Bulls

With Votto questionable, LaHair might be in All-Star spotlight

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With Votto questionable, LaHair might be in All-Star spotlight

ATLANTA Bryan LaHair is no longer the first baseman for the last-place Cubs. Yet he could still wind up starting at first base for the National League All-Star team.

It would be another twist in the long journey for LaHair, who had played in almost 1,000 minor-league games and spent parts of each of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level before his big breakthrough.

But with Joey Votto dealing with left knee inflammation, LaHair could find himself in the spotlight on Tuesday night in Kansas City, off the All-Star bench and in Tony La Russas lineup.

Because LaHair finished second in the player vote at that position, he would automatically start at first base if Votto sits out the game, per a Major League Baseball rule. (It should also be noted that the new collective bargaining agreement has made it more difficult for players to skip the event.)

Vottos a tough kid, so Id be shocked if he wasnt out there, LaHair said. Obviously, their team is in first place right now, and hes so important to the Cincinnati Reds. If it came down to it, that would be a tremendous honor. But Im sure hell be out there.

At the age of 29, LaHair has the perspective of someone who was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the 39th round of the 2002 draft and spent almost the next decade working his way up.

LaHairs been extremely patient with all the questions about Anthony Rizzo, the much-hyped prospect who essentially took his job and pushed him to the outfield.

Our team needs to get better, and Rizzos helping us, LaHair said. Its all about wins in this clubhouse. We need him at first base, playing in that lineup, and I need to play the outfield.

In the week since Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa, the Cubs have won five of six games. Rizzo came through with the game-winning RBI in three of his first five games, becoming the first Cub to do so since it was made an official statistic in 1920.

You dont want to put everything on somebodys shoulders, but I dont believe in coincidences either, manager Dale Sveum said. (We) lost a lot of one-run games because we didnt put anything up on the board 3-2, 2-1, 1-0.

There are times where certain people change the dynamics of the lineup and the team and his defense is going to be top-notch.

As far back as spring training, LaHair and Rizzo talked about the damage they could do together as two big left-handed bats in the middle of it all. Rizzo has so far lived up to the advance billing.

You obviously have to have the talent to hit third, fourth and fifth, Sveum said. (But) theres a mental edge you have to have to hit in those spots, too, because those spots are RBI spots. A lot of times youre not hitting there because youre a good hitter. Its because you can smell and taste RBIs.

You find a way to get those RBIs and get them in, whether the infields back and you hit a groundball to second base. Thats what third hitters and fourth hitters do they take leads and add on.

LaHair would like to be that type of producer (even though hes 3-for-38 against left-handers this season). He entered Tuesday hitting .284 with 13 homers and 28 RBI (half of which came in April). He does see a lot of pitches, a trait valued by Theo Epsteins front office.

Within the past 48 hours or so, LaHair has been flooded with texts and messages, hearing from his friends from his hometown of Worcester, Mass., and his old school, St. Petersburg College in Florida.

The news still hasnt fully sunk in yet. It might not until next week at Kauffman Stadium, when LaHairs surrounded by the best players in the world. Making the All-Star team is nice, but its not the endgame, and it wont go to his head.

Its an achievement, LaHair said, but my goal is to play 10 years. My goal is to win a World Series, those kind of things. Ive said it before: Im not just playing for this year. Im playing for 10 more years. (But) I got to focus on todays game.

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

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USA TODAY

Denzel Valentine suffers setback on injured left ankle, will be reevaluated in 2 weeks

Denzel Valentine’s troublesome left ankle is going to keep him on the sideline for at least the next two weeks. Fred Hoiberg said Saturday before the Bulls’ home opener against the Detroit Pistons that Valentine is suffering from a bone bruise in the ankle he sprained on the second day of training camp. Valentine will be evaluated in two weeks.

“It sucks because of all the work I put in this summer and being around the guys you want to be out there so bad,” he said. “Things happen for a reason, and now that we know what’s going on I at least have a time frame and be patient with it; it’s bad news but good news at the same time as it gives me time to get ready.”

Valentine had been practicing earlier in the week and appeared close to a return after spraining the ankle on Sept. 25. But the third year wing complained of discomfort in the ankle and missed practice on Friday. A scan of the left ankle revealed the bone bruise, and Hoiberg wouldn’t speculate on when exactly Valentine might return.

It’s the same ankle Valentine had surgery on in May 2017. Valentine also missed the last two weeks of last season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. The injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Valentine or the Bulls, who are in desparate need of help both in the backcourt and on the wing.

Though Valentine isn’t a true point guard, he averaged 3.2 assists per game off the bench last season. The Bulls could use that kind of production when Kris Dunn returns on Monday, as Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono haven’t exactly showed promise in the early going.

Instead, Valentine is on the mend and it’s unclear when he might return. Given he’s had surgery on the same ankle before, the Bulls will be cautious upon his return.

“I’m a fighter, I’m not going to quit; just deal with the hand dealt," Valentine said. "I can’t sit here and be negative, I just got to fight, stay mentally strong and this will be bittersweet when I come back and have a great year.”

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

Still in search of guard depth, Bulls reportedly 'planning to sign' Shaquille Harrison

The Bulls are still scrambling to add depth at point guard and found another body to throw in the rotation.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Bulls "are planning to sign" Shaquille Harrison. Harrison was waived by the Suns on Monday.

In order to complete the move, the Bulls are reportedly waiving center Omer Asik.

Harrison went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2016. The Suns signed him and sent him to the then NBA D-League. Last season, the 25-year-old from Kansas City played in 23 games and made two starts in the NBA. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 assists in 16.7 minutes per game.

The Suns signed Jamal Crawford earlier this week and waived Harrison. The Bulls apparently have swooped in.

This move comes just six days after the Bulls added Tyler Ulis, who was also waived by the Suns. Ulis didn't play in the season-opening loss at Philadelphia.

Kris Dunn will miss his second straight game Saturday against the Pistons. His absence against the Sixers showed the lack of depth at guard for the Bulls. Cam Payne started at point guard and split minutes with Ryan Arcidiacono. Payne went 0-for-4 in 21 minutes and led coach Fred Hoiberg to say potential lineup changes are "still up in the air."

Harrison can now join Payne, Arcidiacono and Ulis in a battle for backup minutes at point guard when Dunn returns to the lineup.