White Sox

Penn State's star running back bolts for USC

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Penn State's star running back bolts for USC

From Comcast SportsNet
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Penn State's loss could turn into a big gain on the ground for Southern California. Star tailback Silas Redd bolted Happy Valley to join the Trojans in a season of great expectations in Los Angeles. A 1,200-yard rusher, Redd will join heralded quarterback Matt Barkley on a team already favored to win the Pac-12 and return to the Rose Bowl. It's a perk that Redd wouldn't have enjoyed at Penn State with the program burdened by stiff NCAA sanctions because of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Among the penalties was a four-year postseason ban, as well as a scholarship reduction. The NCAA also allowed players to seek new schools to play immediately this season, so long as they left by the start of Penn State training camp on Monday. Since the sanctions were imposed last week, Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien has been trying to keep the team intact by stressing academics, family and the prospect of playing seven home games a year in front of a crowd of 108,000 strong at Beaver Stadium. For the most part, it seems to have worked -- even though Redd's departure will be a serious blow to an offense being reconfigured by O'Brien, the former coordinator of the New England Patriots' high-powered attack. Counting Redd, three players have left Penn State since the NCAA imposed its landmark sanctions on July 23. A fourth player, third-string quarterback Rob Bolden, was removed from the roster this week but had been granted permission to talk to other schools before the sanctions. Otherwise, O'Brien hasn't lost any other starters or top backups so far. He had also said last week at Big Ten media days that more than 50 players had indicated they would stay. Six 2013 recruits have also reaffirmed their verbal commitments. Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner wished Redd and the other transfers well. "I think that certainly we understand and it's within their purview," Joyner said in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press at an evening football function. He added the low number of transfers was "a great testament to Bill O'Brien, and the kind of person he is, the kind of coach he is and the kind of players these are overall. "This team has a lot of unity." But it won't have Redd. Sophomore Bill Belton, a converted wideout, is next on the Penn State depth chart, and that could prove to be a roadblock as O'Brien tries to transform the offense on the fly. Out west, Redd joins a team that finished 10-2 and No. 6 in the final AP poll last season despite its own NCAA sanctions -- bowl ineligibility and a smaller roster. After Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald decided in December to return for their senior years, USC signed a top-flight recruiting class led by elite quarterback prospect Max Browne. Redd could make the Trojans even better. "We welcome Silas Redd to the Trojan Family," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "He is an outstanding student and athlete." USC had been sanctioned for rules violations committed during the 2004 and 05 seasons. "At USC, we've seen both sides of this issue, having lost a number of players to transfer due to our NCAA sanctions in 2010. But Lane Kiffin and his coaches would not be doing their job if they did not try to improve our team every single day," Haden said. "There is a specific need here for a player like Silas Redd, so Lane and our coaches recruited him within the guidelines set up in this instance by the NCAA." An early-morning rally and last-minute social media campaign couldn't keep Redd from leaving Penn State. He took a weekend visit to USC before delivering the news to Nittany Lions coaches at the team headquarters -- about 12 hours after Tuesday's "Rise and Rally" community event to rouse the players at morning workouts. Penn State said later Tuesday that tight end Kevin Haplea was also no longer with the team. It was unclear where the junior, who started one game last year, was headed. Backup safety Tim Buckley, a former walk-on, was the first player to leave Penn State in the wake of the sanctions. He joined North Carolina State this week. And then, there is the case of Bolden, the former starting quarterback, who pondered leaving last year, as well. LSU has shown an interest in Bolden, yet he has not chosen a new destination. Most players interviewed after the rally and voluntary workout said they hoped Redd and others would stick around, but would honor their decisions regardless. "Each player came here for different reasons and with different objectives," tight end Garry Gilliam said. "When it comes down to it, I'd like them to stay, but if they don't, I'll respect their decisions." Linebacker Khairi Fortt -- like Redd, a junior from Connecticut -- has considered Cal, Florida State and Kansas, his father, Guy confirmed in an email to The Associated Press. The Stamford Advocate first reported details of Fortt's recruitment. The younger Fortt, a top reserve for Penn State, liked his visit to Cal but loves his Nittany Lions coaches, his father said. His decision could come Wednesday. The rally was evidence of the Penn State community's resolve to stand behind the Nittany Lions that remain. With the pep band playing, at least 2,500 blue-and-white backers, alumni and local business owners cheered outside the football building Tuesday in support of the players caught in the middle of one of the worst episodes ever in college athletics. Fans lined the sidewalks to slap high-fives and shake hands with the Nittany Lions as they snaked their way to the workout. The scene resembled the team entrance to home games at Beaver Stadium on fall Saturdays. Inspirational quotes from Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine and Vince Lombardi were posted in the windows of the building. "It isn't whether you get knocked down. It's whether you get back up," read one quote attributed to Lombardi, the Hall of Fame NFL coach. "It was so cool. I couldn't believe how loud it was," fullback Michael Zordich said. "This just goes to show why we're still here and why we're going to fight this thing through." Former player Keith Conlin, a local businessman and online radio show host who helped organize the event said he wanted current team members "to know that we have their backs." "These kids, they've been fighting an uphill battle for eight months, and it's nothing that they did," he said. "We're not going to leave them and run away." Most downtown businesses are displaying "Proud to Support Penn State Football" signs on windows. Some stores have started selling shirts with the slogan "Billieve," playing off of O'Brien's first name. After much deliberation, Redd will not be a part of this revival. Instead, he's going to chase a title with the Trojans.

