Bulls

White Sox rotation gearing up for stretch run

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White Sox rotation gearing up for stretch run

With less than two months left in the regular season, the White Sox rotation is in a state of flux.

John Danks, who hasn't pitched since May 19, underwent surgery on his ailing left shoulder Monday morning and will miss the rest of 2012.

Meanwhile, Philip Humber, he of the perfect game in April, was demoted back to the bullpen as the White Sox abandoned the six-man rotation in favor of a more typical pitching staff. The move helps add another arm to a taxed bullpen that was working a man short.

"It's nice to get another guy in there that can help out," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.

Jake Peavy, Jose Quintana, Francisco Liriano, Gavin Floyd and Chris Sale will make up the five-man rotation, though Ventura said Humber can slot in if called upon.

"With Phil down in the bullpen, you have the ability that if you need him to, he can start anytime," Ventura said. "In case something happens to somebody and you need a major-league arm, he's the best guy for it. It helps us a lot with flexibility."

That cushion has to be comforting for Ventura, who has seen his rotation take hit after hit this season. Humber joined Danks on the DL earlier this season and Liriano had to leave his start early on Sunday after taking a ball off his leg -- Ventura said Liriano was fine, just nursing a bruise.

Even Sale has been banged up, having been forced to skip several starts this season. Monday is his first appearance since July 27 and the White Sox hope the nine days off will keep the 23-year-old fresh in his first full season as a starter.

"You hope so," Ventura said. "That was the plan of giving Sale a rest. You can find out if it actually works. Nobody knows for sure, but we're erring on the side of helping him out and giving him the best chance possible."

While the Washington Nationals have been adamant that they will keep young phenom Stephen Strasburg on a strict innings limit even amidst a playoff race, the White Sox haven't placed a definitive number on Sale's innings.

Ventura said he and the coaching staff are in constant communication with their pitchers, monitoring their health and listening to them.

"It is unchartered waters with all of them," Ventura said. "Player-wise, everything is day-to-day. Every day a guy plays, it's possible that something could happen that they might not be able to play the next day.

"It's just more on how they feel. It's going to be an individual thing with some pitchers. You just listen to them."

The communication throughout the season has impressed Peavy.

"The organization has to be smart about things and they will," Peavy said. "I think this organization has handled Chris Sale brilliantly...We have an open line of communication from the front office to what's going on in the clubhouse with all of us.

"It's so nice to see an organization work as a cohesive group from the top of the chain all the way down to us and make good decisions for all the players involved. It's a tough situation. These young guys are so valued, but at the same time, I was young and throwing all I could and we weren't even in the mix some of those years."

While the young guns like Sale and Quintana have yet to even approach a 200-inning season in their professional careers, Peavy last reached the 200-inning plateau in 2007. The six-man rotation could have given everybody a chance at an extra day to rest and recuperate.

"Extra rest this time of year is always a good thing, but we're about to get to the point where we're trying to chase down this dream," Peavy said. "You're not going to get to go on extra rest and it's getting to be 'go time' where you have to get out there as much as you can get out there.

"I believe I do have enough rest now where I can go on a normal schedule. I can't speak for anybody else, but you do what you do all year long and you don't ever hold back...The rest that we have gotten, you would hope would just help your body to be a little more ready to handle the next two months of workload and next 10 starts."

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

Blackhawks make it official: Corey Crawford is back

He’s back.

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the first time since Dec. 23, 2017 when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes, coach Joel Quenneville confirmed after morning skate on Thursday morning.

"It’s exciting," Quenneville said. "I’m sure he’s looking forward to it and we’re all excited about it as well. It’ll be a fun situation for the guys, seeing him back in the net as well. So we’re looking for everyone to be excited about tonight’s game."

The two-time Stanley Cup champion was medically cleared to practice from his concussion on Oct. 1, but the Blackhawks wanted to give Crawford as much time as he needed to get his conditioning and puck-tracking skills up to game speed before putting him into game action.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said on Wednesday. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. It was a pretty long process. ... Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

To make room for Crawford on the 23-man roster, the Blackhawks will assign forward Luke Johnson to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Brandon Saad, who wore a white healthy scratch jersey all week at practice, will take his spot in the lineup.

For now, the Blackhawks will hang on to Anton Forsberg and carry three goaltenders as insurance as they get ready to start a seven-games-in-11-days stretch.

Crawford was 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage and two shutouts in 28 games last season. The Blackhawks were 17-30-8 without him and finished last in the Central Division.