Cubs

Hamilton suffers injury, but Brewer a capable replacement

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Hamilton suffers injury, but Brewer a capable replacement

After returning to the lineup after the All-Star break, all seemed well for Rip Hamilton. The shooting guard was slowly getting back into the groove, the Bulls were winning and then, Monday evening, the 13-year veteran suffered a right-shoulder injury after running into a Pacers player in the first quarter of the eventual blowout victory.

Hamilton wasnt available for comment after the game, but according to a source familiar with the situation, he left the arena with his right arm in a sling. The same source told CSNChicago.com that Hamilton apparently injured the top of his shoulder and at least early onhell be examined Tuesdaytheres little optimism about a quick return.

He collided and its his shoulder, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. He tried to shake it off and at first I thought it might be a stinger, but that wasnt the case.

Although the Bulls are used to playing without Hamilton for the majority of this season, the hope was that he could finally be healthy to ingrain himself into the team permanently and build upon what appears to be promising chemistry with the rest of the roster. His offseason addition filled a need, sharpshooting and his extensive playoff experience is another plus.

I hope that Rips not too hurt. We know we need him to get to where we want to get to, but Ronnie Brewer was an animal out there tonight, Joakim Noah said before humorously adding, Hopefully hell get some massages. Well call the African spirits and pray that hes all right, and hopefully hell be back on the court soon.

Ronnie Brewer, the player charged with replacing Hamilton in the starting lineup, had a solid outing Monday, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds. While Brewer is a starting-caliber player, the luxury of having him come off the bench and add to the teams depth is clear, though the swingman admits that he relishes the increased playing time.

If you enjoy playing basketball, you enjoy being on the court, having success, having your team have success. Last game I didnt play a lot, but I tried to provide as much energy and impact the game as much as I possibly could against Philly. But tonight, a guy goes down and your role changes. Youve got to step up and do your part. I was just glad I came in and was able to play decent, and help our team out, said Brewer.

Were not too worried about it. Weve got guys who can step up and fill the void a little bit. We know what he brings to the table, we know his history, we know hes one of the best guys to move without the basketball, what he does shooting-wise. The most important thing is we have him down the stretch, healthy. We felt pretty positive about him coming back and slowly, but surely working his way, getting minutes. His shot was coming back, his conditioning was coming back. Its just unfortunate he got hurt tonight, but hopefully its not as serious as it looked and we can get him back on the court because hes definitely missed.

Added Thibodeau: Ronnies been terrific all year. Whether you start him, bring him off the bench, always ready, going to make scramble plays, hustle plays. Hes a great pro.

Some guys have a hard time coming off the bench because when youre coming in off the bench, your motor has to be running. Its a much more difficult job at times because youve got to get going quickly and he has the ability to do that. It doesnt take a long time, it doesnt take five minutes to get into the flow of the game. He can start instantaneously and if you start him, hes fine. If you bring him off the bench, hes fine. He just plays.

The Cubs are mixing up their rotation as Jon Lester nears return

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USA TODAY

The Cubs are mixing up their rotation as Jon Lester nears return

The Cubs don't actually need a fifth starter until April 27, but they're going with one anyway, handing Tyler Chatwood the ball for the finale with the Diamondbacks Easter Sunday.

Thanks to an off-day Thursday and another one on Monday, the Cubs could've gotten through until next Saturday with only a four-man rotation and everybody still working on regular rest. Thanks to last Sunday's snowout at Wrigley Field (when Chatwood was slated to start), that may have allowed them to weather the storm without needing anybody to take Jon Lester's place in the rotation after he injured his hamstring during the Cubs' home opener on April 8.

Speaking of Lester, he's doing "really well," manager Joe Maddon said Friday and the rotation's ace is close to throwing a simulated game. 

However, the Cubs are going to play matchups and roll Chatwood out on Sunday and push back Jose Quintana to face the Dodgers in the first game of that series Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

Maddon said the Cubs wanted to keep Chatwood involved and there's the added bonus of giving Quintana, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish an extra day (or two) off to help keep them fresh throughout a long season.

But there's also a matchup advantage, in that the Diamondbacks struggle more vs. righties than lefties and the Dodgers — while still a prolific offense no matter who's pitching — are a bit worse against lefties. So tossing Chatwood Sunday means the Cubs throw a trio of righties against the Diamondbacks and now line up two lefties against the Dodgers (Quintana-Hamels-Hendricks).

