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Cubs cant afford to swing and miss in this draft

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Cubs cant afford to swing and miss in this draft

SAN FRANCISCO Theo Epstein has called it the most important day of the year. Jason McLeod has described it as their Super Bowl.

But as much as Cubs executives respect Dale Sveums evaluation skills, and have promised that he will have a voice in shaping the teams identity, it doesnt do the manager much good right now.

More than 2,100 miles away from the draft room, Sveum sat down in his office late Sunday afternoon. He wasnt complaining or pointing fingers after a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

But its easier selling the future the draft starts Monday night than explaining away 15 losses in 18 games.

Its the same press conference every day, Sveum said. Its a broken record. I dont even know what to say to come up with something different.

Outside of Alfonso Sorianos three-run shot in the ninth on Friday night, the Cubs have scored one run in 26 innings here. Theyve scored a run in only nine of their last 81 innings on the road.

The Cubs (18-35) clearly need impact talent, and the organization has a lot riding on this draft. Through the first three rounds, they will be picking at Nos. 6, 43, 56, 67 and 101.

McLeod made a name for himself with the Boston Red Sox by choosing Dustin Pedroia out of Arizona State University at No. 65 in the 2004 draft, and watching him develop into American League MVP four years later. Jacoby Ellsbury McLeods first-round pick out of Oregon State University in 2005 nearly won that award last season.

Imagine someone like that in a lineup next to Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Sveum has watched video of certain draft prospects to see how their swings and hands will translate to the next level. Last week at Wrigley Field, he also threw batting practice to Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. But he hadnt really spoken to the front office in a few days.

Theyre in lockdown right now, Sveum said. Theres a lot going on in their life right now. (So) you do all your due diligence. You want that to be the right pick (and) you want to find those diamonds in the rough.

People dont even fathom how much stuff goes into that draft to make sure you find a few players that can impact the big-league team.

Travis Wood the 25-year-old left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Sean Marshall trade last winter allowed one run across seven strong innings.

Wood couldnt quite match Barry Zito, who left to a standing ovation in the ninth inning, and could have used some more help from his defense. Catcher Koyie Hill couldnt hold onto the ball during a play at the plate, and Soriano had trouble making a few plays out in left field on his bad knees.

The Cubs plan to get faster and more athletic and prioritize defense moving forward. But look at the organizations overall record in the minors (97-123 entering Sunday) and you know they need more power arms.

Pitching will definitely be a focus, McLeod said. Its not going to be a need-based pick, especially our first pick, but once we get past the first pick, it could be a pitcher.

It is something that were certainly going to try to address. It is a need for the organization. Were not going to overdraft pitching just because we need it. Its got to fit the criteria that were looking for in that area of the draft. (But) Id be really surprised if when the drafts over, (we dont) feel really good about the pitching.

The Giants (30-24) won their World Series in 2010 with a rotation built around first-round picks Matt Cain (No. 25 in 2002), Tim Lincecum (No. 10 in 2006) and Madison Bumgarner (No. 10 in 2007).

They were throwing to a franchise catcher in Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft. The eccentric closer Brian Wilson, a 24th-round pick in 2003, was waiting to run out for the ninth.

The Cubs can dream, but Sveum knows that there are no sure things in the draft.

Its like gambling, Sveum said. You take a shot and everybody agrees on this guy and that guy and, boom, you pick him. You wish that they pan out the way you grade them out.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reacting to Round 1 of NHL Draft

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Round 1 of the 2018 NHL Draft.

They discuss the pair of puck-carrying defensemen that the Blackhawks selected on Friday, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. When can we expect to see these first-round picks play in the NHL?

Boyle also goes 1-on-1 with Boqvist and Beaudin. The guys spoke with Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville on Friday.

The guys also share their biggest takeaways from those interviews, which includes your daily Corey Crawford update and Quenneville appeared excited that the team has plenty of cap space to spend in free agency.

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

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.