White Sox

CSN to air new edition of its Chicago Bears program that looks at the off-the-field lives of players

CSN to air new edition of its Chicago Bears program that looks at the off-the-field lives of players

Next episode of “Bears Life presented by Xfinity,” featuring a look into the private life of Bears safety RYAN MUNDY, premieres Sunday, August 9 at 5:00 PM CT 

Chicago, IL (August 5, 2015) – Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bears, will provide viewers with a new episode of its half-hour, documentary-style program entitled Bears Life presented by Xfinity, which takes viewers inside the private lives of some of the Bears most beloved players. 

The next edition of Bears Life will make its Comcast SportsNet debut on Sunday, August 9 at 5:00 PM CT (or immediately following “Cubs Postgame Live”), featuring a behind-the-scenes look into the personal life of Bears safety RYAN MUNDY.  Mundy, who is now entering his eighth NFL season, second with the Bears, has never missed a game in his standout career.

CSN recently spent an entire day following and interviewing Mundy at Wrigley Field, where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Cubs-Reds game on June 14, along his moment in the spotlight singing the 7th inning stretch. CSN also gained exclusive access to capture Mundy’s behind-the-scenes life at home, where he is a proud husband and father to two young daughters.  Among the topics of discussion include how the team struggles of last season have fueled him for a career year in 2015, why he feels such a strong connection to the city of Chicago, along with his preparation for life after football as he has already participated in graduate programs at Notre Dame and, more recently, the University of Miami.

Viewers are also urged to check out Comcast SportsNet’s website, CSNChicago.com, for additional Bears Life content never before seen on TV.  Plus, fans will also be able to watch Bears Life online after its on-air debut.  Comcast SportsNet will also re-air Bears Life presented by Xfinity, featuring Ryan Mundy, on the following dates/times: Sun, Aug. 9 at 10:00 PM (on CSN+HD) - Mon, Aug. 17 at 4:30 PM - Tue, Aug. 18 at 8:00 PM - Fri, Aug. 21 at 7:30 PM - Sun, Aug. 23 at 4:30 PM (on CSN+HD) - Thu, Aug. 27 at 1:00 PM - Sat, Aug. 29 at 3:30 PM (on CSN+HD) & Sun, Aug. 30 at 5:00 PM. (Schedule subject to change) 

Note the following quotes from the next edition of Bears Life presented by Xfinity, premiering Sunday, August 9 at 5:00 PM on Comcast SportsNet:

MUNDY on the disappointing 2014 Bears season:

“This is a bold statement, but I believe it to be true. Last year was probably my worst cumulative experience in a football season ever. I’ve been playing football since 1992, so that’s a long time. There was so much going on and there was so much that went wrong.  I had a great season individually, but it didn’t matter because there was always something going on with our team. We could never just be on the same page. Whether it was offense, whether it was defense giving up 100 points in two games, or offense when we couldn’t score more than 28 points in any game…it was just bad…it was always something. Thankfully, that’s over. We got some good people in the building and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m a big believer in environment and energy and I felt like the environment just wasn’t good last year.”

MUNDY on why he loves Chicago:

“I have a strong connection to the city of Chicago because it reminds me of my hometown of Pittsburgh. They are very similar cities. Blue collar, great people, they care about their teams, family-oriented cities and just hard working cities with a lot of tradition and history. I think that’s really why I embrace the city of Chicago and why I really like it here and I’m going to make it my home.”

MUNDY on life after football:

“One of the first things someone said to me was that the NFL stood for ‘Not For Long.’ Fortunately, I’m going into my eighth year and I’ve had a great career and some great experiences. At some point, the game does come to an end whether I play eight years, nine years, ten years, or an undrafted rookie comes in and plays only one season or somewhere in between. Eventually you’re going to have to stop playing football and move on with life. My plan was to play ten years and that’s only three seasons from now and I’ll only be 32 years old. I looked at it like, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life at age 32?...I accomplished my life goal at the age of 22, what’s my next challenge?...How do I take things that I’ve learned from football and the values and characteristics that I’ve built up in this game and make them applicable in the next aspect of my life?’ That’s what really excites me.”

NOTE: New episodes of Bears Life presented by Xfinity will be announced at a later date.

