White Sox

Crosby's return right around the corner?

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Crosby's return right around the corner?

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sidney Crosby's head is clear. The superstar's return, however, remains murky. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain participated in his first full practice since concussion-like symptoms resurfaced in December and there is growing optimism he'll be back before the playoffs begin next month. The ever-cautious Crosby insists there still is no timetable on when he'll be cleared to play in a game, but he looked crisp while spending more than an hour on the Consol Energy Center ice. "It's a good step," Crosby said. "Hopefully, I can keep the momentum and get out there soon." Though the headaches and motion issues that have bothered him intermittently since a loss to Boston on Dec. 5 have subsided, Crosby has been through this drill too often over the last 14 months to get too excited. The 24-year-old former MVP was spectacular in his return from a 10-month layoff in November, scoring twice in his season debut against the New York Islanders and collecting 12 points in eight games before he woke up with an all-too familiar feeling on Dec. 6. During that initial comeback he was cleared for contact in early October and had to wait about six weeks before getting the OK to suit up for a game. It may not take that long this time. "I'm going to give myself days, for sure, of contact," Crosby said. "If you look at our schedule, we have two more practices, I think, this week. No sooner than Sunday I would say but I'm not going to sit here and put a date on it. It would be total guesswork." Coach Dan Bylsma echoed Crosby's sentiments, but made sure Crosby got bounced around during a lively practice session. "It was man-on-man type stuff, some puck battles," Bylsma said. "We had him get through today, we'll see where we progress on day three, four, five and six." Crosby called the lineup "a dangerous place to be" and felt he "was getting a lot of bumps out there." It was a welcome feeling after three anxious months in which Crosby crisscrossed the country visiting specialists in hopes of getting a better handle on his health. Tests conducted out in California in late January discovered a previously undiagnosed soft tissue injury in his neck that mimics a concussion. He took a shot as part of the treatment and claims the results have been largely positive. "It's nice to be symptom free, but it's not as fulfilling until you get out there," Crosby said. "I just want to make sure that I take the right steps here and get back out there soon." The Penguins have surged over the last two months even with Crosby watching from a suite well above the ice. Pittsburgh has a six-game winning streak going into Wednesday's game against Toronto behind the play of MVP-candidate Evgeni Malkin and wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Kunitz has typically teamed with Crosby since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2009, but Crosby doesn't expect Bylsma to break up arguably the league's hottest line whenever he's cleared to play. "They have a perfect mix of guys there to create every shift," Crosby said. Crosby has been pushing himself during non-contact drills in recent weeks and enjoyed getting knocked around on Tuesday. Yet he knows nothing can replicate game action. All he can do is get prepared. After that, it's up to chance. Either way, he's feeling better both on and off the ice. Considering what he's gone through the last 14 months, that's good news. "It's just one of those things where you get used to having things for so long you forget what normal is," he said. "I feel like normal has been a lot more regularly."

Revenge tour: After Eloy Jimenez homered against Cubs, Yoan Moncada homered against Red Sox

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USA TODAY

Revenge tour: After Eloy Jimenez homered against Cubs, Yoan Moncada homered against Red Sox

Call it the White Sox Hitters Revenge Tour.

Last week, Eloy Jimenez provided the single best image of rebuilding progress to date for the White Sox, smashing a game-winning homer in the ninth inning against the Cubs, the team that traded him, at Wrigley Field, the park he always assumed would be the one he'd call home as a big leaguer.

Well, a week later, Yoan Moncada exacted similar revenge on the team that traded him.

In the first of a three-game series between the White Sox and Boston Red Sox, Moncada took a second-inning pitch out to left field, depositing a ball over the top of the Green Monster for a tie-breaking two-run homer at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox traded Moncada — as part of a package that also included Michael Kopech and Luis Basabe — to the White Sox during the Winter Meetings in 2016 in the deal that jump-started the South Side rebuilding project.

Between signing with the Red Sox in 2015 and making his White Sox debut in 2017, Moncada spent time as the No. 1 overall prospect in the game. After a disappointing first full season in the majors last year, Moncada is having a much better go of things in 2019, bringing a .295/.347/.509 slash line into Monday night, when he belted his 13th home run of the season.

