Bulls

Swept by White Sox, Cubs look to shake things up

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Swept by White Sox, Cubs look to shake things up

Maybe the White Sox will use this as a springboard in a division that appears to be wide open. But for the Cubs, this was a lost weekend at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are going back to the drawing board. It was 91 degrees at game time on Sunday, and you got the feeling this could be a long, hot summer at Clark and Addison.

The White Sox climbed back to .500 with a 6-0 win in front of 38,374 fans. The sweep dropped the Cubs to 11 games under, a new low point, even if everyone knew this was going to be a bridge year.

A six-game losing streak had manager Dale Sveum thinking about making changes to the top of the order, moving Starlin Castro out of the No. 3 hole and lobbying for top prospect Anthony Rizzo to be called up from Triple-A Iowa.

Getting swept by the White Sox at home is about as low as youre going to get through a seven-day stretch, Sveum said. You hope that the fans understand and stay patient the rest of the year.

If the city learned anything from this three-game series, it could be that these two teams are heading in opposite directions.

Kerry Wood stole the show with a calculated two-day retirement announcement, and an unexpected, heart-warming moment with his son, hugging Justin and carrying him down the dugout steps.

Chairman Tom Ricketts kept a very low profile after the details of his fathers political activities were leaked to The New York Times. The security concerns about the NATO summit were unfounded.

The rivalry left a mark around Paul Konerkos left eye, but no bad blood between Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox captain. The beanball war never really escalated. Check back next month on the South Side.

We are very disappointed, Alfonso Soriano said, because the way that we play against them is not acceptable.

Soriano is playing through the pain in his left knee, and the Cubs had already made 10 moves on their 25-man roster in four days. They couldnt take advantage of the conditions and tee off the way the White Sox did against Paul Maholm.

We had a lot of opportunity to score a lot of runs with the wind, Soriano said. But sometimes we see the flags like that and were not concentrating and seeing the ball and hitting it. We see the wind and we forget that we have to hit the ball first.

Maholm had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization until signing with the Cubs last winter and breaking the news on his Twitter account.

Maholm (4-3, 4.73 ERA) watched the White Sox take shots at Waveland Avenue Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each homered. Welcome to Cubs-Sox.

Well, obviously, it sucked because we lost three games, Maholm said. When I went out there, I didnt worry about a big rivalry series or whatever. I was trying to make pitches, and I did early. I missed some pitches and they hit home runs.

So hopefully whenever we re-up the crosstown cup, we can sweep em at their place. Its kind of like kissing your sister and just go for a tie.

A lot will happen between now and then. Though the schedule eases up a bit with a trip through Houston and Pittsburgh, the Cubs will play 16 of their next 19 games on the road.

Whether its moving Castro up, rearranging David DeJesus and Tony Campana, giving more at-bats to Joe Mather or throwing Rizzo into the fire, Sveum is looking to shake things up.

We need some production, Sveum said. The bottom line is two months into the season we have to start producing, or were going to have to start making some changes.

Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez continues to contribute as 'great example,' mentor for young Bulls

Robin Lopez hasn’t exactly had a season to remember in Year 3 with the Bulls. The longest tenured player on the rebuilding Bulls, Lopez has seen his starting spot relinquished during the preseason, he’s been a healthy scratch in half of the team’s 14 games and has struggled in the extended minutes he’s seen this past week.

But Lopez, ever the professional and positive presence in the locker room – with his framed Britney Spears picture still in view – is still having an impact. Specifically, the mentoring he’s given rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is one of the reasons the Bulls’ seventh overall pick has been able to succeed so early in his NBA career.

“Robin’s great for this young group of guys. He’s played already a couple different roles,” Fred Hoiberg said. “And any time you can show the guys the right way to approach that, be professional about it and still be a mentor throughout the tough times, it’s a great example. He’s a great role model for our young players.

“He’s really taken Wendell under his wing. You look at what Cris and Bobby did in their first couple years in the league. He had those same impact on those guys.”

When Lopez arrived in Chicago via the Derrick Rose trade, the Bulls were still competing. He started 81 games in 2016-17, averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 28.0 minutes, the most he had played since his first season in Portland.

But Lopez became a victim of the Bulls tank last season, starting 64 games but sitting 18 of the final 26 contests. Lopez only played in eight of those games as a result of the NBA stepping in and asking the Bulls to play their veterans – Lopez and Justin Holiday – more. Lopez averaged just 16.9 minutes in those games.

Lopez began the year as the starter but Carter quickly established himself as the foundation of the defense while also showing off an offensive skill set that complemented the backcourt.

Through the demotion and healthy scratches Lopez has taken on a mentor role, not dissimilar to the one fellow veterans took on for him in his early seasons as a pro in New Orleans.

“I’ve been really fortunate in the league,” Lopez said. “I’ve had a lot of great veterans myself, but even if I hadn’t I have a great joy playing with these guys, being around these guys. We have a great group of guys, a great group of teammates. I’d be a huge jackass if I weren’t to do that, you know?’’

Since rejoining the rotation in New York, Lopez has averaged a paltry 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 17.2 minutes. He has blocked five shots, including a pivotal one in the final seconds of regulation against the Knicks. He’s been an abled body off the bench to spell Carter – or eat minutes if the rookie is in foul trouble – or a more viable option for Felicio, who has struggled in his own right.

The on-court production is what it is, but Lopez’s teaching role has mattered more to a Bulls team sitting at 4-9 while they await the return of four rotation players.

“Coming out of a timeout or when guys come over, whether we’re going through a good stretch or a bad one, he’s always the first one to go up to Wendell and talk to him about things that he sees on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He just has such a great feel for doing the right thing out there.”

It’s a role he’ll play for as long as he’s with the Bulls. When Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis return the Bulls’ frontcourt minutes will be swallowed up, and odds are the Bulls will want to continue trying out Felicio based solely on the money the Bulls owe him the next two-plus seasons. Lopez, a free agent at season’s end, likely hasn’t done enough to fetch anything considerable in a trade and doesn’t offer much as an expiring contract.

But that won’t stop him from continuing to compete, push the younger players in practice and attempt to create a winning culture in Chicago.

"Everybody here, we’re competitive guys,” he said. “We want that to be us. Wherever I am I want us to be winning, I’m a competitive player. You see me on the floor getting technicals and generally shouting at the refs, but occasionally other people too. I’m a competitive guy. I want to be winning wherever I am.’’

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and placed forward Marcus Kruger (left leg) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 9, the team announced Tuesday.

Forsling, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, was sent to Rockford on Oct. 22 perhaps more-so as a conditioning stint and appeared in five games. He missed four contests with a groin injury, but is coming off a two-assist game against the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Forsling had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with the Blackhawks last season before getting assigned to the IceHogs for the remainder of the campaign, where he recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 postseason contests.

The Blackhawks' roster currently sits at 23 players, so it appears they will carry eight defensemen for now despite the team's reluctance to do so again this season after it backfired a year ago. Brandon Davidson (right leg injury) did not practice on Tuesday, which could be the reason for bringing up Forsling.

But his call-up certainly comes at a desperate time for the Blackhawks, who have lost eight in a row (0-6-2) and could use all the help they can get on the back end.

In other positive news, Connor Murphy skated in full gear for the first time in months as he continues to recover from a back injury. He's still a ways away from practicing, but this was the next step in his recovery process.