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

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USA TODAY

Jace Fry, who still hasn't allowed a hit, is penciling his name into the White Sox bullpen of the future

The White Sox best reliever through the first 42 games of this rebuilding season? Undoubtedly, it’s been Jace Fry.

With Rick Renteria’s bullpen hardly the most reliable relief corps the game has ever seen, Fry has been a revelation, starting his 2018 campaign with 7.1 scoreless innings over six appearances.

And now things are getting a bit more dramatic for the 24-year-old lefty, a guy who’s been through a pair of Tommy John surgeries. He pitched some high-leverage ball in Saturday night’s 5-3 win, sitting down all four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings while protecting a two-run lead.

“I was ready the whole game, just waiting for my name to be called,” Fry said. “But it was awesome getting in there in the eighth inning, even getting the first guy in the ninth inning. After I got him I was kind of hoping he’d let me keep going.”

Renteria uses his bullpen in a non-traditional manner, one that perhaps he thinks is a way of the future or one that’s a result of his lack of dominant options out there. Whichever it is, he doesn’t really have a closer but rather a host of guys he uses in those high-leverage situations, whenever they might come during the late stages of a game. Joakim Soria, Nate Jones and Bruce Rondon have all been used to get big outs late in games, and Rondon threw a scoreless seventh Saturday, with Jones getting the game’s final two outs for the save.

But it could be argued that most difficult outs were recorded by Fry, who put away the visiting Texas Rangers’ fourth, fifth and sixth hitters before getting the seventh hitter to strike out to start off the ninth.

Renteria steered away from dubbing Fry one of his new high-leverage guys after the game, but why wouldn’t Fry be in that mix? All he’s done since joining the big league squad earlier this month is get outs. He’s got 10 strikeouts, hasn’t allowed a hit and has just two walks as the lone blemishes on an otherwise perfect season line.

“It just happens to be that it was the eighth inning and the ninth that he pitched,” Renteria said. “I think he’s looking very comfortable in those. It happens to be the eighth and ninth we needed him. He’s been very, very effective. He’s been commanding the strike zone very well, confidently approaching his hitters. He’s got pretty good stuff.

“He’s able to command the zone. Along with that nice breaking ball he’s got to lefties and righties, it’s pretty effective. But he’s continuing to show you he’s capable of coming in and getting some pretty good hitters.”

Fry has been a rarity this season in that he’s appeared to be a candidate for a long-term spot in the White Sox bullpen. Jones would perhaps be the only other guy coming close to qualifying for that, mostly because of his team-friendly contract that keeps him under control a few more years, but he’s had some rough moments, even with his ERA dropping to 3.50 on Saturday.

Fry, though, is young and is dealing at the moment. He even got a shoutout as a potential long-term piece from general manager Rick Hahn earlier this week.

“Take Jace Fry, someone we haven’t mentioned when we’ve had this conversation the last couple of weeks,” Hahn said Thursday, discussing the positives he’s seen during this developmental season. “He’s shown up here and shown that he’s made some progress in his last stint in the minors and now, at age 24, seems like he’s ready to take that next step, and pencil his name in as part of what we’re building here going forward.”

There’s a lot of season left, and no one’s expecting Fry to keep batters hitless and opposing teams scoreless from now through the end of September. But this is a nice development for the rebuilding White Sox at the moment, a guy who’s giving them at least one name to put into that bullpen of the future.

How long can he keep this thing going? As long as he keeps getting ahead of hitters.

“Having the success is awesome, but I realize it’s the plan, the plan of attack,” Fry said. “I’m going out and throwing Strike 1 and getting ahead. Actually doing it, seeing it and having the process work definitely creates more confidence. Once you go back to the blueprint of baseball, Strike 1 is everything.”

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer's demotion and the current state of the White Sox rotation provide several rebuilding reminders

Carson Fulmer getting sent to Triple-A following Friday’s game might be, to this point, the biggest development this season on the South Side.

Fulmer doesn’t carry the same expectations as higher-rated prospects like Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning, but this is a top-10 draft pick who the White Sox still believe can play a significant role in their bright future. And he’s struggling. Badly. Once his ERA jumped up past 8.00 thanks to his third straight brief and run-filled outing, the White Sox made the decision to send him to Charlotte.

It leaves the White Sox rotation looking like this: James Shields, a struggling Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago and either Chris Volstad or the recently summoned Dylan Covey.