The Diamondbacks lead the National League in many offensive categories off lefties — including runs, homers, total bases and batting average — and are slashing .304/.349/.532 (.881 OPS) off southpaws. They're hitting only .248/.322/.436 (.758 OPS) against righties. 

The Dodgers' disparity isn't as large — .825 OPS vs. LHP, .884 OPS vs. RHP — but many of their top hitters (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) are left-handed and struggle against southpaws. 

As for Chatwood, he hasn't pitched since April 10, when he threw an inning of relief against the Pirates in a loss. He has walked 5 batters in 6 innings this season and his outings have never gone longer than 36 pitches, so it's fair to wonder how long he'll be able to throw in Sunday's game. 

However, he got some work in the bullpen before going out to the mound for that April 10 appearance and he threw a lot in Miami earlier this week, Maddon said. 

"He really believes he can throw 75-plus pitches, which I don't doubt," Maddon said. "It's just a matter of how tough the outs are — if the outs are tough and he has to work too hard, it can be different.

"But if he keeps throwing like he has been throwing, it's reasonable to expect at least 80 pitches. We'll just watch it and let him go and he'll let us know just by observation."

Even if Chatwood can't give the Cubs much length, this lines up well in that the bullpen had Thursday to rest and another off-day Monday to recover if they're needed to pick up the slack on Sunday.

Chatwood has not started a game since Aug. 18 last year, when he lasted just 2 innings and allowed 3 runs on 3 walks and 2 hits. 

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Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

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NBC Sports Chicago

Recalling Chet Coppock – snapshots of a character, who also had character

The news that came out Thursday, that Chet Coppock had died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident earlier this month in Florida, was sad on so many levels. That you didn’t have a chance to say “good-bye,” that you didn’t have a chance to say “thank you,” that you won’t have more of “those” kinds of Chet moments.

But one of my favorite movie moments is at the end of “The Last Samurai” when Tom Cruise, the wounded ex-U.S. soldier who’d fought with the Samurai, is asked by the young Japanese emperor about the death of Ken Watanabe’s Samurai character Katsumoto, “Tell me how he died.” To which Cruise says, “I will tell you, how he lived.”

Somehow that’s the feeling thinking about Chet – little fun snapshots of how he lived.

Snapshots like listening to Coppock on Sports, and appreciating that Chet deserves a spot in the pantheon of those who created a genre.

Like how we in the media laughed imitating Chet’s questions, which routinely went on long enough for you to run out for a sandwich and be back before he was finished. But the chuckle was how Chet wouldn’t directly ask a guest, “So why did you make THAT idiotic play?” No, Chester had this tack of, “So, what would you say to those who would say, ‘You’re an idiot?’” Of course, it would take a minimum of two minutes for him to wend his way through the question, but the results were always worth waiting for.

Like “Your dime, your dance floor.” 

Like grabbing lunches with Chet while I was working on the ’85 Bears book, but in particular while I was writing “100 Greatest Chicago Sports Arguments.” The specific in the latter told me a lot about Chet, far beyond just the information he was sharing.

The “argument” was over who was the greatest Chicago play-by-play broadcaster. Now, Chet of course suggested tongue-in-cheek that he belonged in the discussion; after all, as he pointed out, a high school kid at New Trier games, sitting by himself in the stands, doing play-by-play into a “microphone” that was one of those cardboard rollers from bathroom tissue, oughta be worth something.

Chet’s nomination for the actual No. 1 was Jack Brickhouse, the WGN legend who Chet noted had done play-by for every conceivable sport.

But the reason for Chet’s vote for Brickhouse wasn’t about any of that. It was, Chet said, because Brickhouse beginning back in the mid-‘50s, when the Cubs were integrating with Gene Baker and Ernie Banks, had very intentionally made it clear with his broadcasting and behavior that Baker and Banks were “Cubs,” not “black Cubs.” Brickhouse’s principles had left an impression on a then-young Chet.

I hadn’t known any of that. But Chet did, and that he had taken a lasting impression from what he’d heard growing up said something about Chet as well as Jack. That impressed me, and frankly has always been my favorite Chet story.

So losing an institution like Chet is sad; Chet did say that, no, he wasn’t an institution, but rather that he belonged IN one. But at least he came our way.