Mundelein's Borucki: Like father, like son

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Mundelein's Borucki: Like father, like son

Ray Borucki is proud of his son Ryan, who has emerged as the leading major league prospect in Illinois this spring. And he hopes the hard-throwing pitcher will enjoy all of the thrills that he experienced while he was a young and promising baseball player.

Ray was a star second basemanpitcher on Niles West's 1975 state championship team. He pitched a no-hitter to beat Springfield 13-0 in the state semifinals. It was one of 19 no-hitters in the history of the state finals. And it was the third state championship team produced by legendary Niles West coach Jim Phipps.

After the season, Borucki wasn't drafted. But he received 6,000 for signing with the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school.

"Everybody's dream is to be a professional baseball player," he said.

The Phillies assigned him to their minor league club in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was allotted 6 a day for meal money. The team took buses everywhere. He played with future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and one-time Cub center fielder Bobby Dernier.

He played in the minor leagues for five years, first for the Phillies, then for the Detroit Tigers. He never made it to the big leagues.

"But it was the greatest time of my life outside of winning the state title in high school," Ray said. "I enjoyed my teammates and the relationships. The money wasn't big. But you played because you loved it. We won two league titles. I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything."

Now Ray hopes his son will experience even more success in professional baseball. As a 6-foot-4 lefty with a 92 mph fastball, he has the kind of potential that major league scouts are looking for in a young prospect. Thirty scouts showed up at one of his recent outings. He is projected to be chosen in the first 10 rounds in the upcoming major league draft.

His father has worked an 11-to-7 midnight shift for the last 16 years so he can coach baseball, pitch batting practice to his son and attend all of his games. "It's worth every minute," Ray said.

Because his son was so small -- he was a 5-foot-9, 130-pounder as a sophomore -- Borucki never thought he would be big enough to be a pitcher. Both of them thought he would be a first baseman and a hitter. So Ray began pitching batting practice to Ryan when he was five years old.

"As much as he loves to pitch, nothing compares to the time I have thrown to him in batting practice over the years," Ray said. "He has taken more batting practice than anyone. What has been great about Ryan is he never once said he didn't feel like going to have batting practice."

Even though Ryan has grown to 6-foot-4 and become a pitching prospect, not a hitting prospect, his father continues to toss batting practice. Ryan continues to play first base when he isn't pitching. And his continues to be one of his team's leading batsmen with a .343 average. He even takes batting practice while he is sitting out with a sore elbow.

In fact, his father blames himself for his son's injury and his current 10-day layoff. Ryan came up sore while pitching a no-hitter against Cary-Grove last week. Rather than come out of the game, he stayed in to compete the no-hitter.

"I threw a no-hitter in the state semifinals in 1975 and I think part of the reason he didn't come out of the game was because he wanted to say he had pitched a no-hitter," Ray said. "So I think it is partly my fault that he has to sit out for a while."

Father and son have a great bond. They are best friends. "To watch him work this hard, to come on in the last year to achieve what he has...well, I'm really proud of him," Ray said.

John Lackey has been exactly what Cubs needed

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John Lackey has been exactly what Cubs needed

Admit it, Cubs fans, part of you didn’t like the John Lackey deal, not after watching him pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals and hearing about his reputation with the Boston Red Sox. 

Or at least Cubs Twitter didn’t automatically hail this as another genius move for Theo Epstein’s front office when Lackey’s two-year, $32 million agreement leaked before the winter meetings even started at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. 

But Lackey has been exactly what the Cubs needed, a snarling personality on the mound and a stabilizing presence in the middle of their rotation. Plus that big-game experience should come in handy for a team that will wake up on Memorial Day with the best record in baseball (34-14). 

Lackey shut down the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, throwing seven innings in a 7-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep of a big-market team in the early stages of a full-scale rebuild. 

There really wasn’t much suspense for the holiday-weekend crowd of 41,575. Lackey (5-2, 3.16 ERA) had a seven-run lead with two outs in the seventh inning when he gave up his first and only run – a homer to Tyler Goeddel – and that now makes him 8-for-10 in quality starts in a Cubs uniform. 

