Cubs

Blackhawks breakdown: Ray Emery

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Blackhawks breakdown: Ray Emery

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

After coming back from a career-threatening hip injury that would require surgery and limit him to just 10 games played in 2010-11, Ray Emery played in 34 games -- starting 27 of them -- in 2011-12 for the Blackhawks. He finished the season with a 15-9-4 record, a .900 save percentage and 2.81 goals-against average. Emery did not see any action in the playoffs.

Boden's take: Ray Emery was outplayed by Alexander Salak in the preseason in his bid to make the Blackhawks' roster on a training camp tryout, but Stan Bowman chose to sign him anyway. It didn't look like the right move at the time, but it turned out to be exactly that. Salak wound up struggling at Rockford, and Emery did exactly what he was supposed to do as a backup to Corey Crawford. As Crawford struggled with his consistency throughout the year, there were times Emery looked like he could carry the load, and others where he looked like, well, Crawford. As a backup goalie, I think just about any team would take the numbers Emery put up. By and large, he wasn't spectacular, but was more consistent than Crawford, and almost appeared to be the playoff goalie Joel Quenneville would settle on before Crawford put a hot streak together down the sretch.
Myers' take: When the veteran was signed to a tryout contract heading into training camp, it might as well have just been a regular one-year deal. Salak, who battled Emery for the No. 2 job, actually had better numbers out of camp. But it was pretty obvious the Blackhawks wanted a more veteran presence behind Crawford, who was going into his sophomore season. Emery filled that role well, guiding the Blackhawks to victories during the several slumps Crawford experienced. Emery's play was good enough at times that the dreaded "goalie controversy" once again became a topic of discussion. But the soft-spoken Emery always downplayed that talk when it came up, and just kept going about his winning business.
2012-13 Expectations

Boden: Since it doesn't appear as though there will be changes in the Hawks' goalie tandem, this team either needs Crawford to revert to his rookie form, or Emery to turn back the clock six years when he led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether he's fully capable of that after his career-saving hip surgery two years ago is uncertain. There were also some questions about his being a good teammate, but that was all prior to his injury, and there have been no complaints inside the Blackhawks locker room or in his time with Anaheim. The Hawks recommitted to Emery for one more year (1.15 million) on the final weekend of the regular season. If he repeats what he does as a backup and Crawford re-emerges from his rollercoaster sophomore season, the questions in net will be fewer with the help of a better overall defensive effort in front of the two.

Myers: Emery's already signed to another one-year deal, so we know he'll be back. Considering Crawford's rough 2011-12, some may wonder if Emery's starting goaltender material. Probably not. But the veteran has a good relationship with Crawford -- Crawford said he looked at Emery's pregame preparation and changed his own afterward -- and that should continue through next season. Emery is a good safety net, there's no doubt.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Emery above.

Up next: Dylan Olsen

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: