Bulls

Cubs' Top Pick Simpson Has Big Debut; Birmingham Wins Southern League Opener

Cubs' Top Pick Simpson Has Big Debut; Birmingham Wins Southern League Opener

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted: 10:30 p.m.
CUBSPeoria A
Hayden Simpsons long-awaited professional debut was quite a success Thursday evening even if Mother Nature had the final say in Peorias season-opener against Cedar Rapids. The game was suspended heading into the ninth inning with the score tied 2-2 because of rain. It will be completed prior to Friday evenings game at OBrien Field.

Simpson, the 16th overall pick in last years draft, went 3 23 innings, striking out seven and walking one. He fanned the side in the third inning on 11 pitches with the only blemish on his evening coming in the fourth inning when he surrendered a solo homer to Brandon Decker. The former Division-II star didnt pitch last summer while recovering from mononucleosis.

Greg Rohan had a pair of hits and an RBI while Matt Szczur led off and had a double in four at-bats.

Iowa AAA
The I-Cubs used a healthy approach at the plate Thursday night to offset a shaky effort on the mound, pounding out 15 hits in a wild 12-9 victory over Round Rock in the season opener at The Dell Diamond.

Ty Wright homer, three RBIs, Bobby Scales and Lou Montanez three RBIs each had three hits while Bryan LaHair added a homer and three RBIs. Despite allowing five runs in three innings, Esmailin Caridad earned the victory in relief of Thomas Diamond, who allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings.

Tennessee AA
The Smokies erupted for 17 hits, including a pair of homers, Thursday night to crush host Chattanooga, 12-4, in the season-opener for both teams.

Josh Vitters and Matthew Spencer solo homer each had three hits to lead the assault while Brett Jackson two RBIs, Ryan Flaherty two RBIs, Rebel Ridling homer, two RBIs and Steve Clevenger each added a pair of hits. Vitters missed much of the second half of last season with a broken hand after hitting .223 in 206 at-bats for Tennessee.

Chris Rusin, a fourth-round pick in 2009, earned the win after allowing three runs on four hits in five innings.
Daytona A
Matt Cerdas two-run, seventh-inning double proved to be the difference Thursday night as Daytona edged Brevard County, 3-2, at Space Coast Stadium in the season-opener for both teams.

Efrain Nieves had come on in relief for the Manatees and Cerda greeted him with a line drive to left. It was one of his team-leading three hits. Mike Burgess added a solo homer in the fifth as the Cubs began to claw their way out of a 2-0 hole.

Jeff Lorick earned the win with a pair of scoreless innings after starter Robert Whiteknack allowed two runs in five innings.

WHITE SOXBirmingham AA
The Barons didnt have many reasons to celebrate in 2010 but got some early partying in on Thursday as they squeaked out a 1-0 victory at Montgomery in the season-opener for both teams.

Dylan Axelrod earned the win, allowing two hits over five innings. He fanned eight and walked only one before the bullpen Nate Jones and Greg Infante combined to strike out four over four no-hit innings.

Birmingham only managed three hits but one of them was an Ozzie Lewis RBI single in the second inning. Brandon Short and Seth Loman were hit by pitches ahead of Lewis, who singled to left to bring in the games lone run.

Charlotte AAA
Stefan Gartrells RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted Charlotte to a 4-3 victory over Norfolk Thursday night in the season-opener for both clubs.

Dallas McPherson got the winning rally started with a one-out double before Gartrell stroked a liner to right field to bring in the winning run. Gookie Dawkins solo homer in the bottom of the seventh tied the score at 3-3, setting the stage for Gartrells heroics.

Jhonny Nunez took advantage of the rally to earn the victory after pitching a scoreless eighth while Brian Bruney turned the trick in the ninth, striking out a pair to earn the save. Lucas Harrell had started and allowed two runs on six hits over five innings. He fanned five and left after pitching to one batter in the sixth inning.

Alejandro De Aza, who hit .302 for Charlotte last season, had three hits and an RBI for the Knights.
Kannapolis A
Ryan Buch allowed only one hit in his six innings of work Thursday night but it proved to be just one hit too many. The big right-hander allowed a solo homer to Jim Murphy in the second inning and wound up on the losing end of the decision as a result after Lakewood topped Kannapolis, 2-0, in the season-opener at FirstEnergy Park.