Just look at how much the Cardinals have missed Lackey’s ability to eat up innings, beginning Sunday with a 4.48 rotation ERA that ranked 11th out of the National League’s 15 teams and now falling 9.5 games behind the Cubs in the division. 

White Sox bullpen falters again as Royals complete sweep

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White Sox bullpen falters again as Royals complete sweep

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Welcome to Kansas City, where all the impossibly bad things that could happen to the White Sox seem to materialize.

The White Sox bullpen coughed up a lead for a third consecutive game on Sunday afternoon and a miserable losing streak reached six games with a 5-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals in front of 36,624 at Kauffman Stadium.

Chris Sale was in line for his 10th win in 11 tries until the Royals rallied for three eighth-inning runs against Nate Jones and Matt Albers.

Instead of achieving what would have been a defining sweep of Kansas City, the White Sox were swept and head to New York with no answers on how to rediscover the winning ways that led them to victories in 23 of their first 33 games. The bullpen allowed 14 runs during the three-game sweep.

Just as they had on the previous two days, Kansas City’s bats woke up late Sunday.

After scoring six times in their final three at-bats on Friday and an improbable seven more in a ninth-inning rally on Saturday, they immediately put pressure on Jones, who allowed a run Friday.

Trailing by two, Lorenzo Cain brought the crowd to life with an opposite-field solo homer on a 3-2 pitch from Jones, a booming shot to make it 4-3. Eric Hosmer then scooted a 2-2 slider down the left-field line for a double. Jones walked Kendrys Morales and Paulo Orlando singled to load the bases. Brett Eibner walked to force in the tying run and Cheslor Cuthbert’s infield single off Albers put the Royals ahead.

Another stunning failure by the bullpen snuffed out a stopper-esque start by Chris Sale, who had the White Sox in position to end their streak.

Sale’s defense did its part to help out early.

What could have been a disastrous first inning ended with a spectacular double play by Austin Jackson. Jackson — who later exited the game with an undisclosed injury — raced back to make an over-the-head grab to rob Morales and then fired a strike to Tyler Saladino, whose perfect relay throw to first doubled off Hosmer. Earlier in the inning, Saladino ranged far to his left and fired to first to retire Alcides Escobar.

Melky Cabrera also turned in a gem in the second inning, throwing out Eibner as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Finally, Adam Eaton made his glove’s presence felt with a sliding grab to rob Whit Merrifield to end the third.

Those contributions helped Sale navigate some difficult waters against a team that has challenged him the past few seasons. Despite a 2.84 career ERA, Sale entered the start with a 7-9 mark against the Royals. He certainly looked as if he were headed for a 10th defeat in the first inning when Merrifield singled and the Royals capitalized on a dropped pop up by Jose Abreu as he slammed into the dugout railing. With new life, Cain ripped the next Sale pitch to deep center for an RBI double and he scored on Hosmer’s RBI single to make it 2-0.

The team’s most consistent force all season, Sale pitched out of big jams in the fourth and seventh innings, the latter coming with him at the 115-pitch mark.

Whereas some of his rotation mates have struggled, the lineup has experienced slumbers and the bullpen has had issues for the past three weeks, Sale has continued to deliver consistency in all but one start.

Sale allowed two earned runs and seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. He threw strikes on 80 of 118 pitches.

Though the White Sox offense didn’t get a ton of early results, they made Edinson Volquez work.

The Sox pushed through for a second-inning run on three straight singles by Abreu, Brett Lawrie and Dioner Navarro.

Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Avisail Garcia sparked a go-ahead rally with a one-out walk. Saladino doubled to put two in scoring position. Eaton tied it with an RBI groundout and Jackson’s two-out single put the White Sox up by a run. Jackson’s seventh-inning, bases-loaded sac fly gave Sale and the White Sox breathing room as he made it 4-2. Had it not been for a spectacular diving grab by Orlando, Jackson may have had extra bases. 

