Cautiously optimistic, Danks takes a step in the right direction


Cautiously optimistic, Danks takes a step in the right direction

They're baby steps, but the road back to a major-league mound has to start somewhere for injured White Sox starter John Danks. And his work Tuesday before the White Sox face the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field helped put at least a little smile on Danks' face in the clubhouse.

The left-hander hasn't pitched for the White Sox since his May 19 win over the Cubs and has pitched just four innings total -- on June 12, in a rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte -- due to a Grade 1 tear in the subscapularis muscle in his throwing shoulder. But he was able to throw 20 pitches off the bullpen mound after completing his normal throwing session from 120-130 feet and working in.

"It was about as good as expected, maybe even better," Danks said. "All in all it was a good day. Am I ready to go pitch somewhere? No. But this is a necessary step and hopefully tomorrow it bounces back and that will tell us what we need to know.

"That's kind of been the biggest problem. Every time we've gotten to this point, it's taken me a day or two to be able to go do it again. We're working on strength. It's been a while since I've thrown and it's going to be a process but we're trying to speed it up the best we can."

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper concurred with Danks' good vibes from the pregame work.

"I'd have to agree with him. Listen, any time we go out there and we do something it's a positive step," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "He's been going through the throwing program and today we threw 20 on the mound. We'll see how he feels tomorrow. We're grading him on how he feels before, during and after -- and today went okay. We'll see tomorrow and go from there."

For Danks, who made at least 32 starts three seasons in a row before making 27 last season, the extent of his injury and length of his absence has given him an unusual feeling. But being back up on the mound helped him find a comfort zone he hasn't felt in quite a while.

"I think the most gratifying part was getting on the mound just because that's what we're working towards, but all of it's good," Danks said. "Being able to go out there and throw 120-130 feet and then work it back in and then to be able to get on the mound and throw from there, that's a big step. We'll see how it goes from here, but today's definitely been a good day so far.

"Heck, it's been so long since I put a pair of spikes on, that was a win in my book," Danks said. "I didn't spin any, or even really focus on throwing strikes. It was more just going through my motion and being able to get it to the plate and I was able to do that for 20."

"We're trying to get his arm strength up by throwing, playing catch, going through a good amount of throws from different distances and then today was the first time -- at the end of it -- we went to the mound and threw 20 fastballs," Cooper said. "He wasn't coming out of his shoes or anything like that but, again, for us to do what we did today, it's definitely a step."

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, rumors continue to swirl that White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is looking to add a significant pitcher to the starting rotation -- namely Milwaukee's Zack Greinke. Could Danks make Williams' decision to deal any easier by taking the mound in a Sox uniform sometime soon?

"I wish I had an answer for you. When it first happened, I didn't initially think I needed to go on the DL. Just miss a start, push me back a few days and go from there," Danks said. "This thing's kind of taken a lot longer than we expected.

"I hope late August, but this is uncharted territory for me. I've never dealt with a shoulder problem," Danks said "Certainly that's the hope, get back in time for the stretch run and hopefully be strong enough and good enough to help push us into the playoffs."

Even a return just weeks before the postseason begins would still be a welcome addition for Williams and the White Sox, especially if first-year starter Chris Sale or rookie Jose Quintana hit a wall as they continue to reach new career-highs in innings pitched. But first, Danks has to start feeling good again and how his shoulder reacts on Wednesday and Thursday will be key in determining the next steps in his rehab.

"I made a joke the other day: it's been so long since I felt good, I don't even know what it feels like anymore," Danks said. "Everything that I'm feeling now, from the training staff and doctors, is exactly what they want me to feel. So, I'm putting all my faith in that. They've dealt with this a lot more times than I have so they know where I should be and what I should be feeling and they're pleased with that."

Postcards from Camp: Defense predictably ahead of offense but “D” already being challenged by changing “O"

Postcards from Camp: Defense predictably ahead of offense but “D” already being challenged by changing “O"

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – An open postcard from the Bears “D”:
Yes, we know we need more interceptions. And we’re doing something about it, even if Mitch doesn’t like it – quarterbacks never do. Tru’ probably wasn’t in a great mood after Nick Kwiatkoski picked his way through traffic, then deflected and grabbed a pass of Mitch’s for one pick, this after Kyle (Fuller) had snagged one of 10’s in 7-on-7. So after Cre’Von LeBlanc broke in front of Adam Shaheen to intercept one of Chase Daniel’s throws, Mitch and Prince (Amukamara) did a little jawing. But hey….
Kwit is having a great camp, running the offense with Danny Trevathan nursing a hamstring problem and Roquan Smith still not signed. Coach Nagy has told us, and said it again on Sunday, that you have to win your job, no gimmes here, and Kwit isn’t giving anything away.
We all were kind of causing problems for the offense. Prince broke up a Mitch throw to Kevin White and then defensed another two snaps later against Josh Bellamy. Kyle broke up a long try to White, too, and even in 7-on7, the QB’s were having to hold onto the ball longer because of good coverage.
(Kevin had a spotty day. He burned us with a long TD catch against double coverage but also dropped another Mitch Trubisky deep heave with no one closer than five yards away, and had the football come out when he hit the ground after another catch.)
We even created a “problem” for coach Nagy, who’s an offensive guy, an ex-QB himself and a former O-coordinator, but now has to pretend be at least a little happy when we do something on defense. Like he said Sunday, ‘The biggest difference [as a head coach] is you can't veer too much, either way. You're right down the middle. So, if Mitch throws an interception, it's good for our defense. Right? It's not good for Mitch. So, how do you balance that?”
Really, we should be ahead of the offense. Two reasons: First, the offense is still learning its playbook and a lot of new guys; and second, as Eddie [Jackson] was saying, “I just know that we’ve got better chemistry from having players here last year. It’s like the biggest thing that you can see. But the offense is doing a great job. They come out there and give us good looks.”
The pads were on for Sunday’s practice, so there was more hitting. The offense’ll be catching up more and more, so we’ll just enjoy the edge while it lasts.
The “D”
P.S.  High-fives to all you fans who came down to watch practice and stayed through all that rain. We’re getting paid to be out there but you’re there because you’re Bears fans. Thanks

