Cubs

Highlighting High School Lites

620534.jpg

Highlighting High School Lites

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

Chicagoland prep basketball is home on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Public League has the spotlight this week, as well hit key rivalry games in Simeon vs. Morgan Park and Whitney Young vs. Farragut. Plus, our cameras will take you to the Southland Conference for a pivotal battle between Crete-Monee and Bloom. Who wins the battle of Naperville? And will Bogans solid run continue? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

FRIDAY GAMES
Morgan Park (8-4) @ No. 1 Simeon (14-0), 4:00pm

The biggest challenge for Simeon Friday will be avoiding the temptation to look ahead to Sundays epic showdown with Nevadas Findlay Prep, a team like Simeon that is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Jabari Parker and Simeon come into the Battle of Vincennes off a 95-61 thrashing of Brooks on Wednesday. Talented junior guard Billy Garrett Jr. will lead the Morgan Park attack. The Mustangs, paced by Garretts 30 points, were victorious Wednesday against Vocational.
Brooks (6-11) @ No. 8 Bogan (15-1), 5:30pm
Luwane Pipkins, Kendall Wesley, Juwan Henry and Devonte Smith continue to cause fits for every Bogan opponent. The Bengals ran past Corliss Wednesday 99-38. Pipkins finished with 23. If Bogan wins, they will join either Simeon or Morgan Park as the lone undefeateds in the Red South conference. Brooks is in rare companyand not necessarily in a good way. Friday will mark their third straight game against a top 10 opponent (Tuesday- De La Salle, Wednesday- Simeon).

No. 16 Whitney Young (7-5.) @ Farragut (7-5), 5:30pm

Classic Red-West rivalry game on the west side. Is Whitney Youngs sophomore center Jahlil Okafor a future No. 1 draft pick? One writer thinks he has the potential to become one. Okafor is proving his case for multiple awards on the high school level this season, as hes carrying a team that has been limited due to injuries to Tommy Hamilton and Paul White. Rashaun Stimage is the heart and soul of the Farragut attack. The senior center racked up another double-double (19 points, 10 boards) Wednesday in a loss to Marshall.
Crete-Monee (11-3) @ No. 14 Bloom (14-2), 6:30pm

It's a good thing that Crete-Monee will have two days to rest up for Bloom. They were on the winning end of a triple overtime marathon Tuesday night against Thornwood, 74-63. Illinois recruit Michael Orris was clutch, hitting a key 3 in the third overtime. He, along with teammates Marvie Keith and LaQuan Treadwell will be eager to challenge a Bloom team that ran out to a 19-0 lead against Joliet Central Tuesday, winning 55-35. Senior guard Donald Moore leads the Blazing Trojans in a game that could go a long way in deciding the Southland conference.
Rich East (6-10) @ No. 20 Rich South (14-4), 6:30pm

Crete-Monee and Bloom have company in the Southland conference. The Stars got their biggest win of the year last week in a buzzer-beater against Bloom, avenging an earlier loss to the Blazing Trojans in the McDipper Tournament. Center John Ruffin and forward Marquell Small should get a lot of looks. The Rockets are coming off a nice 57-41 win over Kankakee. Ronald Lawton, Raheem Jackson and 6-foot-5 forward Shamond Kemp will create challenges for South.
Prairie Ridge (4-11) @ No. 13 Huntley (13-1), 7:00pm

The Red Raiders are proving to be one of the nice success stories in the northwest suburbs this season. They haven't taken their foot off the gas yet, as Tuesday's 43-33 win over Crystal Lake South would indicate. Six-foot-six phenom Amanze Egekeze, who is attracting attention from several Division I schools, is their go-to guy. Prairie Ridge played well against Dundee-Crown Tuesday night but faded down the stretch, losing 51-40. Luke Keller had 13 points for the Wolves and will look for more on Friday.

