Bears

Chipper and his love-hate relationship with Wrigley Field

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Chipper and his love-hate relationship with Wrigley Field

Chipper Jones still remembers his first time walking down the tunnel, into the dugout and seeing the wall-to-wall ivy.

Jones loves visiting Chicago and seeing the city. He felt the adrenaline at Wrigley Field during playoffs series in 1998 and 2003. He respects the history, but wont particularly miss this place.

Wherever the Atlanta Braves go this season, Jones will be asked for memories. He doesnt need the attention, but doesnt really mind the questions either. He noticed how his old manager, Bobby Cox, opened up to everyone during his farewell season in 2010.

Jones is 40 years old and hasnt been programmed by handlers to speak in clichs. Last month, during one of those retirement tour interviews, he told Yahoo! Sports that Wrigley Field was the worst hitters park in the game, and promised to be there when they blow it up.

Ive always said Id be in the front row whenever they drop the plunger, Jones said Wednesday with a smile, inside the cramped visiting clubhouse. But I said that in jest, (because) Im a .220 lifetime hitter here.

When Jones retires at seasons end, the seven-time All-Star can look back on a career that might put him in Cooperstown. A career .304 hitter didnt pad his numbers at Clark and Addison.

Ten of his 459 home runs were hit here. Jones remembered that two came in one game one off Carlos Zambrano, another off Kerry Wood on Aug. 22, 2005.

Its been tough sledding here for me, Jones said. But I think when its all said and done with, Wrigley Field is good for baseball, because its a throwback. Its the second-oldest stadium still standing. Having that tradition and that feel when you walk down the halls is something that I think players still enjoy experiencing.

As much as the Boston Red Sox influence will be felt throughout Theo Epsteins organization, The Braves Way also became a model for scouting and player development.

The Braves made Jones the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 draft, and watched it all come together, winning 11 consecutive division titles and a World Series between 1995 and 2005.

You got to have staples, Jones said. We had (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine and (John) Smoltz forever. We had guys that were just as good as those three at certain times.

We had good, young core position players, (whether) it was guys like me and Andruw (Jones), or guys like Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman now. You got to have cornerstones.

I like where the Cubs are headed. I like the two young kids up the middle (Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney). Theyre starting to get some power arms at the top of the rotation in (Matt) Garza and (Jeff) Samardzija. Thats a really good start.

I know theyre probably not where they want to be in the standings at this point. But I think theyre headed in the right direction.

Identifying and developing elite pitching and keeping those arms healthy will be a huge challenge on the North Side.

The bottom line is the Braves had unbelievable starting pitching for a long, long time, manager Dale Sveum said. The way they put the pieces together over the years the bottom line is starting pitching. When you have the consistency of starting pitching like they have (had across) the last 20 years, youre going to win a lot of games.

The Cubs hope to time their next wave of talent with a renovated Wrigley Field. Better facilities should help the players prepare each day, and there would be more revenues to pour into the on-field product.

The field itself has gotten a lot better, Jones said. The playing surface when I first came up was pretty brutal. (But) youd just like to see them expand the dugout, expand the clubhouse, expand the seats.

If you can put more people in here, why not? Obviously, Wrigley Field can sell out any time it wants. (But) it would greatly benefit from a facelift.

Maybe Jones appreciation for baseball history will lead him back here one day as a fan. It may not be his hitters park, but its not a bad place to grab a beer and watch a game.

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, another sign that he's cut out for this

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USA Today

Eddy Piñeiro is quietly finding his form again, another sign that he's cut out for this

As a large group of TV cameras gathered around Charles Leno Jr.’s space in the Bears’ locker room, Eddy Pineiro quickly finished getting dressed in the shadows to Leno’s left. The kicker’s stayed out of the spotlight since losing the trust of his head coach on a nationally-televised game three weeks ago, but he’s played as well as anyone during the Bears’ three-game return to relevance. 

“Yeah, I would definitely say I’m more confident,” he said after the Bears’ 31-24 win on Thursday night. “There’s just good rhythm – good snap, good hold.” 

He hasn’t had to attempt a kick over 40 yards (!!) over the three games, but Pineiro’s accuracy issues, at least for now, seem at bay. He hit all five of his kicks against the Cowboys – four extra points and one 36-yard field goal. The kicker hasn’t missed a field goal (5-5) since LA, and has gone 9-10 on extra points. More importantly, they haven’t lost since either. 

“Oh yeah, it feels great,” Pineiro said. “Everyone in the locker room is super excited and happy. Everybody’s in a good mood. When you win, everybody’s in a good mood.” 

He hasn’t been physically tested much over the last month, but just ask Aldrick Rosas or Brett Maher how easy kicking at Soldier Field – even in nice conditions – is. The Bears have always loved Pineiro’s response to adversity, and it’s starting to look like he’s rewarded them again. 

“Just gaining experience, honestly,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me has just been gaining experience. Playing the game, I obviously don’t have the most experience, but I think trying to gain that experience has been the biggest thing for me.” 

Pineiro mentioned that he’s still getting used to the adjustments that come with kicking in colder temperatures – which may help explain some of his more recent lackluster kickoffs. It’s easy to see how a nationally-televised game in unusually pleasant conditions could have been a trap for a young player who’s maybe pressing a bit, but after getting the full Bears Kicker Experience stuffed into half a season, Pineiro knows better. 

“In my opinion, you’ve got to play well in every single game,” he said. “[it’s] not like just because you’re on national TV, you’ve got to play better. It felt good to get out there and hit a couple kicks.” 

Otto Porter Jr. remains out indefinitely for Bulls, reassessed in 2 weeks

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USA Today

Otto Porter Jr. remains out indefinitely for Bulls, reassessed in 2 weeks

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues.

The Bulls announced Friday that their starting small forward will be reassessed in two weeks after a repeat MRI of his left foot showed "continued bone edema." That's basically a bone bruise, which has sidelined Porter since Nov. 6. Coach Jim Boylen said Porter will wear a walking boot "for a bit" and then will visit a specialist. In a release, the team said that's Dr. Bob Anderson, the same Green Bay, Wis.-based surgeon who reconstructed Denzel Valentine's left ankle.

Chandler Hutchison also remains out with his bruised shoulder, although Hutchison is working out individually. Kris Dunn has been starting for the Bulls alongside Tomas Satoransky and Zach LaVine.

Boylen also said Thad Young will miss Friday's matchup with the Warriors because of personal reasons and will meet the Bulls in Miami, where they play the Heat on Sunday.