Bears

White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

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White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

The White Sox may have pulled out a 3-2 win over the Cubs Friday at Wrigley Field, but the loss suffered in the third inning may loom larger.

A 2-2 splitter from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija ran inside on Paul Konerko, hitting him in the face and leaving the White Sox captain crumpled in a heap at home plate for a few scary moments. The 36-year-old first baseman got up and had to be escorted off the field with a towel pinned to his face, as he suffered a small cut above his left eye thanks to the 85 mile per hour pitch.

"You never want to see a guy get hurt, period. To have a ball around someones head is a scary situation," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Its something you dont want to see."

Manager Robin Ventura said he didn't have an update on Konerko's status, which was announced as just a laceration and swelling, although he was set to undergo further tests. Pierzynski saw Konerko before he left the park, though, and offered somewhat encouraging news.

"His eye was pretty swelled up, but he was cognizant and didnt say he was dizzy or anything," Pierzynski said. "Ive seen him get hit before and get up and go to first. It was a little scary when he didnt get right up. He seemed fine and well see how he feels tomorrow."

Konerko homered in his previous at-bat, so when Samardzija's offering sailed inside, naturally there were calls for blood from the White Sox fans in attendance at Wrigley Field. The Sox, however, weren't playing that game -- at least, so they say.

Philip Humber threw a fastball up and behind Bryan LaHair to lead off the bottom of the fourth, a pitch Humber and Ventura insist just got away from the White Sox starter. But home plate umpire Tim Timmons had other ideas and issued a warning to both benches.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't label the pitch as retaliatory, but if it was, he thought the Sox could have done a better and safer job of sending the message.

Are you expecting retaliation of somebody throwing at somebody elses head? No," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, youre not really expecting any retaliation after somebody gets hit by a split-finger fastball. Were obviously not trying to hit Paul with any kind of pitch like that.

"But if theres retaliation, youd sure appreciate if the guy throws a little bit lower than he did. Unfortunately, you know, he didnt."

Sveum, essentially, just hoped the pitch got away from Humber and that it wasn't thrown in response to Konerko's beaning. Ventura tried to add some credence to that thought after the game.

"If we wanted to do anything, we would have hit him," Ventura said, referring to Samardzija, who led off the bottom of the third. "It's just baseball, you just keep going."

"That one just got away from me," added Humber. "It's just one of those things that happens during the game."

Pierzynski and Samardzija chatted before the Cubs pitcher came up to hit in the third, during which Samardzija apologized. From the sound of it, Pierzynski and his teammates knew the beaning wasn't intentional.

"He was asking if Paul was ok and that was it," Pierzynski said. "It was an offspeed pitch and we knew it wasnt intentional and Samardzija just said to tell Paul he was sorry, I didnt mean to do it. I was like yeah, we know. It was no big deal."

But in these crosstown contests, plenty of things can be blown out of proportion. Luckily for Gordon Beckham, most of the vitriol was directed at the umpiring crew when he, for all intents and purposes, tackled David DeJesus off the second-base bag, leading to a questionable out call that ultimately got Sveum ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

"I couldn't stop. I tried to get there and realized right when I lunged out that I was going to be late and ended up basically tackling him," Beckham said. "Didn't mean to do it, obviously."

For the first time in a little while, Friday's game felt like a classic crosstown matchup. The beaning of Konerko, the play at second, Samardzija's game-tying single, Beckham's go-ahead home run and, of course, Kerry Wood's final career pitch contributed to a lively atmosphere after questions about the series going stale were numerous this week.

"I think that was more than the typical game, it seemed like there was a lot of stuff going on," Beckham said. "Both teams played really hard, so you gotta be proud about that. We were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Fortunate is a good way to put it. The Sox are hoping Konerko, arguably the most irreplaceable player on the roster, won't miss much time. Without Konerko, the Sox may be fortunate to come away with wins.

Someone else who's hoping Konerko is back soon is his golfing buddy, who happens to be the manager on the other side of town.

"I hope Pauls all right, because hes a friend of mine," Sveum said. "I play with golf with him. Hopefully, its no big deal.