Grayslake Central (10-5) @ Hampshire (8-7), 7:00pm

The 8-7 Whips might have the quietest six-game winning streak around. They took four straight at the DeKalb Holiday tournament, and won two more over Fox Valley conference foes to start the new year. Tyler Crater, Brock Ralphs and Tyler Watzlawick are all key contributors for Hampshire. Grayslake Central will also come in with momentum, as they defeated Woodstock 73-53 Tuesday night. Senior center Casey Boyle, who scored 16 for the Rams in the victory, will get a lot of looks Friday night as well.
Leo (9-6) @ Brother Rice (10-5), 7:30pm

Speaking of quiet winning streaks, the Leo Lions have rattled off five straight victories. Their latest effort was a 69-65 overtime thriller on Tuesday against Hales. Brother Rice will need to contain Leos senior center Russell Woods. He tallied 23 points and 12 rebounds in the game against Hales. The Crusaders have a few weapons of their own in Garrett ONeill, Alex Majewski and Sean Fitzpatrick. Each team needs a win to keep pace with Seton in the Catholic South.
Naperville Central (10-4) @ Naperville North (10-4), 7:30pm

This battle of Naperville doesnt receive the headlines that the football game gets, but this matchup should go a long way in deciding the fate of an up-for-grabs DuPage Valley. North is on a roll, off to a 5-0 start in conference, highlighted by Saturdays 53-51 win over then-first place West Aurora. Mike Keane, Derek Westman and Matt Stachio are key contributors for the Huskies. Central, 2-3 in conference and winners of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic, is paced by sophomore center Nick Czarnowski.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after the Bulls-Celtics game and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, Huntley. Forget junior or senior leadership: a sophomore is guiding the Red Raiders to the upper echelon of the rankings. Also, we'll have the latest on the top-ranked Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on csnchicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

The curious ripple effects of the Cubs' trade for Martin Maldonado

While the Cubs put the finishing touches on a lackluster loss to the Reds Monday night at Wrigley Field, the game quickly took a backseat as reports of a trade filtered through Baseball Twitter.

In came a veteran catcher — Martin Maldonado — from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Mike Montgomery, who will live on in Cubs history books forever as the guy who threw the curveball that notched the final out in the 2016 World Series to break a 108-year championship drought.

There are many layers to this move, including the corresponding aspect of Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras hitting the 10-day injured list with a strain in the arch of his right foot. Contreras had an MRI Monday afternoon/evening, which revealed the issue. 

Contreras felt like he could play through it and passionately pleaded his case, but the Cubs want to exercise an abundance of caution with one of their most important players.

"Our medical staff feels like if he were to try to play on it, that he'd be risking exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long-term," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "So we have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willy's hands and take him off his feet. 

"We don't expect it to be longer than 10 days — that's what we hope for, anyways."

But even before the severity of Contreras' injury was known, Epstein said the team was already in talks with the Royals front office.

"We've been having discussions with Kansas City and they had an opening in their rotation after trading [Homer] Bailey and they'd been talking to a couple teams about Maldonado and we knew that," Epstein said. "We'd actually been working on a version of the deal beforehand and it was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear that Willson was gonna miss some time."

That's interesting.

So the Cubs' interest in Maldonado is not solely based on Contreras' injury, which means they value the veteran catcher as more than just a short-term, couple-week insurance policy to pair with Victor Caratini. 

On the one hand, that leaves the Cubs free to trade Caratini over the next couple weeks if a deal developed.

But the move for Maldonado also shores up a major area of depth for the Cubs, which is exactly what Epstein talked about before Monday's game, referencing the change in MLB rules that eliminated the August waiver wire deadline. Now, every team has to make their moves ahead of the July 31 deadline and that's it.

"Teams need to keep depth in mind a little bit more, that you have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance — preemptively, really — knowing that there's no escape valve in August," Epstein said. "So you gotta really do all your work this month as much as possible and really take a hard look at your organizational depth."

Well, despite fantastic seasons from Contreras and Caratini, the Cubs actually have very little in the way of catching depth beyond those two. Taylor Davis is the only other backstop on the 40-man roster and he has almost no big-league experience. When Caratini was on the IL earlier this year with a hand injury, Davis rarely played in the month-plus he was on the roster.

Even if Contreras' injury is as minor as it appears, it underscores the point that the Cubs' depth is very fragile at the most physically demanding position on the field. What would the team do if Contreras or Caratini suffered an injury in August or September?

