Cubs

Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Loman a big reason why Dash are headed to playoffs

Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
10:20 AM

By Kevin T. Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

Maybe its Seth Lomans size that intimidates opposing pitchers. Perhaps its his impressive stat line that has them worried. Or, it could just be the elbow pad and shin guard he wears at the plate that give opposing hurlers the feeling of carte blanche when it comes to pitching inside.

Whatever the reason, opposing pitchers do feel the need to come inside to Loman, who extended his own Carolina League record on Thursday when he was hit by a pitch for the 30th time this year. He broke Rusty Crocketts 21-year-old Carolina League record on Aug. 4 when he was hit for the 25th time. The record plunking comes in the wake of his 2009 season, during which he was hit 23 times while playing at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem.

While Lomans bat hes hitting .290 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs is a big reason why the Dash are heading into the playoffs as the Carolina Leagues hottest team, its his ability to lean into a pitch as much as anything else that has helped the teams offensive cause. The 24-year-old Loman, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs nearly 230 pounds, leads the league with 86 runs scored, is second with 255 total bases while posting a healthy .378 on-base percentage.

I might have to start wearing catchers gear if it keeps up at this rate, said Loman, who saw an eight-game hitting streak come to an end on Thursday. I definitely get hit a lot. I dont think I got hit a lot in college and Im not on the plate that much, a little less than the length of a bat away. People start throwing inside and I guess I dont move out of the way.

I dont have a real answer for it. I know a guy like Craig Biggio got hit a lot and its weird because he was one of those hard-nosed, get on base any way you can types. Im not that hard-nosed middle infield guy.

What Loman is, however, is a hitter, one that can produce. Hes been a pleasant surprise since the White Sox signed him out of the independent Golden League following the 2008 season. He was originally a 47th-round pick by the Angels in 2005 but he had philosophical differences with the club regarding hitting and the two sides parted ways despite the fact he hit .323 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 45 Arizona League games in 2007.

It was never really a good fit with the Angels, Loman said. I never meshed with them and they tried to alter some things with my hitting. It was a constant battle with different philosophies on hitting. I guess thats why I was released. I dont know.

Here I can own my own approach. I dont want to talk bad about the Angels but with the Sox, the managers are your friends and they are rooting for you. They want you to succeed. You dont have to do it their way. They tell you its your career, you have to own. In other places, its more of a college mindset.

Part of the reason why Loman has been able to own his approach to the plate this year has been Sox hitting instructor Jeff Manto. The former utility man played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues and he was of immense help to Loman this year.

Manto encouraged Loman to stay back on the ball more, stay behind it and work off the back leg on off-speed pitches. The results have been impressive.

The hands-on stuff was different than I imagined but I got the whole concept of staying on the back foot to hit off-speed stuff, Loman said. The goal was to become more of an all-around hitter than a free swinger. He said a good hitter should hit any pitch in any count. Im glad Manto spoke those words of wisdom to me.

At first it was tough because I had a couple of different stances this year. I tried to find a common medium and recently it has been coming together a bit. He told me youre the big guy in the four-hole and you have to start hitting that off-speed pitch. I took that to heart.

Aside from Manto, Loman has been able to rely on manager Super Joe McEwing and his father, Doug Loman, who played parts of two seasons with the Brewers, for advice. The trio has helped make the soon-to-be free agent an accomplished hitter. While Loman will be free to sign with another club once this season ends, he says he wants to stay in Chicago and is already thinking about playing in Birmingham and beyond next season.

Id love to be back, he said. Playing with the Sox has been like a dream come true. I hope to be in Birmingham next year.

The Carolina League playoffs start on Wednesday with the Dash likely facing Kinston in the opening round. No doubt, Loman will get hit as well as picking up some hits on the road to a league title.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

The Bulls picked up a valuable get-right win in a 136-102 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks. Observations from a game the Bulls had to win, and did handily:

The bench provided a spark (again)

Bulls starters not named Zach LaVine got off to a sluggish start in this one. At the 3:14 mark of the first, the Hawks led 29-21 and were shooting a scalding 13-for-18 (72.2%) from the field (3-for-6 from 3-point range). LaVine had 12 of the Bulls’ 21 points.

The hosts ended the period ahead 37-33, buoyed by a 16-4 run by a bench unit of Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine, Thad Young, and Daniel Gafford. Valentine hit four floaters over that stretch, Gafford had a resounding block, White had a strong and-one take over Alex Len and Thad Young tallied five points, for good measure. 

Bench runs have become commonplace for this Bulls team, even in the midst of a three-game losing streak. This one carried over into the second quarter, which the Bulls won 29-19, holding Atlanta to 6-for-21 (28.6%) shooting, 2-for-10 (20%) from three. They didn't look back from there.

Young finished the first half with nine points, four rebounds, and two assists. White had a flashy night — tallying 19 points. Valentine and Gafford connected on a handful of alley-oops (which has quickly become a tradition).

Zach LaVine bounced back

LaVine — averaging 20 points on 33.3% shooting during the team’s three-game losing streak — was ripe for a breakout, and this Hawks team (29th in the NBA in defensive rating) presented an opportunity to bounce back. He took advantage.

As mentioned, LaVine carried the Bulls offense early: he had 18 first-half points on 7-for-9 shooting. Embedded in that line were a few highlight-reel dunks that awoke the United Center:

He tacked on a cool 17 (!) in the third quarter before coming out with the game out of reach for the Hawks. LaVine finished the night leading all scorers with 35 points and shot a staggering 7-for-7 from 3-point range. When he’s on, it’s too much fun, and he dazzled in this one. 

In a favorable matchup, the defense kept rolling

Coming into this game, we knew the Bulls defense, theoretically, matched up well with Atlanta’s offense plan of attack. For the most part, that bore out, in practice.

Kris Dunn was outstanding in containing Trae Young tonight, hounding him off of every screen (where he was usually aided by a hedge from the big in coverage) and staying attached even in instances when Young was able to penetrate.

Young didn’t score until the 11:07 mark in the second quarter and finished the night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from three) and seven turnovers. This is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA we’re talking about here. He did rack up 13 assists (six in the first quarter) — and some were very, very pretty — but most of those came in transition. In the halfcourt, the Bulls’ set defense effectively bottled him up.

The Hawks, as a team, committed 23 turnovers on the night, which the Bulls were able to convert into 15 points. Atlanta is an inferior opponent, yes, but it was a strong showing, nonetheless.

Blowouts are fun

This one was a little too close for comfort early on but ended in a rout. The Bulls simply outclassed the Hawks, winning statistical categories this team has often been overmatched in, from rebounds (42-40) to points in the paint (78-42), to blocks (7-4), to the 3-point battle. Lauri Markkanen even utilized garbage time to turn a fine stat line into a good one: he had 10 points in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting. 

So, you know what? Rest your brain with some of the best clips of the night. You’ve earned it:

 

 

 

 

The Bulls can push questions about fourth-quarter stagnation, cold shooting streaks, and crowded rotations until this weekend. This was a solid overall performance.

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