Golson may be favorite, but Notre Dame QB battle not close to ending

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Golson may be favorite, but Notre Dame QB battle not close to ending

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's quarterback competition has created a second position battle on the fields of the LaBar Practice Complex. This one, though, has nothing to do with playing time or depth charts.

Brian Kelly's purple-faced outbursts on NBC last season gained national notoriety, so the thought of him having to play good cop with Notre Dame's quarterbacks seems a bit odd. But that's first-year offensive coordinator Chuck Martin's goal.

"We both want to be the bad cop. We're usually in a race to get there first so we could be the bad cop and force the other guy's hand to be the good cop," laughed Martin. "So I've out-flanked him in practice, I like to cheat up as the cadence goes to where I'm almost behind him, so if I want to unload I can really get on him and force Kelly to be the good cop."

While neither Kelly nor Martin would hint at who their starter will be Sept. 1 against Navy, the general consensus around campus is that Everett Golson will get the nod. Kelly said Thursday he'll move away from a 50-50 reps split between Golson and Andrew Hendrix early next week and speak with both quarterbacks about their position.

But that conversation won't represent a final decision.

"But there's still so much learning, so it wouldn't be as cut and dry as say, here's my No. 1," Kelly said. "The door will still be open for growth during that week, but we'll start to separate the reps a little bit."

The door is certainly still open for Hendrix -- or Golson, if the coaching staff goes in another direction -- to gain the starting role before the Navy game. Either way, though, Notre Dame will head to Dublin with a quarterback who has never started a collegiate game.

"It can all be decided and look perfect in practice, and when the lights go on -- we all know from being around this game that, when the lights go on, kids react differently," explained Martin. "Some kids play better than they ever play, and some kids play worse. Whoever gets the first chance is going to have to go out there and play and prove to everyone that they can be capable of doing the job. Not that we're looking for a quick hook, I'm not saying that, just it still will be an unknown when we send that kid out there for the first series."

Notre Dame's already used the quick hook under Kelly, with Dayne Christ finding himself on the bench of last year's season opener after a rough first half. If a change is made at quarterback, it may not be during the Navy game. It could come the week after.

"You're always preparing for all the eventualities -- if those two kids (Golson and Hendrix) don't look like they're handling the job description, and you got a guy who's won a bunch of games for us," Martin said, referring to Tommy Rees. "And that's depending on a lot of factors -- is it one guy, is it two guys, is it two guys battling it out, is one guy battling it out, did they both play well, did they both fall on their face. We're prepared to go any direction, I'm sure coach is prepared for every eventuality, but it's just going to play out."

Rees' presence has been described as positive in preseason camp, but with the incumbent starter suspended for the season opener, there exists a chance that Rees re-enters the conversation after Week 1.

"I know Tommys itching to get back, were all itching to get Tommy back as well, because when hes in there working, we see what hes doing, we get the reps mentally," Hendrix said. "When Tommy comes back, coach Kelly will obviously play it how he knows best, we trust him in that. But we are excited to have Tommy back."

But interceptions were a problem for Rees last season, and Kelly and the Notre Dame coaching staff are trying to eradicate those turnover woes from the offense. Golson, to his credit, has only thrown one interception in preseason practice, a note which Kelly lauded on Thursday.

"You build trust," Kelly said. "You don't just give it, you build trust ... and he's exhibited that trust in the way he's handled himself in camp."

Whether Golson can keep that trust through Week 1 remains to be seen, as well as if Hendrix has it or Rees can earn it back. Ideally, Kelly and Martin would like to stick with the same quarterback from Week 1 through bowl season. But if they can't do that, Notre Dame's quarterback competition could extend into the fall.

"At the end of the day, you still are going to battle until you get it right," Martin said. "Sometimes it takes longer, especially at that spot."

Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

Preview: Chris Sale, White Sox close out series with Tigers on CSN

The White Sox close out their series against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (15-7, 3.14 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.33 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

White Sox bullpen falters in loss to Tigers

DETROIT — The 2016 White Sox expected an improved offense when they addressed two of last season’s biggest needs with trades for Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie.

While scoring is up a hair over the 2015 club, it hasn’t nearly been enough.

As they have for much of the season, the White Sox jumped out to an early three-run lead on Tuesday night but failed to put their opponents away. Their dormancy allowed the Detroit Tigers to rally back to send the White Sox to an 8-4 loss in front of 27,121 at Comerica Park. Frazier homered early before Detroit scored eight runs between the fifth and seventh innings. The Tigers look to complete a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon on CSN.