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Let’s make if official
Play during practice Sunday was sloppy at times, understandable given the repeated downpours as well as the inevitable early-camp learning curves.
But the practice was run using NFL officials, making their annual camp visits to review and explain new rules, and the Bears committed too many penalties to leave coaches satisfied.
Rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller was flagged for offensive pass interference on an early 7-on-7 rep and a handful of other Bears brought out the yellow laundry from the officials. One defensive offsides, a couple of false starts and other interference penalties—all part of those things to be “cleaned up” before the flags start to count.
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A-Rob impact—and workload—growing
The No. 1 question of anyone who’s been watching training camp is “How’s Trubisky look?” Not far behind that, though, is “What about Robinson? His knee ok?”
If early camp performances, including Sunday’s in full pads, are any indicator, and a handful of practices aren’t ever definitive, then the answers on the hoped-for franchise wideout are clear positives. The top free-agent signing of the Bears this offseason has turned in repeated strong plays and has been targeted enough in the course of Trubisky’s progressions to be satisfied at his ability to get open and to earn his quarterback’s confidence.
Robinson turned in a difficult sliding catch on Sunday and was denied a deep catch later only by an outstanding pass breakup by safety Adrian Amos. Robinson is coming off season-ending knee surgery of a year ago and likely has a handful of rest days built into his plan, as the Bears are doing with guard Kyle Long. 
“We want to be able to monitor and make sure we don’t overdo anything,”said coach Matt Nagy. “There’s no need to do that. He’s worked really hard to get to this point so for us, just to keep an idea where he’s at, how many reps he’s getting, and coach [Mike] Furrey’s done a good job of that.”
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Fan favorite…sort of
This writer was departing O’Hare some weeks back and at an adjacent gate was Bears running back Tarik Cohen. Just time to exchange a few pleasantries and I was leaving. But the notable part of the moment was that no one – no…one —recognized Cohen. No. one.
Then came Saturday morning and the first day of fans attending a training-camp practice. The biggest ovation went to quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Not far short of that, however, was the welcome for Cohen, a hint that the second-year ultra-back (with apologies to Raymont Harris, the original Ultraback) won’t go unnoticed at too many more O’Hare gates.
“A couple people knew me in the airport,” Cohen said. “I was just keeping my head down, keeping it moving. Airports are congested places.”
An ovation coming out to practice “feels great,” Cohen said. “It’s like seeing your hard work pay off a little bit. But I’m looking for a bigger ovation coming out for the games.”
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Sick bay
Rookie linebacker linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe was added to a defense-heavy list of injured absentees, out with what coach Matt Nagy reported was a shoulder injury. He joins linebackers Aaron Lynch and Danny Trevathan and cornerback Sherrick McManis, all with hamstring strains.
Tight end Daniel Brown is still out with an ankle injury.

Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract


Report: Bulls sign former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins to two-way contract

A report on Sunday from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports indicated that the Bulls have agreed to a two-way contract with former Arizona Wildcat Rawle Alkins. 

The 6'5'' guard was a teammate of Lauri Markkanen on the 2017 Wildcats, and many expected him to be a potential lottery pick after showing off the all-around skill set that also made him the top player in the state of New York in high school.

After going undrafted, Alkins played for the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, where he put up 9 points, 4.67 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. In the six  Las Vegas Summer League games he played in, Alkins shot poor from the field (37 percent) and the free throw line (62.5 percent), but he knocked down his 3-pointers, shooting 43.9 percent on a healthy 3.5 attempts from deep per game. 

There is an obvious fit on the Bulls for a player like Alkins. He was a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter in his two college seasons, and has the physical profile of a great wing defender at the NBA-level. Alkins has a 6'9'' wingspan, and at a listed 220 lbs., it is easy to see him having the potential to guard four-to-five different positions on the floor. At this stage of the rebuild, the Bulls could really use as many of the coveted "3-and-D" wings as they can get. And there are some, like, The Ringer's Chris Vernon, who think that Alkins has the potential to become a glue guy.

Alkins will be a fan favorite wherever he plays. You want a Marcus Smart, Tony Allen, or P.J. Tucker–type player when you need a big play in a big game. I see that with Alkins.

-The Ringer's Chris Vernon 

The nature of the two-way contract means that Bulls fans will to catch some Windy City Bulls games to see Alkins in action. But much like Antonio Blakeney last season, we could see Alkins make an instant impact in the G League and get a call-up sooner than later, especially if the Bulls decide to move on from veteran Justin Holiday.

Either way, the pick up is a shrewd move by the Bulls front office. Alkins is a well-rounded, defense-first player who will be joining a young roster overstocked with scoring talent, but thin on defenders capable of guarding on the perimeter or executing a switching defense at a high level.