Ventura getting some starters a rest


Ventura getting some starters a rest

By Paul LaTour contributor

With the winning streak now history and a virus working its way through the clubhouse, the White Sox lineup has a new look to it as they go for the series win against Seattle today at U.S. Cellular Field.

Brent Lillibridge, Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Flowers and Eduardo Escobar are all starting against Mariners right-hander Kevin Millwood.

Its just time, manager Robin Ventura said. These guys have been sitting for a while, while the other guys have been on a good run. Weve got guys who are sick. These guys need to play. And today is a good day to do it.

Lillibridge and Fukudome will start for the first time since May 20, and Escobar is playing for the first time since May 22. Flowers started last Sunday but is appearing in only his 12th game in relief of A.J. Pierzynski.

That could sound like a lot of rusty bats for Chicago, but Lillibridge doesnt think that will be a problem. He said bench players prepare every game with the assumption they will be needed at some point.

Ive got my routines because Im always planning on playing, Lillibridge said. Everything is a little quicker with preparing. If youre not playing youre obviously not going to get loose 30 minutes before the game. But Im always ready to get my chance to play.

Lillibridge replaces Alejandro De Aza in center field and also at the top of the batting order. De Aza twisted his right ankle in Saturdays 10-8 loss to the Mariners that snapped their nine-game winning streak.

But that injury isnt why hes not playing today.

Hes sick today, so hes down, Ventura said. He wasnt scheduled to play anyway, but hes not feeling too good. Hes not looking too good either. His ankle is fine. His face looks worse than his ankle.

For Lillibridge, he isnt looking at this game as an opportunity to get more playing time down the road.

You think, hey, if I get four hits today, maybe Ill get in there tomorrow. Thats not how it works, he said. So you take that pressure off yourself. If the good things happen and keep going over and over again like I did last year than youre going to get a chance to find yourself in the lineup a lot more.

Paul Konerko also gets a much-needed day off as Adam Dunn assumes the first-base role. Dayan Viciedo is the designated hitter and will bat fourth. Konerko is 1-for-16 in the four games since having his 14-game winning streak snapped.

Hes been out there every day, so Ill give him the day off, Ventura said. We have a day off (Monday) so this will give him two days to get off his feet, get in the cage and let him work on whatever he wants to work on.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.