White Sox catching prospect mentioned in some elite company

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USA TODAY

White Sox catching prospect mentioned in some elite company

White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins is being talked about in some elite company after a recent accomplishment.

Collins participated in the Southern League Home Run Derby in Double-A earlier this evening for the Birmingham Barons, and he secured his first career home run derby win.

Now, this is cool, thanks to NBC Sports Chicago’s stats guru Chris Kamka: Dating way back to 1895, Babe Ruth was born on Feb. 6, 1895. Collins was born on the same day as Ruth, but 100 years later.

It’s still way too early to make any sort of comparisons, but it’s a fun way to connect the two.

Collins so far this season is hitting .267 with 9 HR, 33 RBI’s and 59 BB in 62 games. Those walks lead the Southern League. The next highest is 39.

Collins is hitting much better than he did when he was with Single-A Winston-Salem last season. Collins hit a mere .233 in 101 games.

Think about this too. Rick Hahn mentioned several White Sox prospects will get promotions in the coming days. Could this mean Collins will get his opportunity? We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Glanville: Ready or not, play ball

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Ready or not, play ball

As my career wound down in Major League Baseball, I found myself caddying a lot. Caddying is just what it sounds like, coming in as needed, helping the talent of the future as a mentor or advisor. It also meant that when you do get the chance to start, you may be facing tough assignments that are spaced out inconveniently for you.

As I did in 2004, I faced some tough pitchers often to protect the next generation centerfielder in Marlon Byrd in Philly. I faced a Rolodex of Cy Young award winners that year (Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, and others) or All-Stars (Brad Radke and so on), and the other starters were reserved for the young buck.

That was then, but how to be ready with so many unknowns is still an important lesson about being prepared for anything that can come at you. And in baseball, anything will come at you.

Like many players who arrive to the big leagues, they have had a lifetime of being every day players. High school, college stars, or even minor league stars, who were always in the lineup. Then, as the air gets thinner, so does the opportunity to be a starter and the more you may learn about life coming off of the bench.

Addison Russell had a surprise entry into the Cubs-Cardinals game the other day after teammate Javier Baez took a pitch off of the elbow. In theory, it was supposed to be Russell’s “day off” so when he made an error in the field, speculation arose from announcer Alex Rodriguez that he may not have been fully prepared. The implication was that he had shut off his mind to enjoy his day off, and was caught off guard.