Buch, who played his collegiate ball not far from Lakewood at Monmouth College, struck out four and didnt walk a batter. But the Intimidators managed only five hits, all coming off Lakewood starter Mario Hollands. The lack of offense proved to be too much to overcome as the Claws bullpen tossed four perfect innings.

Trayce Thompson had a double for the Intimidators.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: The basketball world mourns the loss of Kobe Bryant

bulls_outsiders_podcast_website_listen_now.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: The basketball world mourns the loss of Kobe Bryant

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine and David Watson reflect on the passing of an NBA icon, Kobe Bryant.

0:30 - Reaction to Kobe's passing on Sunday

18:00 - More discussion about Kobe Bryant and his impact on the league

25:00 - The guys favorite memories of Kobe Bryant

Listen here or in the embedded player below.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

What's next for Denzel Valentine after standout performance against Spurs?

What's next for Denzel Valentine after standout performance against Spurs?

Denzel Valentine is beloved throughout the Bulls’ locker room. It takes only a brief sweep around to glean that.

“I love playing with Denzel, that's my guy,” Kris Dunn said. “No matter what, that's my guy. He know[s] that.”

No matter what.

“Man, Denzel is a true professional,” Zach LaVine said. “We're thankful to have him on this team, I think any team would love to have him. He's someone that is beneficial to us because he's gotten put in a tough situation where he came off the bench, and he's a player that's a regular rotation guy.”

Any team would love to have him.

“They show a lot of support, man, it's just crazy. We have a really good, close-knit team,” Valentine said of his teammates. “Zach — he's been a really good help in this situation. Talking to me every day. Coby [White], Kris, I can go down the line of everybody that's a part of it, so. I got blessed, man, I'm on a really good team with really good teammates.”

Let’s rewind. Valentine logged his fourth-highest minutes total of the season (19:06) on Monday, tied his season-high for scoring (16 points) and played crucial, crunch-time minutes in one of these Bulls’ most memorable victories — a 110-109 squeak-by over the San Antonio Spurs on a night the late Kobe Bryant was commemorated from start to finish. 

Valentine added three assists, four rebounds, four 3-pointers and was a team-high +18, as well.

“I thought Denzel was terrific. He's kept himself ready and came in and helped us win a game,” coach Jim Boylen said.

It can’t have been easy keeping the rust off. After missing all of last season due to ankle reconstruction surgery, Valentine is averaging by far his lowest minutes per game this season while shooting 39.5% from 3-point range. He has been phased in and out of the rotation on multiple occasions.

“That's my job as a professional, to stay ready and play when called upon,” Valentine said of how he endures with playing time not a given.

In four games which Valentine has played more than 19 minutes this season, he averages 13.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game on 50/44/100 shooting splits. The Bulls are 3-1 in said contests.

“Playing winning basketball,” Valentine said on what he brings when given opportunity. “Whether that's scoring, passing, playing defense, rebounding. Just whatever I can do to affect the game. People always want to look at my shots, but I think I impact the game in a lot of different ways. I think my defense is underrated, and I impact the game in a lot of different ways.”

Valentine said he’s excited to continue to prove himself with advanced opportunity likely in the near future. Thad Young’s insertion into the starting lineup with Lauri Markkanen out for at least the next month opens a gaping need for scoring off the bench. Since Markkanen went down, Valentine is averaging 13.8 minutes per game. Before then, he hadn’t played more than seven since logging 16 minutes in a blowout loss to Milwaukee on Dec. 30. 

But tonight, he was instrumental to a victory. Of his four 3-pointers, two came in the fourth quarter as the Bulls were clawing their way back from, at one point, a 10-point deficit. 

“He brings that. Scoring, another playmaker. You know, when Denzel get rolling, you get to see a different player in him,” Dunn said. “He has that same mentality that I have in the sense of — you know, just go out there and do whatever you can do to win.”

Valentine is beloved throughout the locker room.

“That's not up to him, to play his minutes. He came in, and he's the biggest reason why we won the game I think,” LaVine said. “I think he was 6-for-10, he had 16 points in [19] minutes. You know, high-IQ player, playing on and off the ball, so it was big and I appreciate having him as my teammate.

“Denzel has some of the highest respect in the locker room, we know who he is as a player, and as a person.”

But are his teammates hinting at something? Trade speculation has swirled around Valentine with the deadline impending and the Bulls’ role for him undefined. Now, though, the team’s need for him is evident, given their short-handedness. 

The waters are muddy, but all there is to know for sure is this: All parties have remained and will remain professional.

Time will tell the rest.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.