White Sox

Dempster focused on Cubs, not trade deadline

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Dempster focused on Cubs, not trade deadline

Ryan Dempster pitches for the Cubs. Sure, that seems obvious, but he stressed it Saturday after another strong, shutout effort helped Chicago to a 4-1 victory over Arizona at Wrigley Field.
While most post-game questions focused on speculation Dempster will likely be traded before the non-waiver trade deadline July 31, the right-hander steered his answers toward the present.
Im well aware of things going on and rumors and things like that, Dempster said. But Im a member of the Chicago Cubs and Im trying to do my best job for this team and for my teammates.
Right now his best job has been pretty spectacular. Dempster completed six shutout innings to extend his scoreless streak to 33 consecutive innings.
The streak is the longest for a Cubs starter since Ken Holtzman also went 33 shutout innings in 1969. Dempster is one of only three Cubs starters to have shutout streaks of at least 33 innings in the past 95 years.
Bill Lee did it twice in 1938 with streaks of 35 and 37 innings. Holtzman is the other.
Dempster's success makes him a prime candidate to be dealt, though its anybodys guess as to where he could end up. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said hes been fielding many calls since play resumed following the All-Star Game break, but did not indicate any move was imminent.
Dempster, who came to the Cubs as a free agent in 2004, knows the position hes in regarding his trade value. But hed rather not think about wearing anything but a Cubs jersey right now.
I understand the business side of baseball, he said. You can better your team for the future by being able to acquire some guys, but I havent given a whole lot of thought to what it might feel like to be somewhere else. Right now Im just enjoying playing here and winning (Saturday), and being part of this nice little run were on.
The Cubs clinched the series victory, keeping them unbeaten in their past five series (4-0-1). They have won 11 of their past 15 games, plus five straight at home to top the .500 mark (21-20) at Wrigley for the first time since early in the season.
Against the Diamondbacks, Dempster didnt have his best stuff but still didnt allow a runner past second base even after giving up one-out double to Paul Goldschmidt in the fourth inning.
Dempster only had one perfect inning -- his last. He was pulled after the sixth having thrown 89 pitches, 56 for strikes. He allowed four hits and three walks with five strikeouts, and benefitted from two double plays.
It was his second start since returning from the disabled list with right lat tightness. Manager Dale Sveum said he had Dempster on a pitch count of 90, so it was time to take him out in the sixth despite Dempster having his best inning of the game.
When I took him out he wanted to stay in, but he wasnt going to talk me out of it, Sveum said. That was the game plan today and it worked out perfectly. He got another inning in (compared with his previous start) and got to 90 pitches. The plan worked to a T today.
The plan now is for Dempster to make his next start without restrictions. The question is, will it be in a Cubs uniform?

With young arms dealing, Reynaldo Lopez sets high expectations for White Sox rotation in 2020

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USA TODAY

With young arms dealing, Reynaldo Lopez sets high expectations for White Sox rotation in 2020

The White Sox starting rotation of the future won’t be complete until Michael Kopech returns from Tommy John surgery. It won’t be complete until Rick Hahn’s front office is done shopping this winter.

But what the team’s young pitchers, the ones throwing right now at the major league level, have done of late has to have everyone feeling good about the starting staff’s prospects in 2020.

Lucas Giolito called his most recent outing, a shutout of the high-powered Minnesota Twins, the “best I’ve ever felt pitching in my life.” Dylan Cease settled down nicely after some early struggles against the Texas Rangers on Friday and called his performance the best he’s had as a big leaguer. Reynaldo Lopez had to leave Sunday’s outing after just five innings, his days-old sickness a little too much to handle, but he didn’t allow a single hit before his departure.

All in all — and that includes recent strong showings from veterans Ivan Nova and Ross Detwiler, too — the rotation has a 2.09 ERA in the last seven games, five of which have ended in White Sox victories.

“We’re excited,” Lopez said through team interpreter Billy Russo after Sunday’s game. “This is a very, very exciting moment for all of us and for the organization.

“I think the expectations that you can have right now and that we have right now for the future are really, really high because we all know what we’re capable of doing. And if we’re just doing it right now, then it’s going to be just part of the process, just continuing doing what we’re doing right now.

“The learning process for all of us, for the young guys, has been outstanding. I think all of us have been learning a lot outing by outing and just putting those lessons on the field, too. It’s not just learning and, ‘OK, yes, learning this today and going to apply it in a week.’ No, you need to apply it right away and we’ve been doing that.

“I think you can see the results and for us as a group, it’s a very good moment.”

To those not so sure, there are perfectly valid reasons to be skeptical about the makeup of the 2020 rotation.

Lopez has been terrific since the All-Star break, his second-half ERA down to 2.82 after the five scoreless innings Sunday, but that doesn’t erase the woeful 6.34 number he had in the first half.

Cease has shown what everyone, including manager Rick Renteria, calls “electric stuff,” but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a 5.76 ERA and has allowed a homer in all nine starts he’s made since his promotion.

Giolito has been an ace but will have to show that his transformation from the guy who gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in baseball in 2018 into an All Star is permanent.

Kopech’s next start will be just his fifth as a big leaguer and will come, at the earliest, nearly 19 months after his fourth. And while the White Sox remain confident, there’s no telling, until we see him in action, what kind of pitcher he is following the surgery.

And though Hahn has pledged aggressiveness this offseason, we don’t know what kind of pitcher the White Sox will be able to add this winter.

But all that can be effectively countered by what’s happening right now before our eyes.

“They continue to mature, grow, learn,” Renteria said. “It's not necessarily the outcomes, even though you want those good outcomes to occur. It's what they're feeling in terms of what they believe they're capable of doing in certain moments. They're starting to trust themselves a little bit more and able to execute and get through games.”

No matter what the White Sox front office does this offseason, it figures to have four 2020 rotation spots spoken for: Giolito, Lopez, Cease and Kopech. That’s 80 percent of a rotation made up of homegrown arms, or if you’re a stickler on the definition of “homegrown,” guys acquired in those rebuild-jumpstarting trades in 2016 and 2017.

With Giolito and Lopez dealing of late and Cease getting positive reviews while going through his learning process in his first taste of the major leagues, Lopez’s words ring true. There should be excitement and high expectations for next season. These young arms and what they’re doing right now, not hypothetically but in reality, is part of what makes a transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020 look possible.

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Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano ‘will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan’

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USA Today

Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano ‘will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan’

The entire NFL is still reeling from the Andrew Luck’s bombshell decision to retire from football.

The story that overshadowed the Bears third preseason game in Indianapolis has the whole league reacting to the bold move from one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game.

Former Colts head coach and current Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano issued a statement Sunday on the player he drafted No. 1 overall in 2012.

“Our friendship extends well beyond player-coach and I wish him, his beautiful wife Nicole and their growing family nothing but the best,” Pagano said. “I will forever be a huge Andrew Luck fan.”

Pagano and Luck combined to go 43-27 over five seasons together. The head coach saw his quarterback through abdomen and shoulder injuries that eventually cost him the entire 2017 season and led to Pagano’s departure.

Luck, of course, was by his coach’s side when he battled Leukemia in 2012.

The quarterback’s retirement ultimately comes down to his health, and Pagano knows better than anyone how Luck battled through issues the last seven years.