Bears

Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

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Sveum, Bowden and the question marks around the Cubs

MESA, Ariz. Cubs executives thought there were enough media demands in this market to make potential managers meet with reporters as part of the interview process, just the way Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had set it up in Boston.

Its not uncommon for Dale Sveum to do four or five rounds of media interviews in a single day here in Arizona. The first-year manager puts a face to the narrative.

Less than two weeks to Opening Day, the story is whos in, whos out and whos on the bubble. The feeling throughout camp was that the Cubs want to see Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation.

Sveum went a step further on Saturday when he appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden, the former Cincinnati Reds general manager, and talked about the rotation beyond Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Paul Maholm.

Volstads been throwing the heck out of the ball, so Im not going to see that anything can change there, Sveum said on SiriusXM. That fifth spot Samardzija, (Randy) Wells, (Rodrigo) Lopez theyre all fighting (with) Travis Wood.

But Maholm and Volstad are throwing the ball too good and the command has been unbelievable this spring. So thats probably just the one spot thats open right now.

So it became news when Bowden went on Twitter and reported that Volstad has made the rotation. Afterward, when beat writers asked him about those comments in the managers office, Sveum (who was clearly annoyed) tried to clarify.

The Volstad thing obviously his name came up but theres nothing etched in stone there, Sveum said. I think what I said (was): Obviously, if he keeps throwing the ball the way hes throwing the ball, hes going to be hard to keep out of the rotation.

It doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

The Cubs bullpen is also filled with question marks. Kerry Wood hasnt appeared in a Cactus League game since March 18. Sveum said theres no issue.

Were just mainly backing him off (before) getting him a couple more outings before the season starts, Sveum said. The back flares up once in awhile, but thats not a concern now. Hes fine.

The MRI came back negative on Marcos Mateo no ligament damage but he wont throw a ball for around 10 days, taking him out of the Opening Day mix. Mateo is said to be experiencing something similar to the right elbow soreness he felt when he was shut down last July.

Sveum has been asked about the pitching staff for five weeks now, and indicated that hed make some announcements around Wednesday.

On Twitter, Bowden said that Sveum told him the bullpen will include Wood, Carlos Marmol, James Russell, Rafael Dolis and Casey Coleman. Sveum told the Chicago media that Colemans name wasnt even mentioned in his conversation with Bowden.

Sveum has repeatedly said that Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo a converted infielder who has never pitched above A-ball has impressed the organization with his poise and command. Carrying Castillo on the 25-man roster and not returning him to the Philadelphia Phillies is a possibility.

Hes obviously (made us think) this could be a reality, Sveum said.

Theres no disputing that the 24-year-old Dolis has opened eyes and could emerge as a key bullpen piece.

Dolis has had a great camp, just unbelievable stuff, 95 to 97 mph with power sink and command of a slider, Sveum told Bowden. Hes that guy (who) hitters dont like facing. Theres just too much movement, too much velocity and he keeps the ball down. Hes there, too, in that seventh-, eighth-(inning) spot.

The media storm always seemed to follow Carlos Zambrano, which makes it such a sharp contrast that he was traded for the low-key Volstad, whos 6-foot-8 and yet still blends easily into the background.

I dont have an account. Why? Volstad said when a reporter asked if hes on Twitter. I hadnt heard anything. I was getting ready to throw in a minor-league game. I wasnt really paying attention to any of that.

Volstad went six innings down the street at Fitch Park and has so far reinforced what the Cubs think he could be in their rotation. In 10 Cactus League innings, hes allowed one run and has seven strikeouts and no walks.

Its not like I can control the decision, Volstad said, but I feel pretty good where Im at right now.

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

Power Rankings Roundup: People are pretty apathetic about losing to the Patriots

While the notion of a "good loss" is more coachspeak than anything of real substance, it looks like NFL media agree. 

After a close loss to the Patriots -- about three feet close, to be exact -- Power Rankings makers aren't blaming the Bears too much. In fact, shoutout to our mothership, Big NBC Sports, for actually *raising* the Bears in their latest rankings. Thanks guys! 

Here's what they're saying: 

Ours: #17, down 4 -
You can do worse than barely losing to the Patriots, but what on earth has happened to Chicago's defense?

NBCSports: #10, up 1 - 
Bears went toe-to-toe with the Patriots and made it to the later rounds before taking one on the chin. No shame in that.

NFL.com: #11, N/A - 
The opportunities were there for the Bears, who took it to the Patriots in the first half Sunday. The second half was a different story, as Chicago was stuck in catch-up mode.

Washington Post: #16, down 1 - 
The Bears came up a yard shy of a tying TD on the Hail Mary against the Patriots. This was a far less egregious loss than falling to Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins a week earlier. But it was still a loss.

ESPN: #13, down 1 - 
Need more from: RB Jordan Howard. Howard is averaging only 3.46 yards per rush, which ranks 41st out of 47 qualifying running backs. Bears running backs as a whole rank 30th with 1.45 yards after contact per rush, and Mitchell Trubisky has led the team in rushing in two of the past three games.

Sports Illustrated: #18, N/A - 
The Bears were 3-1 before starting a four-game tour of the AFC East. They need to take care of business against the Jets and Bills to keep pace in a tough NFC North.

Sporting News: #16, down 1 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and the offense have become a fun, unpredictable and mostly explosive roller-coaster ride, but the defense is showing it has plenty of leaks behind Khalil Mack.

FanSided: #17, down 2 - 
Mitchell Trubisky and those special teams were a disaster on Sunday.

Bleacher Report: #15, N/A - 
The problem is the Bears also have five tough divisional games remaining, including two with the Vikings. A date with the Rams also looms. However, if the Bears take care of business in the first four games mentioned, they will need to go just 3-3 in their remaining six matchups to go 10-6 and (presumably) make the playoffs.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."