“That’s kind of been the story of our year,” leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “With runners in scoring position we haven’t been able to drive in and get the big hit. When we do that we win. When we get it done we win and when we don’t it bites us.”

The White Sox thought they added serious bite to an offense that finished at or near the bottom of the American League in 2015 in most of the major categories. Frazier was acquired in a three-team deal from the Cincinnati Reds and Lawrie came over from Oakland for two-minor leaguers. On top of the acquisition of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche a year earlier, Frazier and Lawrie were expected to bolster positions in which the White Sox finished last in OPS in the majors last season.

To an extent, the plan has worked. The White Sox entered Tuesday having increased their scoring average to 4.07 runs per game, up from 3.84. But even with that improvement, the White Sox started play 13th among 15 AL clubs in run scored and 63 runs below the league average.

They also were 13th in home runs (131), slugging percentage (.402) and OPS (.717).

Part of their struggles can be attributed to injuries — Lawrie has been out since July 22 and Austin Jackson has been gone since early June. The unexpected retirement of LaRoche also left the White Sox short on left-handed power in the middle of the lineup and forced Cabrera from the second spot to fifth to provide balance. And some can be attributed to down years by several key veterans, including the performance with runners in scoring position by Jose Abreu and Frazier.

But even the White Sox thought they’d be a better run-scoring team than they have proven through 131 games.

“I think we did,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You lose Rochie at the beginning of the year, and that changed the left-handed dynamic of what our lineup would have been like. But you still expect guys to hit a little better and score more runs than we’ve done. We haven’t held up our end of the bargain.”

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Their end of the bargain left the White Sox vulnerable on Tuesday. Frazier’s two-run homer and an RBI groundout by Eaton in the second inning had the White Sox in command. But Daniel Norris struck out Tim Anderson to strand a runner at third.

Then in the fourth, Norris got Tyler Saladino to fly out to shallow right, which prevented the runner on third from tagging. After Eaton walked, Norris got Anderson to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Even though Norris’ pitch count was sky high, the White Sox failed to knock him out of the game. That allowed the Tigers to rally back against Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Albers and Jacob Turner.

“They seem to add on,” Ventura said. “They don’t stop adding on that extra run. A guy on third with less than two outs, they’re able to get it in. That’s been an Achilles heel for us.”

It’s also been a source of frustration, Eaton said. The White Sox look around the room and feel like they have a talented group, especially now with Justin Morneau solidifying the middle. But once again, that group didn’t keep their foot on the pedal and paid the price.

“They just continue to plug away,” Eaton said. “Their offense is good enough to come back from any deficit. Hats off to them, but we’ve got to keep adding on. We got on Norris early and got his pitch count up, but we’ve got to keep knocking on the door. We didn’t keep on it enough and knock him out real early.

“Top to bottom I think we have a pretty good lineup. It is frustrating when you don’t get that big hit and vice versa for the big pitch.”

Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks destroys another NL lineup as Cubs top Pirates

Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks destroys another NL lineup as Cubs top Pirates

Kyle Hendricks continued his systematic destruction of National League lineups on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, shutting down the Pittsburgh Pirates during a 3-0 victory that highlighted his Cy Young Award potential.

Hendricks, who leads the majors in ERA, sliced his number down to 2.09, throwing seven scoreless innings as the Cubs continued their march toward a division title and what they expect will be a deep run into October.

Hendricks (13-7) has grown from a nominal fifth starter into someone near the front of a playoff rotation, neutralizing entire lineups with his curveball and four-seam fastball — which make his changeup and two-seam fastball that much more effective — while turning opponents into very-good-hitting pitchers (sub-.600 OPS).

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On the one-year anniversary of Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter/onesie press conference at Dodger Stadium, Hendricks didn’t allow a hit until Gregory Polanco’s soft single to center field leading off the fifth inning.

Hendricks had faced the minimum through four innings and wound up throwing 99 pitches, 61 for strikes, giving up only two more hits and not allowing any Pirates to go past second base.

The Cubs (84-47) gave Hendricks — a pitcher already working with a quiet confidence and a specific game plan in mind — an early lead when Anthony Rizzo slammed a Chad Kuhl fastball off the small video panel above the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning.

Whether or not Rizzo can catch up to Kris Bryant in the MVP race, Hendricks has to be among the leading Cy Young candidates, given his remarkable consistency (18 straight starts with three earned runs or less) and strong second-half push.