Only Russell knows how he felt, but after I spent a career in the National League as perennial starter and bench player, there is no such thing as a day off, especially in a lineup under Joe Maddon, which has emphasis on versatility, flexibility and open-mindedness.

If you are on the bench to start a game, there is an understanding that you may get in the game. At least there should be unless, and this has happened to me, the manager tells you that under no circumstance will you be called in the game. Even then, in the back of my mind, should the game go 15 innings, I could hardly be surprised if a promise may have to be broken.

One time, Phillies manager Terry Francona gave me a day off during a season where I ended up playing in 158 games and leading the NL in at bats. He said to me “it looks like the bat is swinging you.” We were out of it in September, so he could sit me and keep me on the bench. The Cubs do not have the luxury of handing out day spa packages, they are in the race, in fact, many days, they are getting chased.

I only played one partial season in the American League and this was with Texas as Alex’s teammate. After years of National League life, the AL was another planet. Players came off the bench only in matchup situations, the rare pinch run or pinch hit, and maybe for defense (other than road interleague play.). The AL does not have the built in bench call because in the NL, the pitcher hits, a circumstance which opens up many ways you can get in the game.

Like Alex, I was spoiled on years of being a starter, so it did take a little time to know how to get ready for the chance you may come in the game. He was a DH later in his career, so he knew when he was hitting, so he could get loose with a plan. If you don’t have that advantage, usually around the fourth inning or some inning before the pitcher is batting, I would start warming up. Some parks are easier than others to do that. Stretch, hit off of the tee, jog somewhere. And you will have to repeat this each inning you are not used, just in case.

What really bites into your preparation is when something happens very early in the game. This is when you could not get into a stretching routine to be ready because of the timing (Baez injury happened in the 3rd) or you could have skipped your typical pre-game warm up to bask in your day off. Sure, being a pro means being ready but being thrust in a game is still pretty jarring.

Then when you age in the game, you don’t have the bandwidth to be stiff on the bench or you may not ever get loose, so you are (or should be) constantly warming up. I learned a lot as a young player watching veterans like Shawon Dunston, Lenny Harris, and others who came off the bench ready to go. We were all a quick turn away from a pulled muscle.

Baseball is a stop and go sport, outside of the elements of surprise of in game injuries or wild substations, you may get hit by weather like the Cubs experienced last night. When is the tarp coming off? Warm up, sit down, warm up, sit down. It is not the best way to be loose, especially when you are 34, but it is always part of any sport that plays outdoors. You have to put the built-in excuses out of your head because there is a role player performing well despite the obstacles.

As an every day player, you often get out of touch with the reality of coming off of the bench and having to perform. It is challenging for any player to come off the bench no matter what the circumstance, which is what makes pinch hitter extraordinaire, Tommy La Stella, an incredible asset. It is one thing to be loose, it is another to hit a guy throwing a 96 mph sinker.

Baseball is a tough game because it depends so much on rhythm while everything is trying to disrupt it. Errors happen, no matter what, even when you are prepared and at your best. And it is ok to recognize that you may not really be loose, which is a natural occurrence over 162 games. You can’t be totally limber every day after long flights and split doubleheader’s while the body is just being the body. Sometimes you are productive playing through it, some times, you are not.

Yet there are a whole host of players who make a career out of their instant utility. Productive players who are not afforded advanced notice all of the time. Every year, these players help win championships (see David Ross.) Coming cold off the bench, going into games when the starter’s hamstring tightens up. Facing closers who throw 100 mph. Pinch running with a tight hamstring. It happens every single day on every single team. They are as important to winning as having an MVP in Kris Bryant, or a brilliant veteran, like Jon Lester.

So let’s take this opportunity to appreciate these players more instead of only noticing them when a starter has to do what these bench players have always done. Being ready on call.