Joe Maddon on Dodgers' laser show: 'They can put bull's-eyes out there'

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Joe Maddon on Dodgers' laser show: 'They can put bull's-eyes out there'

Joe Maddon checks the websites for the New York Post and Daily News as part of his morning routine, so the Cubs manager had seen how the city’s tabloids covered the latest incident involving Major League Baseball’s endless fascination with technology and obsession in finding even a 1-percent competitive advantage. 

“Mets accuse Dodgers of cheating with lasers,” read one digital headline from the Post, a follow-up angle to Saturday’s Fox Sports report that the Mets contacted MLB about the Dodgers using a laser rangefinder to position their outfielders and requesting to put markers on the Citi Field grass.

The Mets-said, Dodgers-said stories would be overshadowed that night by Noah Syndergaard getting ejected for throwing a 99-mph fastball behind Chase Utley as payback for the takeout slide that knocked Ruben Tejada out of last year’s playoffs. 

But instead of becoming paranoid, Maddon will maintain his laissez-faire attitude on Memorial Day when Los Angeles begins a four-game series at Wrigley Field that won’t feature Clayton Kershaw.  

“If they’re putting markers on the field, that doesn’t bother me,” Maddon said Sunday. “They can put bull’s-eyes out there. I don’t care. It doesn’t really matter. There’s other ways to do exactly the same thing without that method of technology just by preparation before the game. 

“So when you read something like that, to me, it’s a little bit overblown, regarding both its importance and the fact that you should not permit somebody to do it. It really doesn’t matter, because there’s other ways to do exactly the same things without using a laser.”    

The Cubs lucked out when the Dodgers lured Andrew Friedman away from Tampa Bay to run baseball operations after the 2014 season, triggering an escape clause in Maddon’s below-market contract with the Rays.

Depending on your viewpoint, the Dodgers are either a cutting-edge organization flush with intellectual capital, or a cluttered franchise that leads the league in inflated titles and too many cooks in the kitchen.  

Beyond Friedman at the president’s level and an ownership group that includes Magic Johnson, there’s a heavy-hitter CEO (Stan Kasten), an MIT-/Cal-Berkeley-educated general manager (Farhan Zaidi) and a cabinet of advisors filled with former GMs (Josh Byrnes, Alex Anthopoulos, Gerry Hunsicker, Ned Colletti).  

“Most of the defenses are being set up today more in a generic sense,” Maddon said. “Whatever you think in your group, if you’re the Dodgers or the Cubs or whatever, just go ahead and do it. And if you had to put a mark on the field to indicate that, I have no problem with it.”

Run prevention became a top priority for the small-market Rays, who couldn’t afford big-name, top-of-the-market free-agent hitters. The Cubs and Dodgers are now ranked first and second in the majors in defensive efficiency. FanGraphs ranked those two teams second and third in Defensive Runs Saved. 

As much as Maddon listened to Friedman’s Wall Street insights and embraced Big Data, he had already applied some of those concepts in rudimentary ways during his 30-plus years in the Angels organization.  

“I used to be in charge of setting up defenses with the Angels,” Maddon said. “I would go out before the first game of a series and I would stand in my spot in the dugout – and I would have somebody go stand at each position – and I would find out where straight-up was.

“I’d stand in that corner – and then you would go stand at third base straight-up, shortstop straight-up. I would put a marker behind you – like a sign on the wall or whatever – that would indicate to me where you’re standing straight-up. So I could move you to the pull (side) three or four steps, or to the soft side three or four steps.” 

In the end, Maddon doesn’t care what the Dodgers do with their Department of Lasers. 

“They’re going to attempt to utilize all of that,” Maddon said. “I really like the idea of utilizing that stuff just to chart initially, to be able to use GPS (and) try to be really exact where the ball is hit. So then when you compile your information, you’re not getting negative noise. 

“We used to do the thing where you had a book in the dugout and you had different colored pencils and somebody would draw a line (to) where the ball is hit.

“(Now) you’re getting actual results. You know this is true. The dot is there. The dot is accurate.”