Notre Dame will go with Golson at QB

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Notre Dame will go with Golson at QB

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There was little hiding it, from the first day of fall camp onward: Everett Golson was the favorite in Notre Dame's quarterback competition. On Thursday, Golson officially came out on top, as coach Brian Kelly announced the sophomore as the starter for Notre Dame's season opener against Navy Sept.1  in Dublin, Irleand.
"It was a tough decision, but Everett clearly won the starting job," Kelly said Thursday.
Golson beat out junior Andrew Hendrix, who saw game action in a limited role last season. That's more than Golson can say, as he has yet to play a down at the collegiate level. But Kelly isn't concerned about his quarterback being an NCAA greenhorn.
"Some of the things I really like from Everett -- his poise was really outstanding, great vision down the field," Kelly said. "Those things are really positive, even if you don't have a lot of experience."
Golson admitted he'll have some butterflies, but doesn't expect them to hinder Notre Dame's chances of winning on Sept. 1.
"There's always going to be anxiety there, being that it's my first college game," Golson said. "I'm always going to be anxious. But my teammates and coaches are going to stay level headed and focused on Navy, and get this victory."
Four months ago, Golson impressed in Notre Dame's Blue & Gold game, throwing two touchdowns while, more importantly, not throwing an interception. After the spring game, Kelly said Golson had the art of quarterbacking down, but not the science, and pointed to his displeasure with Golson's playcalling and ball-handling.
"Everett's mechanics of ball-handling were atrocious in the spring," offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said earlier in fall camp. "Anyone who was at the spring game -- if he could just get the play off, usually he could make something pretty good happen. Unfortunately, too many plays didn't get off.
"The ball-handling aspect is a vast improvement, but where we were starting, we still have a lot more improvement to go to. It'd be hard not to improve what you saw in the spring."
But Golson has improved in those areas enough to earn the starting gig. Golson said Thursday, though, that it hasn't necessarily been practice reps that have helped him get better.
"In the film room," Golson said of where he made his greatest improvement over the last few months. "Like coach Kelly said in the spring game, I have the art of it, but I really didn't have the science. I keep going back to that. That's really what I devoted most of my time to, getting in the film room and getting comfortable reading defenses. I still got a long way to go, but I can see my progression." 
While Golson and Hendrix were competing for the same position, it never was really a battle in the sense of two guys fighting over one spot. Instead, Notre Dame's quarterbacks were competing with a singular goal in mind.
"If all four are better, then the one's going to be better at the end of the day as well," Hendrix said on the outset of camp. "So that's how we view it and that's how we're going to get better."
And on Thursday, Golson said he couldn't have secured the starting job without the help of Notre Dame's other quarterbacks -- including Hendrix.
"Obviously, I'm happy about it, but I just want to thank my teammates, and also the other quarterbacks for us being there and pushing each other," Golson said. "I felt that I wouldn't have reached that potential or reached where I've come if it wasn't for Andrew, Gunner Kiel and Tommy Rees helping me out."
While Kiel probably won't see the field in his freshman year, there certainly exists the possibility that Hendrix or Rees could take over for Golson at some point. Both Kelly and Martin have hardly ruled out considering Rees after his Week 1 suspension is up, noting that the more experienced quarterback on the roster could find his way back into the discussion if their starter against Navy struggles. 
"They made the announcement that i'm the starter for Navy, that doesn't solidify that I'm the starter for the whole season," Golson said. "I'm going to keep my foot on the gas."
Last year, Kelly named Dayne Christ as the team's starter leading up to their season opener against South Florida. Christ only lasted two quarters in that role before he was pulled in favor of Rees, who he had beat out in fall camp. Naturally, Kelly is hoping that same scenario won't play out again in 2012. 
"I don't think you go in any year and think boy, I want to make a change at halftime," Kelly said. "You want to be able to stick with a guy and build continuity. Especially with a guy that's got four seasons of competition remaining. You want to build on that."
Notre Dame will take the field in just over a week at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, home of Ireland's national soccer and rugby teams. It'll be Golson leading the charge, and while the significance of his accomplishment isn't lost on him, he isn't exactly putting much thought into it.
"It definitely means a lot, but I know with this comes a lot of responsibility," Golson said. "So I'm not going to rejoice in it. Like I said, I'm happy about it, but I also understand that it's time to go to work now. So my main focus is on Navy."