Now, they can add Maldonado into the mix — a veteran catcher who draves rave remarks for his defense and game-calling. 

The right-handed-hitting catcher is due to turn 33 next month and is in his ninth big-league season. He hasn't done much with the bat in his career (.289 on-base percentage, .351 slugging) and that hasn't changed this year (.647 OPS), but his work behind the plate was enticing to the Cubs and their veteran-laden pitching staff.

"He's an established catcher in the league who does a lot of great things behind the plate," Epstein said. "He can really receive, he can really throw. He's caught playoff games. He's handled some of the best pitchers in the game; he's a favorite for pitchers to throw to.

"He's very calm back there, very prepared, calls a great game, really soft hands, lot of experience, lot of savvy and someone who we think can step in and share the job with Vic and get up to speed really quickly in what we hope is a brief absence from Willson."

The Cubs haven't yet shared a plan for how they plan to manage the roster crunch for all three catchers when Contreras returns from injury in a week or two, but that might be because they don't yet have a plan. That's more of a "cross that bridge when it comes" type of situation.

When everybody is healthy — if everybody is ever healthy all at the same time — the Cubs could carry three catchers and utilize Contreras' ability to play the outfield and Caratini's first/third base versatility. They could also option Caratini to the minors for a couple weeks and bring him back up when rosters expand in September or if another injury strikes.

Either way, the Cubs front office, coaching staff and pitching staff can rest easier knowing they have another experienced backstop on the roster. 

The other aspect to all this, obviously, is in the Cubs bullpen and starting depth. Montgomery is out, which means there is an easy open spot on the roster for Alec Mills, who is making a spot start Tuesday while Cole Hamels continues to rehab his oblique injury.

In the longer term, this could be a good thing for the Cubs bullpen, as Montgomery was miscast and rarely used as a short-inning reliever. The 30-year-old southpaw last threw on July 2 and has only made five appearances in the last month. 

Montgomery was slowed by injury in spring training and then again in the first couple weeks of the season, but he had been building up his workload of late - throwing at least 2.1 innings in each of his last three outings. Still, the Cubs opted to go with Mills Tuesday against the Reds instead of Montgomery and they also had Tyler Chatwood and Adbert Alzolay in the rotation at various points earlier this season.

Montgomery hasn't started once in 2019, but he made 28 starts in a Cubs uniform, including 19 last year while filling in for the injured Yu Darvish.

The Cubs clearly feel good enough with their rotation depth as is (Mills, Chatwood, Alzolay) and Hamels' return looks to be right around the corner, so the writing was on the wall that Montgomery wouldn't get many chances to start in the short or long term in Chicago.

It's also good for Montgomery, a guy who got the last out in the World Series and did everything asked of him in his three-plus years in Chicago, bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. 

Now he gets an opportunity to start, which he's been vocal about wanting to do, and he'll be thrown right into the fire — the Royals have him penciled in to start Friday...in Cleveland.

How's that for full circle?

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

When general manager Rick Hahn has talked about bringing up key prospects, he says he wants those players to be able to come up to the majors and stay there. That won't be the case with Zack Collins.

The White Sox sent the catcher down to Triple-A Charlotte following Monday's 5-2 loss to the Royals. No corresponding move will be made until Tuesday, but it is expected Welington Castillo will return from his rehab stint and rejoin the White Sox.

Collins was called up on June 18, but only played in nine games with seven starts in his 28 days on the big league roster. Collins drew a pinch-hit walk in his first plate appearance at the Cubs on June 19. He then homered two days later in his first start in Texas.

After that, Collins struggled. He goes back to Charlotte after hitting .077 (2-for-26) with five walks, the one home run and 14 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.

It's unclear if Collins had a chance to stick on the roster or if the plan was for him to go back to Triple-A once Castillo was ready to return. Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors at the plate, but he also didn't see regular playing time.

Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, was seen working out at first base in fielding practice before games, but he stuck to catcher and DH. He could have played some first base or DH when Castillo returned. However, the White Sox claimed A.J. Reed off waivers and he debuted after the all-star break. Reed has taken the at-bats at DH, leaving Collins without regular at-bats.

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