Bears

Injury regrets? Wilson says 'absolutely not'

734832.jpg

Injury regrets? Wilson says 'absolutely not'

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Brian Wilson has no regrets about how many times he pitched during the San Francisco Giants' improbable 2010 World Series title run. Nor about how he handled his rehabilitation program this winter, and certainly not how he stayed on the mound at Colorado last week despite ligament damage in his arm. "Absolutely not," Wilson said. "That's how I play baseball. Push it to the limits." Wilson has now reached his limit. San Francisco's bearded and boisterous closer said before Sunday's series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates that he will probably have elbow-reconstruction surgery, ending his season after only 56 pitches, two appearances and one save. He was officially placed on the 15-day disabled list, clearing space for Ryan Vogelsong to come off the DL against Pittsburgh. An MRI showed the structural damage. Wilson plans to seek at least one other opinion and probably two, including from the renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who performs Tommy John elbow-reconstruction surgeries. Rehab time is typically a year to 18 months. The news hands a big blow to a Giants team that has lost a major clubhouse fixture for the second straight season and has hopes of recapturing the magic from the city's historic championship two years ago. "My spirits aren't down," Wilson said. "I know a lot of people are sad. I know Giants fans are probably going to look at this as like a huge loss. But we have the best bullpen in the league. I've been honored to play with those guys, teach them some things, and they've taught me some things, and they're going to fill in my role as best they can. "I don't think they're going to falter. I think we're going to take the West no matter what." The Bearded One's absence leaves a gaping hole in the bullpen. The 30-year-old Wilson, a three-time All-Star, led the majors with 48 saves in 2010. He finished 6-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 36 saves in 57 appearances last season, held out down the stretch as a precaution. Wilson said during spring training all seemed right with his elbow. And all did seem fine until he threw 32 pitches at Colorado on Thursday, preserving a 4-2 victory over the Rockies despite the apparent injury while working the second of back-to-back days. He stayed in the game with two outs and the bases loaded after turning his right ankle on a 1-0 pitch to Tyler Colvin. Turns out, Wilson really hurt his arm -- whether the injury happened on that pitch is still somewhat of a mystery -- but he refused to be pulled out. "My mindset was, OK, if it's inflammation, get out of your mess. If this is season ending, your last pitch is going to be preserving (Madison) Bumgarner's win and not walking off the mound a failure," Wilson said. "That's just how I pitch. I don't care how painful it is." At least for now, Wilson's replacement will likely come by committee. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it would be nice to find a regular closer. In the meantime, he plans to give the ninth-inning opportunities to Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo or even lefty Javier Lopez -- all of whom helped fill in when Wilson missed time late last season with elbow issues. Bochy and athletic trainer Dave Groeschner were adamant the team followed every step of Wilson's rehab properly -- and the closer agreed -- last year and this offseason. Wilson felt something in the elbow at Colorado, Groeschner said, but didn't tell the team until Friday about the discomfort. Wilson, who already had one Tommy John surgery during college, was then sent for tests. The results seemed to surprise even Bochy considering Wilson was still hitting 95 mph on the radar and 89 with his cutting fastball against the Rockies. "It's pretty amazing where he was at given with what happened," Bochy said. "He was still pretty good." That's Wilson. The eccentric right-hander with the bushy, black beard means as much to the clubhouse -- regularly playing dominoes and pulling pranks with teammates -- as he does when he runs out of the bullpen with House of Pain's "Jump Around" blaring over the ballpark's speakers. Still, with a deep bullpen, the loss doesn't figure to cost San Francisco the way star catcher Buster Posey's season-ending leg and ankle injury did after a home-plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins last May 25. In fact, Wilson believes he'll have more time for his off-the-field antics in the clubhouse while rehabbing than before. He joked that he might hop in the broadcast booth and "maybe win an Emmy." He still has another arbitration year under contract with the Giants, telling fans and media, "You're welcome." And he's not worried about coming back, saying it's an "opportunity for me to get a better arm. How's that disappointing?" "If I plan on playing forever," Wilson said, smiling, "then this is a small percentage of my career."

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

roquan_smith_bears_ilbs_season_preview_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears ILBs: What kind of an impact will Roquan Smith make?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Danny Trevathan
2. John Timu
3. Joel Iyiegbuniwe

1. Roquan Smith
2. Nick Kwiatkoski
3. Jonathan Anderson

1. How good can Roquan Smith be?

Making sweeping observations from shorts-and-helmets practices in OTAs is often a fool’s errand, but Smith looked the part while running around the practice fields of Halas Hall after being drafted in April. His quickness and instinctiveness stood out — as they did at Georgia — and his football intelligence and work ethic were praised by coaches and teammates. 

“He’s learning well,” Trevathan said. “He’s doing a good job of learning. He’s learning the little things that you need to learn in this defense. Now it’s all about putting on a show and going out there and rocking.”

And that’s what’s going to be fun to watch in Bourbonnais: How does Smith play with the pads on? Chances are, the answer to that question will be “well,” setting the eighth overall pick on a path to being a mainstay of this defense for years to come. 

That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have plenty on which to work during training camp. But he left Georgia as a sort of “safe bet” in the draft, and nothing he’s done to this point has changed the view of him that he’s likely going to be a good one. 

2. Can Danny Trevathan stay healthy?

In terms of size and athleticism, Trevathan and Smith profile similar to NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, the inside linebacking tandem that was the spine of the San Francisco 49ers defense during Fangio’s time there. But for Trevathan and Smith to reach that lofty bar — or even to come close to it — Trevathan needs to be more available than he was his first two years with the Bears.

This isn’t questioning Trevathan’s toughness — far from it. That he returned for Week 1 of the 2017 season 10 months after rupturing his patellar tending (an injury that can be a career-ender) was impressive, and that he was immediately productive upon returning was even more extraordinary. But Trevathan missed three games in November due to a strained calf, and coupled with a one-game suspension and the seven games he missed in 2016, the 28-year-old has only played in 21 of 32 games since signing with the Bears. 

Trevathan is confident he can improve his production in 2018, given he wasn’t able to participate in last year’s offseason program practices. He’s entering his third year in Fangio’s defense and feels better prepared after going through OTAs and minicamps this year. It’s just now about him staying on the field to make sure that work pays off.

“I’m more comfortable with this defense, I’m more comfortable with the guys and the calls that we make,” Trevathan said. “I take pride in being correct and working my tail off and making the defense better. And the more that I can be out there — which I plan on being out there a lot — it’s going to help us tremendously.” 

3. How big a role will Nick Kwiatkoski have?

The Bears didn’t draft Smith because they felt like they absolutely needed to upgrade over Kwiatkoski, who’s acquitted himself well in 25 games since being picked in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. But Kwiatkoski has dealt with some injury issues, and for as solid a player as he may be, the Bears’ defense needed (and still needs) more great players. Drafting Smith gave the Bears a shot at adding a great player.

It also leaves Kwiatkoski in the same spot he was in a year ago, when the Bears entered the 2017 season with Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as their unquestioned starting inside linebackers. Smith still has to earn that starting spot, but the safe bet is he will, relegating Kwiatkoski again to reserve duties.

And that’s a positive for the overall health of this defense, having a player good enough to start ready to play if needed. But it also raises this question: What do the Bears do with Kwiatkoski if he’s one of their four best linebackers, but isn’t one of their two best inside linebackers? 

So for the purposes of watching training camp practices, seeing if Kwiatkoski gets any reps at outside linebacker will be an interesting storyline to follow. 

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

0716-kyle-schwarber.jpg
USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”