Jimmy Rollins remains confident despite slow start for White Sox

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Jimmy Rollins remains confident despite slow start for White Sox

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jimmy Rollins isn’t happy with his offensive production so far this season. But a slow start hasn’t made the veteran White Sox shortstop any less confident.

Through 142 plate appearances this season, Rollins is hitting .231/.289/.346 with 10 extra-base hits and eight RBIs. But Rollins -- who has played in 33 games -- said prior to Thursday’s rainout he feels fresh. He also doesn’t see a huge difference between how he has been pitched in his first tour of the American League after 15-plus seasons in the National League.  

“I don’t think I’ve done enough,” Rollins said. “I could be hitting .400 and I’d still be wanting to hit .500. But I’m only .200 and some change. I haven’t done enough to help the team and I’ve had plenty of opportunities. The good thing is, that will change also as the season goes along and I start catching that rhythm again.”

Rollins has a career .825 OPS in 2,232 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

This season he’s hitting at a .417 clip in 30 plate appearances with seven RBIs. Rollins also struggled with RISP in 2015, hitting .464. But he spent part of that season dealing with injuries.

Nearly 30 percent through the campaign, Rollins feels healthy.

He has appeared in 33 games as White Sox manager Robin Ventura has given him routine days off to stay sharp. Rollins likes how Ventura has employed those days off, sometimes two at a time to allow Tyler Saladino to develop a rhythm and get at-bats. So far, Rollins said his playing time is what he expected when he opted to sign with the White Sox instead of the San Francisco Giants and others.

As far as switching leagues, Rollins doesn’t know a lot of the pitchers he’s facing but he does know the hitters, which has helped him line up in good position. He thinks the defensive side is a more important component.

“I don’t think it really makes a tremendous difference (hitting),” Rollins said. “If you’re putting good swings on the ball, no matter what league you’re in, you’re going to get hits.”

He expects those hits will come shortly.

Before Thursday’s game was wiped out, Ventura dropped Rollins from second to sixth in the lineup for the second time in a week. Melky Cabrera was scheduled to start in the No. 2 hole and Jose Abreu hit there several times on the team’s last homestand.

“I’ll be able to contribute more and that’ll make the job easier on everybody,” Rollins said. “It goes down the line. One guy is doing good, hitting becomes contagious. The next guy wants to hit, the next guy wants to hit and that turns into nobody wants to make an out and then you grind out those at-bats and you find a way to execute. You might catch the ball, but I’m not making an out. And that’s the difference. Sometimes when you’re trying to get hits, it’s like pitching --- you’re trying to make the pitch. You’ll do whatever it takes, even if that means going outside your box, and when you do that you’re not going to be successful.”

GM Jed Hoyer on how Cubs were built and where they go from here

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GM Jed Hoyer on how Cubs were built and where they go from here

The St. Louis Cardinals talked about how hard they played until the end against the Cubs, claiming a moral victory, yet another sign of how much this rivalry has changed.

“Do something!” is always the natural reaction when a team struggles, even one with the best record in baseball, even when a three-time Manager of the Year fills out the lineup card, and even coming off a 97-win season and an all-out winter.  

But scoring 21 runs within 23 hours against the Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday again showed how the Cubs were built (and how much St. Louis might miss John Lackey). The next time the Cubs fail to hit with runners in scoring position, or get shut out by a Madison Bumgarner, or experience a three-game losing streak, those offensive answers will have to come from within.

“No question,” general manager Jed Hoyer.

Between the final out of the National League Championship Series and getting swept by the New York Mets last October – and their first Cactus League game this spring – the Cubs committed $253 million combined to Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler.

The Cubs have gone 4-for-4 with hitters in their top draft picks – Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ – every year since president Theo Epstein took over baseball operations at Wrigley Field. Plus taking Javier Baez with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft during the final weeks of the Jim Hendry regime.

The Cubs invested $30 million in the Cuban market to sign Jorge Soler and used pitching trade chips (Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija) to acquire half of their infield (Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell) potentially through the 2021 season.   