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

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USA Today

Bears eye position changes in search for improved depth on offense

The Bears will try to address one of their more glaring weaknesses — tight end depth — by giving longtime offensive tackle Bradley Sowell some work at tight end in the coming weeks of practice at Halas Hall. 

Sowell, a reliable backup swing tackle the last two seasons with the Bears, was targeted twice as a receiver in 2018 — first, on a nearly-intercepted Mitch Trubisky pass against the New England Patriots, and second on the famous “Santa’s Sleigh” touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He also got some work as a fullback in the Bears’ Week 17 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings. 

“We felt like at the ‘Y’ position we could use some more depth,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s something we talked about at the end of the season. We discussed it and now we’re giving him a chance.”

Nagy’s assessment of the Bears’ “Y” (in-line) depth is accurate, if not even undersold. The athletic 6-foot-7, 312 pound Sowell will have a chance to be a backup to Adam Shaheen, who has missed 13 games in his first two years due to a string of injuries. Reserve tight end Ben Braunecker can play both the “Y” and “U” positions, and the Bears have a handful of undrafted free agents (led by Utah State's Dax Raymond) competing to catch the eye of the coaching staff in the coming weeks. 

The Bears’ offense struggled with two tight ends on the field last year, especially in Shaheen’s absence as Dion Sims played himself out of the league. It’s far too early to tell if adding Sowell to the tight end mix will help, but at this point, the Bears think it’s worth a shot. 

“He’s shown it repetitively in practice that he has the athletic ability, the hands, he’s very smart, he knows how to block and all that stuff,” Nagy said. “So let’s test it out and see. When I tell you he’s all-in, he’s all-in.”

Center of Attention

As expected, the Bears indeed will flip James Daniels and Cody Whitehair on the offensive line, with Daniels sliding to center and Whitehair to left guard. 

“We feel comfortable with it, so again, this is the time to test it out and see,” Nagy said. “It’s hard right now because we don’t have pads. So, we’ll get into training camp and see how that goes. But I feel pretty good about it.”

Daniels exclusively played left guard during last year’s regular season, with the Bears opting to hold steady with Whitehair at center for the third consecutive season. Whitehair, though, was drafted as a guard back in 2016 and only moved to center after the last-minute signing of Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. Daniels, too, starred as a center at Iowa and did get a smattering of preseason snaps there before fully committing to playing guard his rookie year. 

The change is the only planned one on Harry Hiestand’s offensive line, which returns every primary starter from 2018 (Daniels, Whitehair, Charles Leno, Bobby Massie, Kyle Long). Perhaps the most significant change for this group, then, will be losing Sowell as its backup tackle. 

Windy City: Smoke Out?

Taquan Mizzell will work as a wide receiver during OTAs, with the now-former running back trading in No. 33 for No. 11 but facing an uphill battle to make the Bears’ roster. 

Mizzell does have a decent track record as a pass-catcher dating back to his college days at Virginia, but it’ll take a massive effort for the third-year player to crack into a crowded receiver room that already has a competitive battle brewing between Javon Wims, Marvin Hall and a group of undrafted free agents. 

While it’s too early to grant rookie running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. a roster spot, shifting Mizzell out of the picture does appear to create a clearer path for the seventh-round pick to stick with the Bears this fall. 

Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

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USA TODAY

Countdown to the NBA Draft: The best all-time selection at picks 1-30

We're counting down the days until the NBA Draft by looking at the best players selected at No. 30, 29, 28 all the way down to No. 1. Check back every day leading up to June 20th for a new player and a new all-time best pick.

No. 30: Jimmy Butler

No. 29: 5/23
No. 28: 5/24
No. 27: 5/25
No. 26: 5/26
No. 25: 5/27
No. 24: 5/28
No. 23: 5/29
No. 22: 5/30
No. 21: 5/31
No. 20: 6/1
No. 19: 6/2
No. 18: 6/3
No. 17: 6/4
No. 16: 6/5
No. 15: 6/6
No. 14: 6/7
No. 13: 6/8
No. 12: 6/9
No. 11: 6/10
No. 10: 6/11
No. 9: 6/12
No. 8: 6/13
No. 7: 6/14
No. 6: 6/15
No. 5: 6/16
No. 4: 6/17
No. 3: 6/18
No. 2: 6/19
No. 1: 6/20