Four of those guys (Shields, Santiago, Volstad and Covey) don’t figure to play a role in the team’s long-term future, and Giolito is dealing with his own significant struggles, leading the American League in walks heading into his Saturday-night start. Lopez has been the rotation’s bright spot, but even he watched his ERA climb more than a full point after allowing six runs in two innings his last time out.

It’s not a great state for the rotation to be in if you, like the White Sox, have your sights set on the long-term future of this team, though it probably won’t look like that for too much longer. Still, it provides a few valuable reminders about not only this rebuilding effort but rebuilds in general.

This season is about development, and this is what development looks like

For better or worse, this is what development looks like. The White Sox own baseball’s worst record, and general manager Rick Hahn has been among the large number of White Sox fans to voice their disappointment over play that has been sloppy at times.

Fulmer’s struggles fall into the same category and serve as a reminder that growing pains like this are going to happen. We’ve seen it with Fulmer. We’ve seen it with Giolito. We’ve seen it with Lopez. Heck, we’ve seen it with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, too.

But more than wins and losses, this is what this season is about. Hahn calls it “the hardest part of the rebuild” because it features guys getting lit up and games being lost. The hope is that Fulmer can figure things out in the minors and that Giolito won’t require a similar demotion to right his ship. And if everything turns out all right, then this will be an easily forgotten chapter in both of those players’ development.

In the moment, though, it’s another reminder that rebuilds take time and that the waiting game provides minimal fun.

Each player’s development has a different trajectory

Just because Fulmer is getting bumped down to Triple-A doesn’t mean he can’t still turn into a successful major league pitcher. Player development and rebuilds aren’t linear, as rebuilders like to say. And to expect every prospect to travel in a straight line from potential to big league stardom doesn't make much sense.

“We reiterate, ‘It’s not the end of your career,’” Renteria said Saturday. “This is simply a reboot, a reset. Ultimately, I think after the initial shock for any player, they settle down and they understand exactly what’s going on when you look at it logically and look in the mirror. I think it’s easy to logically look at it and say, ‘I need to work on x, y and z.’

“This is a good kid with a really positive attitude and a lot of confidence. I think he’ll look in the mirror and go, ‘You know what, I got things I can work on, I’ll settle in and get over this initial bump and get to work.’ Those are the guys that end up giving themselves a chance to return sooner rather than later and have success.”

Not all prospects pan out

The other side of that coin is the reminder that not every single one of the White Sox wealth of prospects will pan out. Hahn & Co. have prepared for that and built up an incredible amount of prospect depth, but when someone doesn't live up to expectations, it will be painful.

This isn’t to suggest that Fulmer, specifically, won’t pan out, but it’s to point out that not everyone will. That’s a crowded-looking rotation of the future with Kopech, Hansen, Dunning, Fulmer, Giolito, Lopez, Carlos Rodon and Dylan Cease all competing for those eventual five spots. Rather than the White Sox having to make tough decisions about who will be left out, certainly a possibility, the developments of those pitchers might make those decisions for them.

Renteria is confident that Fulmer will be back in the big leagues, and there’s little reason to think that this is the end of Fulmer’s opportunity. But not every top-10 pick reaches All-Star status.

The future is on the way

The current starting rotation might have fans asking why the heck it looks like it does. But a month or two from now it will look drastically different.

Rodon makes his first rehab start Saturday at Class A Kannapolis as he battles back from shoulder surgery last fall, and he shouldn’t be too far away from providing a serious jolt to the starting staff. Not to mention, he’s a guy who as good a chance as anyone as grabbing one of those front-end spots, and with him in the rotation, things will look a tad more futuristic.

Same goes for Kopech, whose promotion figures to be coming at some point this summer. Given the hype and the expectations there, his arrival will obviously be a really big deal.

But regardless of the results either Rodon and Kopech put up in their first tastes of major league action in 2018, they’ll make the rotation into something that way more closely resembles the rotation of the future. There’ll be plenty of development left for the Hansens and the Ceases and the Dunnings in the minors. But a rotation featuring Rodon, Kopech, Giolito and Lopez looks a lot different than one featuring Shields, Santiago, Covey and Volstad.

Patience. It’s not much fun. But it’s necessary to build a contender.