Bears

Garza trade rumors continue to swirl

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Garza trade rumors continue to swirl

While the rest of Cubdom is focusing on Anthony Rizzo's impending call-up, Theo Epstein and his staff are still trying to add more young talent to their system.

Matt Garza is easily Theo's best trade chip, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe lists six teams that are reportedly interested in the 28-year-old starter, including the Braves, Tigers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Royals.

The Red Sox, Blue Jays, Braves and Tigers are far from surprises, as they've been rumored to have interest in Garza for a while.

But the Cardinals and Royals are certainly intriguing.

Kansas City has made it clear it is looking to boost its pitching staff, and Garza would be an obvious step up. They probably wouldn't want to part with top pitching prospect Mike Montgomery or outfielders Wil Myers or Bubba Starling (the 2011 first-round pick), but Theo would probably want to at least discuss one of those guys, if not multiple.

Even if those three are taken out of discussions, the Royals have a plethora of young talent, ranking among the best farm systems in the league.

Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert is currently blocked by Mike Moustakas and right-hander Jake Odorizzi would give the Cubs a potential impact pitching prospect, something the organization lacks.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, would be tricky to deal with. While Theo and Co. would want to get the best package available if they deal Garza, they wouldn't want to trade within the division to the Cubs' most heated rival.

Should they choose to discuss a deal with St. Louis, the Redbirds actually have a lot to offer.

Shelby Miller was ranked as the No. 8 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season and the 21-year-old right-hander started the season at Triple-A. They also have Oscar Taveras, a 20-year-old outfielder who is currently putting up a .947 OPS in Double-A Springfield.

The Cardinals have several good young pitching prospects and Theo could go there to stockpile the system.

Of course, the Cubs could wind up signing Garza to an extension or just simply hang on to him and look for offers again over the winter. If they decide to trade Garza, there should be no shortage of buyers, with other teams like the Yankees possibly jumping in as the deadline approaches.

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

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USA Today

The Way We Hear It: Khalil Mack will probably play after all

The Bears are back in Chicago and Tom Brady and the Patriots are in town! With a week of practice wrapping up today, here's what's been happening in the lead up to Sunday's Bears-Pats matchup: 

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

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USA TODAY

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"