Bulls

Smokies outfielder Guyer overcoming misfortune

Smokies outfielder Guyer overcoming misfortune

Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010
9:50 AM

By Kevin Czerwinski
CSNChicago.com

Bad fortune certainly seems to be following Brandon Guyer to some degree this season. Yet, the Tennessee outfielder, who sports a gritty, run through a wall-type of attitude, is determined to keep pressing forward despite the fact that at times fate seems to be conspiring against him.

Guyer returned to Smokies lineup Monday night after missing three games with a case of conjunctivitis pink eye. The inflammation in his eyes left him unable to put in his contact lenses, rendering him unable to play. While the three games he missed waiting for the problem to subside wouldnt normally be an issue a little break in August never hurt anyone Guyer was in the midst of his hottest streak of the season.

The former fifth-round 2007 pick from Virginia was riding a 16-game hitting streak at the time his eyes went wacky. He returned to the lineup against Chattanooga, though, and collected three hits to extend his streak to 17 games, two shy of the longest streak in the Southern League this season. Hes hitting .477 during the 17 games with four homers and 22 RBIs.

I would have been able to play if I could have put my contacts in, said Guyer, 24, who has pushed his season average to .331, second best in the Southern League. That was one of the more frustrating things about it. I felt like I didnt lose too much of my timing, though and I was glad I could get back out there.

It wasnt the first time Guyer missed action this season. He missed two weeks in late April and early May after injuring his shoulder, a recurrence of an injury he suffered at the University of Virginia in the weeks leading up to the draft. Guyer slid head first into second base against Birmingham and jammed the shoulder on April 28.

Guyer was hitting .283 at the time but when he got back into the lineup on May 10, he played in only two games before missing two more weeks. When he returned in early June his average slumped and he spent a month working toward getting his stroke back. He finally began to come around in July and believes the current streak on which he finds himself is more of an indication of who he is as a player than the one who struggled for much of June.

I felt better when I came back but it took time to get comfortable again, he said. Im just getting up to the plate now and keeping it simple. KISS. Keep it simple stupid. If I have a bad at-bat I just say KISS, KISS over and over. I dont go up there and try to do too much. I just want to keep it simple and hit line drives.

Tennessee won the first-half title in the Southern Leagues North Division and appears headed to repeat in the second half. It holds a three-game lead over West Tenn heading into Wednesdays action at Mississippi and Guyers play of late has been a big reason why. Hes anxious to finish what he and the Smokies have started.

First off, were in a playoff hunt and Id like to finish this off and get a ring, he said. Id also like to keep on the roll that Im on and end the season the best possible way I can. Other than that, I cant think about anything else. I feel that if I go out and do what I can do, that other stuff promotions will happen naturally.

Should Guyer continue to play the way he has been, a trip to Iowa may be in the offing. The I-Cubs are in the midst of a playoff chase as well and would likely welcome the help. Guyer has been demonstrating an ability to hit all pitches to all fields, an ability he says he didnt possess when he came out of college. Hes spraying the ball more, though, using the whole field now and the results speak for themselves.

I feel like have more to work on but this year I have made huge strides, he said. Maybe I need to be more patient at the plate in certain situations, maybe hit for some more power. Stealing bases, Id like to get better at that.

Deep down, though, I always knew I could produce at this level. Its all been about hard work and confidence.

Oh, and overcoming a bit of misfortune.
Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

Wendell Carter Jr., NBA Cares host court restoration event that honors slain teenager Darius Brown

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USA TODAY

Wendell Carter Jr., NBA Cares host court restoration event that honors slain teenager Darius Brown

On Saturday NBA Cares, jr. NBA, EA Sports, Wendell Carter Jr., Complex and artist Hebru Brantley teamed up to renovate the  MetCalfePark basketball court in honor of slain teenager Darius Brown, who was fatally shot and killed on August 3, 2011. 

The court was re-designed with Brantley's FlyBoy character as the centerpiece.

The FlyBoy character represents “hope and optimism that makes people believe that no matter where they are from, no matter what their circumstances, anything is possible."

The event hosted by NBA Cares—and also a part of Complex Community Week—featured Wendell Carter Jr. conversing with the kids and helping "Slam Dunking Science Teacher "Jonathan Clark with an awesome dunking display for the kids. 

Metcalfe Park's (43rd State) new look is amazing and the FlyBoy image serves as the perfect image for the court.

As Hebru Brantley states, "FlyBoy is about taking flight and believing in yourself enough to reach your true potential."

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On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.”