White Sox

Gibson tells his side of the story after rare ejection

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Gibson tells his side of the story after rare ejection

In a game featuring the volatile personality of Knicks veteran Rasheed Wallace, who would have guessed that typically mild-mannered Bulls forward Taj Gibson -- though he plays with exuberance, Gibson is one of the most friendly players in the league -- would get his first career ejection in Saturday night's 93-85 home win over the Knicks?

After committing a foul on Knicks sharpshooter Steve Novak with 3:40 remaining in the second quarter, Gibson had some words for one of the game officials that were deemed over the line, resulting in a technical foul. En route to the bench, as teammate Joakim Noah was set to replace him, Gibson briefly turned back to make another comment, prompting a second technical foul and automatic ejection.

"My second one? I didn't curse or anything like that," he said afterwards. "I just said, 'Are you serious?'"

Apparently that was enough to warrant his ejection -- the referee might see it differently -- but regardless, the already short-handed Bulls, who wouldn't have the services of starting point guard Kirk Hinrich after halftime following a left-elbow injury, managed to gut out a gritty win. Still, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't pleased, as his team has been racking up more technicals than usual this season, with Joakim Noah entering Saturday tied for the league lead with five on the young campaign.

"We Gibson and Thibodeau talked about it briefly. There were some tough calls that I thought went against him and it's an emotional game, but we have to do better with that. When you get one, you've got to let it go and sometimes that's just the way it goes," the coach said. "The calls are not going to go your way all the time and when they don't go your way, you've got to be able to still get through that and get your job done."

For Gibson's part, he was surprised that he received such a quick hook, especially without a reputation as a ref-baiter.

"It was crazy. I don't know. It was just one of those nights when asking questions wasn't a good thing. I tried to ask questions, but I guess the more you kind of talk to the refs, it gets intense. You've got a lot of different guys complaining about calls. I'm never the type to complain about calls or anything like that. I try to just lead by example and let my game speak for itself. I just overreacted, I guess," he told CSNChicago.com. "The official didn't give me any explanation. He just T'd me up. I thought after one, he was going to say, 'All right, one.' But I think he overreacted by giving me two real quick because he didn't even give me a chance to react. He just gave me one, two. But the second one I didn't say anything. I was just going to sit down. But that's the way the game is. The refs control the game. You can't do no right or no wrong.

"They thought I was Rasheed Wallace," Gibson continued, trying to find some humor in the situation. "I never complain, but hey, there's a first time for everything. But the only thing about was coming into the locker room.

"Rip Hamilton was looking at me laughing like, 'You didn't get your money's worth, at least.' But I just took it and went in the back. It's cool."

Despite not having Gibson in the second half against his hometown team, the Bulls were stout defensively and with the East-leading Knicks going to a small lineup, Thibodeau utilized Luol Deng and reserve Jimmy Butler at the forward positions next to Joakim Noah -- limiting starting power forward Carlos Boozer's playing time, even after he had a solid first half of play -- and a backcourt of hot-shooting Marco Belinelli and backup point guard Nate Robinson to pull out the hard-earned victory.

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields is having a stellar May and making comeback wins possible for the White Sox

If you haven’t checked in with what James Shields is doing in a while, your opinion of the veteran pitcher’s performance might need some updating.

Shields didn’t exactly win the confidence of White Sox fans during his first two seasons on the South Side. After arriving in a midseason trade with the San Diego Padres in 2016, he posted a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts, during which he allowed 31 home runs. He followed that up with a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs allowed in 2017.

And the 2018 season didn’t start out great, either, with a 6.17 ERA over his first five outings.

But the month of May has brought a dramatic turn in the vet’s production. In five May starts, he’s got a 3.27 ERA in five starts, all of which have seen him go at least six innings (he’s got six straight outings of at least six innings, dating back to his last start in April).

And his two most recent starts have probably been his two best ones of the season. After allowing just one run on three hits in 7.1 innings last Thursday against the Texas Rangers, he gave up just two runs on five hits Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.

The White Sox, by the way, won both of those games in comeback fashion. They scored four runs in the eighth against Texas and three in the eighth against Baltimore for a pair of “Ricky’s boys don’t quit” victories made possible by Shields’ great work on the mound.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s our job as starters to keep us in the game as long as we possibly can, no matter how we are hitting in a game. At the end of the game, you can always score one or two runs and possibly win a ballgame like we did tonight.”

The White Sox offense was indeed having trouble much of Tuesday’s game, kept off the scoreboard by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman. Particularly upsetting for White Sox Twitter was the sixth inning, when the South Siders put two runners in scoring position with nobody out and then struck out three straight times to end the inning.

But Shields went out and pitched a shut-down seventh, keeping the score at 2-0. Bruce Rondon did much the same thing in the eighth, and the offense finally sparked to life in the bottom of the inning when coincidentally presented with a similar situation to the one in the sixth. This time, though, the inning stayed alive and resulted in scoring, with Welington Castillo, Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez driving in the three runs.

“I’m out there doing my job,” Shields said. “My job is to try to keep us in the game. And we had some good starters against us that have been throwing well. If I can keep them close, we are going to get some wins and get some wins throughout the rest of the year like that. That’s the name of the game.”

Shields’ value in this rebuilding effort has been discussed often. His veteran presence is of great value in the clubhouse, particularly when it comes to mentoring young pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, among others. Shields can act as an example of how to go about one’s business regardless of the outcomes of his starts. But when he can lead by example with strong outings, that’s even more valuable.

“I’m trying to eat as many innings as possible,” he said. “We kind of gave our bullpen — we taxed them a little bit the first month of the season. We are kind of getting back on track. Our goal as a starting staff is to go as deep as possible, and in order to do that, you’ve got to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters.

“Not too many playoff teams, a starting staff goes five and dive every single game. My whole career I’ve always wanted to go as deep as possible. I wanted to take the ball all the way to the end of the game. And we’ve done a pretty good job of it of late.”

It’s a long time between now and the trade deadline, and consistency has at times escaped even the brightest spots on this rebuilding White Sox roster. But Shields has strung together a nice bunch of starts here of late, and if that kind of performance can continue, the White Sox front office might find that it has a potential trade piece on its hands. That, too, is of value to this rebuild.

Until that possibility occurs, though, the team will take more solid outings that give these young players an opportunity to learn how to come back and learn how to win.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."