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Samardzija searching for answers after Mets rock Cubs

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Samardzija searching for answers after Mets rock Cubs

Theres so much to like about Jeff Samardzijas potential, from his power arm to his NFL body to the guts and swagger it took to play big-time football at Notre Dame.

Theo Epsteins front office gave Samardzija another chance and believes he has the tools to become a frontline starter. But its becoming harder and harder to ignore the trend line.

Samardzija stood there alone on the mound on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, watching the 91 mph cutter he threw Daniel Murphy disappear into the right-field bleachers. The ball was thrown right back, and Samardzija swatted it toward the Cubs dugout in frustration.

You could feel the heat as the New York Mets exploded for four homers in a 17-1 victory that avoided the sweep in front of 35,837 fans. The Cubs (26-49) havent won a game Samardzija started in almost a month.

Yeah, Id be lying if I (said) I wasnt concerned a little bit, manager Dale Sveum said afterward. It could be (hitting a wall). It could just be confidence. It could be mechanical. It could be all of the above.

Samardzija gave up nine runs on six hits and four walks and couldnt finish the fifth inning. Whether or not fatigue is a factor, hes now thrown 87 13 innings this year. He accounted for 88 innings out of the bullpen during his breakthrough 2011 season.

Its more mental right now than physical, Samardzija said. My body feels great. Thats not the issue.

Samardzija has allowed 25 runs in his last four starts, a span of 18 13 innings, which translates to a 12.27 ERA. This followed the month of May, when he posted a 2.48 ERA in six starts and notched 40 strikeouts against only 11 walks.

Its definitely a learning process for me right now, Samardzija said. I came (into) the season feeling great and had a great first quarter there and these things happen throughout the season where you hit these speed bumps.

The great guys make those adjustments quickly. They have one bad outing and they come back the next day and they bounce back. Ive had a few here that havent been up to par for me and I need to make those adjustments on (and) off the field, in between starts, to get me ready to go for the next (one).

No doubt about it, all this stuff is being logged away and remembered for the future. Well look back on this and understand what happened now and make those adjustments in the future. It just needs to happen quicker. Thats all.

Everyone knew there would be a learning curve for Samardzija, whos only 27 years old but seems even younger than that in baseball development time.

Samardzija felt like his sinker wasnt really sinking, running off the plate when he wanted a strike and hanging over the plate when he needed it to drop. Sveum saw someone who was leaving the ball up and having trouble putting guys away with two strikes. At the moment, the Cubs arent inclined to skip Samardzijas next start or give him extra time to work on the side.

You could do a lot of things, Sveum said. But we have a plan and when things go awry for a few starts, you just dont jump the gun.

Whatever adjustments Samardzija makes and there are reasons to believe that he will figure it out the Cubs will have to make some hard decisions with their rotation.

Ryan Dempster should get healthy sometime around the All-Star break and Matt Garza will try to block out the rumors around the July 31 trade deadline.

The New York Yankees were suddenly looking at huge holes in their rotation after Wednesdays news that CC Sabathia (groin strain) and Andy Pettitte (ankle fracture) are heading to the disabled list. Think Epsteins cell phone will be ringing?

Samardzija is now 5-7 with a with a 5.05 ERA through 15 starts. The second half of this experiment will be telling in terms of how exactly he fits into those plans.

Im really concerned about it I want to win, Samardzija said. (But) Im not concerned as a whole. Im just upset as a competitor and as a teammate for my guys who have been playing their butts off these last few days.

Coming in and letting them down isnt what Im about. It doesnt sit well with me at all. (But) you got to look at the big picture. Theres things you need to learn, and theres only one way to learn sometimes: Its to get kicked in the rear a little bit.

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

As the Bulls played out the string last season, fielding glorified G League lineups, meaningful days still existed.

April 3 was one of them.

Not only did the Bulls scratch out a fun, one-point road victory over the Wizards, executive vice president John Paxson, coach Jim Boylen and general manager Gar Forman met with Otto Porter Jr. and his longtime strength coach from his alma mater of Georgetown.

That meeting mapped out Porter’s offseason plan and began the strong communication that continued Friday when Boylen and Porter met to discuss the organization’s approach for a proper workload for the crucial veteran. Following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center, Boylen for the first time publicly disclosed the Bulls’ plan to play Porter in the neighborhood of 30 minutes and approach back-to-back games on a case-by-case basis.

“We will manage him appropriately,” Boylen said. “He will not play over 30 minutes in anything we do to get going here. We’ll manage him on the off days in a real respectful way. Obviously, he’s a big piece. He’s our starting 3, a big wing. And we need him.”

The Bulls have a set of back-to-back games in this first week of the regular season, with their home opener against the defending NBA champion Raptors coming Saturday following a game at the Grizzlies Friday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Boylen said. “It might be a situation where we manage him the first night in order to play him the second night. Or manage him the first night and the second night he feels maybe a night he doesn’t play. But we have a plan. It’s rough because it’s depending on how he feels.”

Right now, Porter feels good.

“Preseason has been great, making sure my body is healthy, making sure I get my reps in, making sure as a team we’re ready to go,” Porter said following practice. “I’ll hold it down for us until we get Chandler (Hutchison) back. That’s going to be always my job.

“But we got a lot of guards that can play the three too. We got a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. If somebody goes down, the next man always got to step up and replace – not replace but do more – and I feel like everybody is going to do more.”

Hutchison has yet to play with a hamstring injury. Shaq Harrison missed all five preseason games but is available for Wednesday’s opener in Charlotte, N.C.

Boylen said there are many options to keep Porter fresh even with Hutchison injured and Denzel Valentine currently out of the rotation, including Harrison or Tomas Satoransky at backup small forward and three-guard lineups. The Bulls also utilize big lineups with Thad Young at small forward.

“You’ve seen what we’ve done. We’ve had Coby (White), Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Kris) Dunn out there together. Playing small and fast is good. You can also put ‘Sato’ out there with that group,” Boylen said. “There may be opportunities where we go big depending on the situation of the game. We’ve practiced those lineups and scenarios.”

Porter played a huge role in the Bulls’ brief surge last February after arriving from the Wizards in a trade. He has battled nagging injuries in the past, including knee, shoulder and neck issues. Porter also underwent minor surgery on his left leg that knocked him out of the April 2018 playoffs to address a blood buildup around a contusion.

“Every season, there are ups and downs and teams go through it,” Porter said. “Right now, it’s a matter of depth and we want to start out fresh. You start out fresh, you’re already ahead of the game.”

Porter is encouraged by the Bulls’ offense during the preseason, including an increased emphasis on 3-point attempts.

“Right now, we might not be shooting a high percentage. But in the regular season, that number is definitely going to increase drastically because we’re practicing hard, making our open shots and just getting open looks,” Porter said. “We know what this offense can do for us.”

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

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USA Today

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

The Bears just announced their inactive list, and as expected, Mitch Trubisky is ready to go: 

Trubisky and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols will both return after missing time with a dislocated shoulder and broken hand, respectively. Trubisky has been out since Week 4's game against the Vikings and Nichols hasn't played since breaking his hand against the Broncos. 

Reserve offensive lineman Ted Larsen will also return, his first game since hurting his knee against the Vikings as well. It'll up to Larsen and Rashaad Coward to fill in at guard, especially with Alex Bars being a healthy scratch. Long was put on IR earlier in the week, and while Coward took most of the first-team reps in practice, head coach Matt Nagy didn't rule out the possibility of rotating the two early in the game.