Rizzo is coming off a 3-for-35 road trip where the Cubs lost series to the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants before closing strong in St. Louis. But Rizzo is also so much more mature and competitive than the overmatched hitter Hoyer rushed to the big leagues in 2011 with the San Diego Padres.

“As he goes, sometimes offensively we go,” Hoyer said. “With Anthony, when he’s good, he can carry you for a week to 10 days. He’ll get it going again. He knows he’s good now. He knows he can do it. When he goes to bed at night, he knows he’s an All-Star first baseman.

“That’s important when a guy’s going through a slump, that they have that confidence in themselves. (Now) it’s just a matter of that one swing that’ll click.”

Imagine what manager Joe Maddon described as “the butterfly effect” on the lineup once Heyward (.596 OPS) starts hitting the ball with authority to augment all the other subtle aspects of his game.

“He’s just a winning player,” Hoyer said. “Our players know that. He has that presence. Offensively, he’s been a slow starter like three of the last four years. There’s no question he’ll get it going.

“Once he (does), I think everyone will see the kind of player he’s been for most of his career. Everyone appreciates the defense and the baserunning. But the offense is a big part of that, too, and it will come here very shortly.”

If Heyward can’t be measured by batting average and RBIs, then the Cubs also dug into Zobrist’s peripheral numbers and underlying performance and found the super-utility guy had actually gotten better with age.

Zobrist turned 35 on Thursday and is hitting .346 and leading the majors with a .453 on-base percentage in the first season of a four-year contract.

“We love youth, (but) having some veterans is important,” Hoyer said. “With Ben, we felt like his skill set matched us perfectly. But we did really dig into the numbers to make sure that was the case.

“One of the things we look at is his ability to hit fastballs – it’s kind of gotten better and better throughout his career. Guys that can still hit a really good fastball don’t show a lot of signs of aging.”

It will be impossible to match the infusion of youth and energy Schwarber brought to the Cubs last summer, when he hit 16 homers in 69 games plus five more during the playoffs. 

The Cubs are 31-14 with Schwarber getting only five plate appearances during the first week of the season and now recovering from major knee surgery. 

Schwarber comparisons are unrealistic/unfair, but the next wave at Triple-A Iowa includes Almora, a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s hitting .326 and top catching prospect Willson Contreras (.933 OPS).

“We knew we were going to miss Kyle,” Hoyer said. “There’s no question about that. You take a guy like Kyle (away) – that’s like taking Michael Conforto out of the Mets’ lineup.

“He’s that good a left-handed hitter. He kills right-handed pitching. We knew we were going to miss it. I think our guys have done a great job of filling that hole.

“As for Contreras and Almora, I look at those two guys and I think there’s a little development left. We know that they’re doing a great job at Triple-A. If the need arises, those are guys that might get forced into action.

“But right now, we want those guys developing. Obviously, if the major-league team needs that player at that moment, (Kyle) will be the precedent. But right now, I think they’re still developing, still learning.”

A 10-game homestand begins Friday afternoon against the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. As the Cardinals know by now, the Cubs are no longer a franchise that keeps score with minor-league updates or prospect rankings or moral victories.

White Sox opener with Royals postponed by rain

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White Sox opener with Royals postponed by rain

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The White Sox will remain in first place for at least another day.

With the Cleveland Indians off Thursday and their own contest washed away, the White Sox will maintain their half-game lead in the American League Central.

Set to open a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox instead received an unexpected day off as Thursday’s contest was rained out.

No makeup date has been announced, but a Royals spokesperson said the game wouldn’t be made up this weekend. The White Sox make two more trips to Kansas City later this season.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he wouldn’t make any changes to his rotation, which means Chris Sale will face the New York Mets on Monday instead of the Royals on Sunday.

Miguel Gonzalez, Carlos Rodon and Mat Latos will instead be pushed back one day, starting Friday with Gonzalez.

The Royals altered their rotation, removing Ian Kennedy from Saturday’s start. Thursday’s scheduled starter, Danny Duffy, will move back one day to Friday and Yordano Ventura will not pitch on Saturday. Edinson Volquez will start on Sunday as previously scheduled and Kennedy will start again on Monday.