Cubs

Mock draft has Cubs taking HS CF

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Mock draft has Cubs taking HS CF

Theo Epstein called the upcoming MLB amateur draft "probably the most important thing that we're doign right now, to be honest."

Which makes sense, given the new regime's desire to build a sustained winner from within, rather than just signing free agent after free agent.

In advance of the draft kicking off on June 4, Jim Callis at Baseball America compiled a one-round mock draft.

He has the Cubs taking Florida high school center fielder Albert Almora at sixth overall. Here's what he has to say about the pick:

Once Appel, Gausman and Zimmer are chosen, there will be a run on position players, most of whom will be high schoolers. Chicago's pick could come down to Correa and polished Florida high school center fielder Albert Almora. The Cubs took another prep shortstop of Puerto Rican descent (Javier Baez) at No. 9 a year ago.

Check out Callis' full Round 1 mock at BaseballAmerica.com.

Explaining the roster move as Cubs switch backup catchers

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USA TODAY

Explaining the roster move as Cubs switch backup catchers

Chris Gimenez is in.

Victor Caratini is out.

Gimenez will not be Yu Darvish's personal catcher.

OK, we all caught up?

It's a lot more complicated than that, but those are the three main takeaways from the Cubs' early roster moves Saturday afternoon as they optioned Caratini back to Triple-A Iowa, recalled the veteran Gimenez and designated first baseman Efren Navarro for assignment to make room for Gimenez on the 40-man roster.

Then, roughly 45 mins before Saturday's game was to start, the Cubs announced they were placing Darvish on the disabled list with right triceps tendinitis.

Gimenez, 35, has been friends with Darvish since he was the pitcher's personal catcher with the Texas Rangers in 2014.

Darvish's last two starts have been solid but overall he's struggled since signing a $126 million deal with the Cubs prior to the season. Many have thought Gimenez could help make the dynamic starting pitcher feel more comfortable.

The Cubs were also faced with losing Gimenez on June 1, the date of the opt-out in his contract if he were not called up to the big leagues by that point. So the Cubs were on the clock.

"It has nothing to do with [catching Darvish]," Maddon said. "I can sit here and try to explain that and I think there'll be skeptics. It has nothing to do with that at all. It's all about Caratini's development.

"This is something we talked about in spring training. Not to say that Gimmy might not catch him in the future, but this move was purely based on Caratini and the fact that Gimenez is available, veteran, can sit on the bench in a manner that you don't feel like you're injuring their development."

Maddon managed Gimenez with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012-13 and knows he can trot the journeyman out in the outfield, first base or even on the mound.

Gimenez also has 9 career appearances as a pitcher, including 6 last season with the Minnesota Twins where he allowed 4 runs in 5 innings.

He's not sure yet how he'll be used, but is ready for anything, including lending moral support to the injured Darvish.

"From top to bottm, this is a class organization," Gimenez said. "Nothing but class. They treat you with respect, with dignity and it's just fun to be able to get to experience that up here now. It's still your dream, it doesn't matter how old you are.

"Any day you get to spend up here is a blessing and I'm just thankful for it. I'm excited to do whatever the heck they want me to do. I'll be a cheerleader, I'll do whatever they want me to do."

Of course, he's been watching every single one of Darvish's starts in a Cubs uniform.

"I wouldn't be a good person if I haven't. ... I'll text him a few things here and there and apparently it hasn't worked very good," Gimenez joked. "Hopefully I can cheer him on and he'll work through it. He'll be just fine.

"I know it's almost June now, but I think there is that little bit of that grace period that we all don't wanna have, but you kind of have to have it - getting to know guys. Spring training is one thing, but when you get out here in the real deal, it's a little different.

"I think eventually it's gonna turn around for him and he'll be fine. I'll be here to make fun of him to do it."

The Cubs believe they have the most talented catcher in baseball in Willson Contreras, so it was difficult to sit him and find time for the 24-year-old Caratini.

Caratini started just 8 games at catcher this season and 5 at first base when Anthony Rizzo was injured last month. He's had just 69 plate appearances and only 13 trips to the batter's box since May 8.

With the extra off-days added into the schedule this season plus the unexpected days off due to rain, the Cubs have been able to lean on Contreras more than they anticipated in spring training.

This week is a perfect example, where the Cubs were off Monday and Thursday, then a day game Friday, a night game Saturday and then a night game Sunday, so Contreras could play all 5 games the Cubs had this week while also getting plenty of rest.

The Cubs don't have much catching depth in the system beyond Contreras, Caratini and Gimenez and it would've been silly to let Gimenez leave the organization given his background with Darvish and the high chance of injury catchers face on a regular basis.

Gimenez has 9 years of experience in the big leagues with 361 games under his belt, but he said he had no trouble staying patient waiting for the call to Chicago.

"Really, you take it a day at a time and if it happened, it happened. If it didn't, I understood that, too," Gimene said. "I'm sad for Vic because I don't feel like he deserved it and I feel like he's done a great job up here. 

"But kinda knowing that coming into it that was something that could happen and it's just gonna further develop his career."

The Cubs have raved about Caratini's at-bats, attitude and work ethic, but they also don't want one of their top prospects (who hit .342 with a .951 OPS in Triple-A last season) just rotting away on the bench as they try to live up to the World Series expectations bestowed upon this team.

"Not playing Caratini enough really bums me out," Maddon said. "That bothers me a lot. And he needs to play, so we gotta get him out playing again. Something will occur here where we're gonna need him on a more consistent basis.

"You know that it's likely to happen or if it doesn't, to just lose a year of development for him is just really sinful. So we wanted to get him out there to play and knowing he's gonna be back here relatively soon."

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.