With Rizzo on horizon, Rowson is choice for next generation


With Rizzo on horizon, Rowson is choice for next generation

James Rowson answered questions with a yes, sir or a no, sir out of habit. If it sounded like he just got drafted, well, this was his first day in the big leagues.

Rowson had just watched batting practice from behind the cage at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, his first few hours on the job as interim hitting coach after the Cubs fired Rudy Jaramillo.

Jaramillo liked to call everyone kid, and the 61-year-old always appeared to be in motion, with no shortage of energy, and players were drawn to that optimism.

But before Jaramillo became one of the highest-paid coaches in the game, he had to pay his dues at the lower levels of the Texas Rangers system.

Hes been a real class act and done a lot for the game, Rowson said. Hopefully, Id like to be able to maybe make half the imprint that hes made in the game, because hes been a great hitting coach for a long time.

The 35-year-old Rowson, who only joined the organization as the minor-league hitting coordinator a few months ago, is expected to spend the rest of this season in the majors.

Rowson had spent the previous six seasons in the New York Yankees organization. Scoutingplayer development chief Jason McLeod got his name and the Cubs asked for permission to interview. They met at the winter meetings in Dallas.

Rowson, who graduated from Mount Saint Michael Academy in the Bronx, N.Y., decided to leave the Yankees for what looked to be a lateral move.

I was really sold on the direction of the organization, Rowson said. I was really excited. It was an atmosphere where we wanted to move forward. (We) had the right plan.

Rowson last visited Double-A Tennessee and arrived in Chicago on Monday night. The personnel will begin to change soon. Catchers Geovany Soto (knee) and Welington Castillo (knee) are on rehab assignments and will be reevaluated this weekend.

Big picture, the Cubs will be trying to incorporate more and more young players over the next several weeks, months and years, possibly beginning with promoting Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson from Triple-A Iowa. Rizzo whos hitting .367 with 22 homers bruised his right knee on Tuesday while sliding into a dugout fence chasing a foul pop (its not considered serious).

I dont think you ever make decisions because of one or two or three individual players, team president Theo Epstein said, as much as whats best for the team and whats best for the organization.

Its more coincidence than anything else, but certainly itll help. James has been working with young hitters for awhile now, given the jobs that hes had. Hes had a chance to connect with some youngsters in our farm system who may be up here at some point later this season. So that will be a benefit, but that wasnt the motivation.

The Seattle Mariners selected Rowson in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, and the outfielder played professionally until 1998. Jaramillo never rose above the Double-A level as a player, but became one of the premier coaches of his generation.

Be yourself, Rowson said. My plan is just to learn these guys a little bit, build relationships with these players and kind of take it from there.

By no means do you compare yourself to a guy like Rudy Jaramillo, because his track record obviously speaks for itself. So many, many, many years from now that will be a conversation, but not right now.

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."