagy is likely to stay in-house. His offense had scored touchdowns on four of its first five possessions of the second half, when the Bears never punted.

But Trubisky had thrown an inexplicable interception from the Miami 13 and Tarik Cohen had lost a fumble at the Chicago 45 on the fourth-quarter possessions on either side of the final Bears touchdown. So by the time the overtime possession arrived, Nagy had seen turnovers by all three principle members of his backfield – Cohen, Howard and Trubisky.

Whatever his reasoning, Nagy flashed defensive in the face of questions on his calls – “You go ahead, you throw it and then [media] are here asking me why you took a sack” – a response loosely suggests that Nagy either cares what people think (unlikely) or that he was mad at himself and/or his players (more likely).

That Nagy alluded to Trubisky taking a sack recalls sacks that the quarterback has taken that cost his team yardage before a missed field goal (Arizona) and other sacks incurred trying to force a play. Nagy sidestepped a question as to whether he would play that situation differently at such time as when Trubisky and his offense are more mature.

An erudite non-answer answer.

Fatigue factor

Running back Tarik Cohen mentioned his own failure to deal sufficiently with fatigue in Sunday’s second half, mentioned it in connection with his lost fourth-quarter fumble. Whether fatigue being allowed to reach a red-line level falls on coaches or player is debatable; players owe coaches honest self-assessments, and coaches had balanced snaps reasonably well for Cohen (34) and Howard (36) for the game.

Cohen is a young player. Nagy and most of his staff are young, and heat-management is not usually at the top of game-planning sheets. The last time (1994) the Bears played a day game in Miami, Cohen was still a year away from being born and Howard was two weeks old. Trips to Tampa the past three years don’t qualify for carryover conditioning; besides, one of the three was in December, a second in November.

But in the absence of player restraint/moderation/discretion/whatever in the face of in-game physical decline, it falls to Bears staff to monitor conditioning. The clear fall-off by the defense was more than apparent in the form of ebbing effort, missed tackles and generally flagging performance.

“I want to say that I’m not sure that our training staff and sports science staff could have done a better job in that situation,” Nagy said. “It was absolutely phenomenal. They were unbelievable, with how they handled the hydration and the cramping with our players. It was unreal. And so, that’s a credit to them for being prepared and getting our guys right.

“That was a long game. And when you play an extra period, or extra quarter in that heat, that’s a lot. For our guys to do that, that’s another part of the challenge that they battled through and that was everybody collectively — not just the players, but our staff as well.”