Of course, the Red Sox are pretty happy with their return in that trade, Chris Sale, who in addition to being one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two and a half seasons got the championship-clinching out in the World Series last October.

But part of the reason the White Sox future is so bright is the return they got in the Sale trade. And one of those players got his revenge, Eloy style, on Monday night.

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"It's certainly possible": Craig Kimbrel could be at Wrigley by the end of the week

"It's certainly possible": Craig Kimbrel could be at Wrigley by the end of the week

With each appearance that Craig Kimbrel makes in Iowa, the more anticipation for his arrival in Chicago grows. Kimbrel, who’s faced 11 batters over three appearances for the team’s Triple-A affiliate, is not far away from Wrigley. He’ll get in another inning of work on Tuesday, and then the team plans to meet with him and make a decision about next steps.

“He’s feeling really good and doing a nice job of getting himself ready,” Cubs’ President Theo Epstein said before Monday night’s game. “It’s not really about results or velo right now, it’s just kind of getting back into game shape and building that foundation. Tuesday’s an important checkpoint for him, to see how he’s feeling, and we’ll get together with him and make a call after that game.

“We’re getting close to the point where we’ll have established enough of a foundation where there’s an opportunity to take the next step provided he feels good with everything.” 

Once in Chicago, expect Kimbrel to be used as a closer in the most traditional sense of the word - at least at first. That means three out appearances in save situations, as opposed to a more flexible, leverage-based role that Kimbrel has -- at times throughout his career -- pushed back against. He only pitched more than an inning twice in 2018, and has done so 26 times over the span of his 542 game career. 

“With Craig, as he gets here, he’ll be slotted and really carefully,” Joe Maddon said. “And then as we get there, to the latter part of September, if it’s necessary, that’s when I think you look for the four outs possibly.

“He’ll be a three out guy when he gets here.” 

Some more news and notes from Wrigley Field as the Cubs begin a 4-game series against the Braves: 

  • After throwing 4 innings in relief on June 20th, Cubs top prospect Adbert Alzolay will make the first start of his major league career on Tuesday night. Alzolay is the presumed odd man out once Kyle Hendricks returns, but it sounds like the Cubs will give the rookie plenty of opportunities to prove he belongs with the major league club throughout the summer. “I think it’s all about can he perform at a level that allows him to contribute and make an impact,” Epstein said. “And it’s really important because you’re always looking for contributors and especially young ones that can come in, refresh the pitching staff, and be here for a while and make an impact. We need more of those guys.” 
  • There were a number of updates on injured Cubs pitchers on Monday. CJ Edwards threw up to 120 feet on Monday, and felt good according to Epstein. The reliever still has to throw a handful of side sessions before the team plans to approach him with a game progression. 
  • Kyle Hendricks threw 15 pitches off a mound, and also felt good after. He’s possibly in line to throw a longer bullpen later this week, and Epstein had mentioned the All-Star break as a time that’s “certainly in play” for his return. 
  • Brandon Morrow has thrown two side sessions in Arizona, and will throw a third sometime within the next two days. Prospect Nico Hoerner is also in Arizona taking part in baseball activities. Epstein mentioned the end of this week as a time that Hoerner could start seeing live at-bats again. 
  • 2B prospect Robel Garcia is making a ton of noise in Iowa. The 26-year-old is slashing .294/.366/.614 with 13 home runs over 43 games this year. With a lack of production from that position at the major league level (82 wRC+, 20th in MLB), speculation on Garcia’s timeline has grown of late. “He hits the ball really, really hard from both sides of the plate,” Epstein said. “He gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed. He can turn around anyone’s fastball. Those are good ingredients - it’ll be interesting to see how he does as the league adjusts to him a little bit and challenges him with a heavier dose of breaking stuff.

    “I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but you’ve got to pay attention to a guy who’s performing at the level he is and offers the different skills that he has. Anyone on the Triple-A level is certainly on the radar.”