White Sox

Illini still looking to improve ahead of Challenge

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Illini still looking to improve ahead of Challenge

CHAMPAIGN Illinois is not resting on its laurels before its first game as a nationally ranked team under coach John Groce.

The ranking is nothing but a number, Groce said at his Tuesday press conference. Its early in the season, were just seven games in.

In the seven games the 22nd ranked Illini have played and won, many things have gone well for the team. However, Groce has seen just as many things he would like to improve. First and foremost, is improving on rebounding.

After Sundays late win over Gardner-Webb, Illinois starting forward, Tyler Griffey, and center, Nnanna Egwu, have pulled in a total of just 7.2 rebounds per game. The teams leader in rebounds is guard D.J. Richardson, who has picked up an average of five per game.

Groce says he is not particularly concerned with who is getting the rebounds because guards picking up rebounds is usually an indication of big men blocking out successfully but he would like to see an improvement in the teams total number of rebounds per game (36.6, 133rd nationally).

The overall rebounding percentage is what were spotlighting, Groce said. Weve had some games where weve done that well, weve had some games where we havent, but we need to be more consistent in that area.

Illinois opponent in the ACCBig Ten Challenge on Wednesday is Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (4-1) have been a surprising team so far this year, placing third in the DirecTV Classic over the holiday by upsetting St. Marys.

Georgia Tech has averaged 37.2 rebounds and limited opponents to just 31.6 in five games. Groce described his Challenge opponent as a tough, physical team and acknowledged the difficulty of the task facing his team at the Assembly Hall on Wednesday.

They are terrific on the glass and very physical. We have to be ready for that and ready to fight on the backboard, he said.

The Illini has not had to fight too much on the backboard this season, simply because the shots keep falling. In the first NCAA statistical rankings of the season, put out this week, Illinois claimed the nations best three-point shooting average. Through seven games the team has made 76 threes, an average of 10.9 per game. Should they keep up the pace, this years Illini will set a new school record for threes per game.

The teams high clip from behind the arc clearly encouraged Groce, but the coach wants to see better offense all around from his team. Working the ball inside and finding the center in zone defense were two issues he specifically pointed out on Monday.

We have four guys averaging double figures. I'd like to get a fifth, Groce said.

Brandon Paul (18.7), Tracy Abrams (12.3), Richardson (12.0) and Griffey (10.9) are currently averaging double figures per game. Illinois next scorers are guard Joseph Bertrand (7.4) and Egwu (6.1), the center. The Illini will try to boost those two into double figures in Wednesdays contest against Georgia Tech.

Tip-off for Illinois 14th annual ACCBig Ten Challenge game will be at 8 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. Illinois comes into the game with a three-game winning streak in the Challenge, and, on the heels of their first ranking under Groce, the team will not be easy to defeat this year.

Haven't lost in the B1GACCchallenge in my career, don't plan on changing that anytime soon, Paul (@BP3) tweeted on Tuesday.

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

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USA TODAY

Rick Hahn says 'there will be many' promotions for White Sox prospects this week

The White Sox have a number of highly-rated prospects performing well in the minors and some of them will be on the move within the system in a matter of days.

General manager Rick Hahn talked to reporters ahead of Monday night's White Sox game in Cleveland, a 6-2 loss, and gave the news. Well, sort of.

He didn't include names, but he did say that "there will be many" promotions after the minor league all-star games for Double-A and both Single-A teams take place on Tuesday.

Hahn added that Chris Getz, the White Sox player development director, will address the media before the White Sox host Oakland on Thursday about the moves.

If the all-star games are a reason to wait, it's safe to think some of the players involved will be playing in those games. So who could be on the move?

Double-A Birmingham has six all-stars: Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Danny Mendick, Dane Dunning and Ian Hamilton. Jimenez is the name everyone wants to see on the move. He has torched the Southern League since getting off to a late start to the season due to injury. Hahn was asked about Jimenez, but didn't tip his hand as to whether he would be one of the promotions.

Dunning has been good in Double-A (2.78 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings), but was already promoted this season so he may not be on the move again.

Single-A Winston-Salem has five all-stars: Dylan Cease, Luis Alexander Basabe, Joel Booker, Bernardo Flores and Matt Foster. Cease, 22, could be due for a promotion with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. There's also that outfield logjam the Dash, which won the first-half division title, have had all season.

Other than Basabe and Booker, Blake Rutherford and Alex Call are also noteworthy prospects being forced to split time in the Dash's outfield. If Jimenez is moving up to Triple-A, one or two names from this group could be on the move to take his spot in Birmingham.

This would especially make sense if highly-touted outfield prospect Luis Robert, who was supposed to be in Single-A Kannapolis for a short period before joining the Dash, is ready to move up as planned. Robert is hitting .289/.360/.400 in 13 games with the Intimidators.

Birmingham, Winston-Salem and Kannapolis were all off Monday. The various all-star games will take place Tuesday and the three teams will be off again Wednesday. The promotions could be announced Thursday ahead of Getz's scheduled media availability.

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

The NLCS rematch will have to wait another day.

Mother Nature and the power at Wrigley Field care not for your excitement about a "big series" between the Cubs and Dodgers.

Thunderstorms rolled over the North Side of Chicago, where the Dodgers ended the Cubs' postseason run 8 months ago. 

On top of that, the power at Wrigley Field was not cooperating with the lights down the right field line going out for hours during the rain delay. 

The lights came back on at one point before again going out again roughly a half hour before Monday night's game was officially called. After a delay stretching almost three hours, word finally filtered out just before 10 p.m. the game would be postponed a day.

The Cubs and Dodgers will make the game up as part of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field with the first game starting at 12:05 p.m. and the second at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05 p.m. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game for the Cubs with Mike Montgomery slated to go Game 2.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Cubs were unsure what caused the power issue at Wrigley Field but were working on fixing the problem ahead of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader.

The evening started with the tarp being rolled onto the field by the Cubs grounds crew roughly an hour before scheduled first pitch with a forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

Only a light rain fell until a downpour began around 8:15 p.m.:

That lasted only about a half hour before the grounds crew came back out around 8:45 p.m. to partially remove the tarp and attempt to get the field ready to play.

The only issue at that point was the light and a sinister forecast.

"It takes 45 minutes to get the field ready to play," said Julian Green, Cubs director of communications. "So once you take that tarp off, you saw them putting the chalk lines down, getting ready.

"We wanted to be ready — even in the face of rain — if the lights came back on, we wanted to make sure we could play baseball, even if it was a limited window of opportunity."

As of 11 p.m., that second bout of rain had yet to materialize, but the lights issue also wasn't corrected and play on the field would've been impossible.

Fans lingered throughout the stadium for nearly three hours before an official conclusion came down. The Cubs kept the same announcement on the right field video board about the weather delay while the left field video board displayed the Brewers-Pirates and other MLB games.

This is the only trip to Chicago the Dodgers make throughout the 2018 season so the two teams and Major League Baseball did all they could to try to get a game in and avoid any issue where these two teams would have to play on a mutual off-day later in the year. 

The Cubs were in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without a day off. They're still on that same schedule, though now with an unexpected day off Monday and a doubleheader Tuesday.

The Cubs are no stranger to postponements this season as wacky weather has continued to hamper this MLB season.

"Not only for the Chicago Cubs, but Chicago in general, this has been a really interesting spring and summer season," Green said. "We're taking our licks just like everybody else is.

"Our plan is to play baseball tomorrow and make sure we can accomodate fans as best as possible. So fans who have tickets to tonight's game will be able to use them for tomorrow."