Cubs

World Series hero will start season on the DL?

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World Series hero will start season on the DL?

From Comcast SportsNet
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter won't start opening day after a setback in his recovery from a bulging disk in his neck. The right-hander returned to St. Louis on Tuesday for tests. He threw live batting practice Sunday but didn't feel right the next day. "He looked really good and felt good; the next day he just didn't respond like we had hoped," manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday. "His shoulder is just not responding and they're uncertain of the root of it. That's what they're trying to get to with tests on the neck and shoulder and trying to figure out where it's all coming from." Kyle Lohse will start April 4 at Miami in his place. Lohse was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA last season, leading the Cardinals in wins and ERA. "It's an honor," Lohse said. "But it comes meaning that Carp's not available -- that's the tough part about it. I wish it were under different circumstances, but I'm proud to take the ball on opening day." Righty Lance Lynn, a setup man, will take Carpenter's spot in the rotation. Lynn is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings this spring. He made his second spring start Monday. The Cardinals now must replace Lynn in the bullpen. Carpenter, who turns 37 in April, has been limited in workouts since being diagnosed with the bulging disk March 3. The Cardinals had initially planned to limit his spring training work after Carpenter pitched 273 1-3 innings last season -- including playoffs -- the most in baseball. He had been scheduled to throw more live batting practice Wednesday. Matheny was guardedly optimistic after watching Carpenter throw Sunday, saying his ace looked great but wanting to be sure he woke up the next morning without any issues. He didn't. "He was the one trying to keep us all in check and not get too far ahead of himself," Matheny said. "As he finished I mentioned to him, I hope you feel as good as you look because you look really good.' That's what all of us saw. You can tell there's a little bit of hesitancy with him just not knowing how he would respond and that's what happened." Carpenter has had nerve-related issues that ended his 2004 and 2008 seasons prematurely and returned in 2010. "He's been fighting different things for a long time," Matheny said. "He's just so tough mentally; he's so tough physically. He just keeps fighting. This is another setback he's going to answer the bell too. He always has in the past."

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”