Bears

Looking back on Andy Pettitte's 1st start of 2012

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Looking back on Andy Pettitte's 1st start of 2012

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Andy Pettitte stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium with his hat pulled down low, peering in at the catcher over the glove held high in front of his face. It's an image Yankees fans know well. This time, though, No. 46 was back on a big league mound for the first time in a year and a half. It was hard to tell. Pettitte pitched effectively into the seventh inning Sunday, but gave up a pair of two-run homers in New York's 6-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners. "To me, he looked like he hadn't missed a beat," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. Nearly lost amid the excitement over Pettitte's first major league appearance since retiring after the 2010 season was party crasher Kevin Millwood's performance for Seattle -- helped by three double plays. The 37-year-old Millwood (1-4) gave up three hits in seven innings and got his 2,000th career strikeout as Seattle avoided a three-game sweep. The Yankees tried to prevent their old pal Pettitte from taking the loss with a rally in the eighth against four Seattle relievers. Robinson Cano was walked with two outs by Charlie Furbush with the bases loaded to make it 4-2. Mark Teixeira, though, struck out to end the inning. The lovefest for Pettitte (0-1) began when the lefty appeared with several players in videos welcoming fans to Yankee Stadium after batting practice. The cheers grew as he strolled out to the bullpen for warm-ups and fans rose for a standing ovation when the five-time World Series champion followed his teammates onto the field for the first inning. "I just cannot believe how comfortable this is for me," Pettitte said. "I don't know how to explain it." The Core Four member who turns 40 next month even got special treatment from the Bleacher Creatures. They broke protocol after their roll call and started a chant for Pettitte that most of the 41,631 in attendance joined. The Creatures rarely include the starting pitcher when calling out player's names in the first inning. The stadium got awful quiet when Casper Wells homered in the sixth to give Seattle a 4-1 lead with his first of the season, an opposite-field drive off the netting on the right-field pole. Justin Smoak homered for Seattle's first hit with two outs in the fourth. "I thought it was so awesome. I was so excited. I know we lost today and that's what a lot of people are going to focus on -- I could really care less about that," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We got our boy back." Pettitte's return had become more important to the Yankees because their rotation had been struggling, with Freddy Garcia demoted to the bullpen. But through the first five games of this homestand, the team's starters were 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA and Girardi thought their performance would take some of the pressure off Pettitte. The broad-chested Texan appeared calm as ever in his first big league start in 573 days, since Game 3 of the AL championship series against Texas on Oct. 18, 2010. He sat out last season before deciding in mid-March to make a comeback. After Swisher caught leadoff batter Dustin Ackley's fly to right with a leap at the wall, Pettitte walked Wells. He then got Ichiro Suzuki to ground into a double play. Pettitte walked Alex Liddi with two outs in the second but Mike Carp grounded out to end the inning. Not having allowed a hit two outs into the fourth, Pettitte walked former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero and Smoak lined a homer to left. Pettitte showed characteristically little emotion on the mound. Wells homered following Ackley's leadoff single in the sixth. The Mariners then loaded the bases with one out on three straight singles but Girardi stuck with Pettitte, and Carp grounded to first. Teixeira stepped on the base and threw home, and catcher Russell Martin tagged a sliding Montero. Pettitte returned for one batter in the seventh and induced his 12th groundball out. He left to a loud ovation despite trailing 4-1 and waved to fans as he entered the dugout. "There is not a question in my mind how this is all going to play out for me," Pettitte said. "It's not about this one start. I'll measure if this was a successful return or not at the end of October."

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Warren Sharp describes what 2020 Bears will look like

As they prepare for the season, it's time to start looking in depth at what the Bears could look like in 2020.

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis are joined by one of the smartest minds in football media, Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, to discuss and predict what the Bears look like in 2020. The group discusses the QB competition, will the Bears defense improve or regress, and what should Matt Nagy do in terms of his scheme this year.

(2:40) - Nick Foles should be the starter in 2020

(7:45) - Matt Nagy needs to be more predictable in play calling

(15:30) - Have the Bears used and embraced analytics

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bears news and analysis.

(22:10) - How easy is the Bears schedule and what will be their record at the end of the season?

(31:00) - Why you should watch the Bears in 2020

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach emerging as star and living up to 'playoff performer' hype

Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.

“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”

“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.

Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?

The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.

Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985. 

All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.

The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.

"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."

Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.

Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.

"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."

One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.

“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.

"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."

It sure does.

Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.