A-Rod knows it will be a 'hard road back'

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A-Rod knows it will be a 'hard road back'

From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez went to see doctors with hopes of finding something wrong. When they actually located a problem, only then did he start feeling a bit better.The New York Yankees' third baseman said Saturday that plans set for him to have surgery on his left hip in mid-January, and that he's eager to embrace the challenge of coming back from both the operation and an unbelievably abysmal finish to last season.It's expected that Rodriguez, who will be making his sixth trip to the disabled list in six seasons, could be sidelined until the All-Star break."I'm not concerned," Rodriguez said. "I'm actually, in many ways, relieved that there's something tangible that we can go fix."Rodriguez had surgery on his right hip in 2009, missed about the first month of the season and still finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs -- plus helped the Yankees win the World Series. This surgery is more complex, since it'll repair not only a torn labrum but also a bone impingement and a cyst. The surgery is next month because it was determined he needed some time to strengthen the hip first."I am fully committed to a very hard road back," Rodriguez said. "We've done it before in 09 and it was a great result, both on a personal level and on a team level, more importantly. I take it as a great challenge and I'm excited for the challenge."Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star and baseball's priciest player, with his current deal being worth 275 million.He batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs in last season's playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers. He was benched and replaced by a pinch hitter in key spotsl, too.Rodriguez originally thought he was having issues with the right hip again -- he wasn't -- and it wasn't until November that the issues within the left hip were detected. Now knowing that something was wrong, Rodriguez said a lot of things from last season -- particularly how it ended -- make more sense."It was definitely an unfortunate situation," Rodriguez said. "And if we knew, I think we could have avoided the bloody bath of the last two weeks. Obviously, that wasn't fun. It was quite miserable, to be honest with you."Rodriguez finished this past regular season batting .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. He now has 647 career homers, fifth-most in baseball history and 13 shy of the No. 4 player on that list, Willie Mays.Rodriguez was in Miami, the city he calls home, on Saturday to host a pair of events for children -- his basketball tournament which he started a decade ago, and a toy giveaway at a Boys & Girls Club where he was a member until getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners.He addressed about 150 players at a breakfast honoring the eight basketball teams in the morning, telling them stories about his upbringing and earliest days as a student and athlete that many in the room did not likely know."You're probably sitting there saying, Now, how can you relate with us? You play for the Yankees. You make all this money. You date so-and-so,'" Rodriguez told the basketball players. "What you guys don't know is we're all alike. I was sitting in that chair just 15, 18 years ago. My mom had two jobs. I didn't know if I would ever have a steak dinner. That didn't exist in my house."He also met privately with some of the athletes afterward, advising them about upcoming decisions, such as what to look for in a college. Rodriguez also posed for several photos with the teams and their coaches."I can't say enough good things about him," said Brother Kevin Handibode, the president of Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, where Rodriguez attended as a freshman. "I know about all the good work he does, and you don't hear about it. You just don't hear about the good that Alex has done in a very, very quiet way."Later, at his afternoon event, Rodriguez donned a Christmas hat and handed out toys for about 30 minutes, everything from basketballs to bicycles to Barbiedolls.He isn't exactly sure what the next few weeks will entail; there's no firm date for the surgery and the plans for his rehabilitation are still largely being worked out."I think I'm definitely going to play," Rodriguez said. "We've been down this road before. We have a good plan. We have a good team in place."The Yankees have pursued former Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis in recent days, and Rodriguez gave the longtime New York foe a glowing recommendation when asked about him on Saturday."Youk has always been a tough out," Rodriguez said. "He's a tough player, a winning player. Whatever the franchise wants to do, I think that'll be a good move for us."Several times on Saturday, he drew the parallel back to 2009, when he started the season rehabbing from hip surgery and the Yankees wound up winning a championship. He can envision a similar script in 2013."Don't count us out," Rodriguez said. "We are the New York Yankees."

Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

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Bears sign former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace

The Bears announced on Wednesday they have signed former Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace.

Grace attended Bears rookie minicamp earlier this month as a tryout player. 

Grace appeared in 32 games with the Fighting Irish and notched 78 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Grace was named to the Butkus Award Watch List prior to the 2014 season, but ultimately missed the whole year while recovering from a broken leg he suffered against Arizona State in 2013.

Following the 2015 season Grace expressed interest in applying for a sixth year waiver from the NCAA, but didn't fit the league's requirements, as CSNChicago.com Notre Dame Insider JJ Stankevitz highlighted.

To make room for Grace on the 90-man roster the Bears waived linebacker Danny Mason.

Mason spent parts of the 2015 season on both the Bears and Denver Broncos practice squads, but never appeared in a regular season game.

93 Days to Kickoff: Glenbrook North

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93 Days to Kickoff: Glenbrook North

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Glenbrook North Spartans

Head coach: Bob Pieper

Assistant coaches: Matt Purdy, Dom Savino, Justin Georgacakis, Mike Standerski, Justin Weiner

How they fared in 2015: 8-2 (5-0) Central Suburban North. The Spartans made the Class 7A state playoff field. Glenbrook North lost to Bradley in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the experienced defense hold on, while an inexperienced offense gets up to speed?

Names to watch this season: QB Kevin Burnside, DE Matt Pawlowski, WR Tommy Gertner

Biggest holes to fill: The Glenbrook North offense brings back Burnside and a few other experienced names, but the Spartans will need to find answers on the line, as well in the backfield.

EDGY's early take: Year in and year out Glenbrook North is one of the top teams to watch in the Central Suburban North and that shouldn't change in 2016. If the Spartans defense can allow the offense to gain some early experience this will be a nice team to watch for in 7A.

Cubs: Can Jason Hammel sustain All-Star-level performance this time?

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Cubs: Can Jason Hammel sustain All-Star-level performance this time?

ST. LOUIS — Jason Hammel is pitching like an All-Star again — the way he did as a sign-and-flip guy in 2014 and a rotation anchor for last year’s playoff team — so the question for the Cubs now becomes: Is this sustainable?

Hammel doesn’t look at it that way, not after clearing his head during the offseason, altering his training program and refocusing for a World Series contender. He wants more.

Hammel 2.0 handled the St. Louis Cardinals during Tuesday night’s 12-3 victory at Busch Stadium, working into the eighth inning for the first time this year, allowing only one run and tying his season-high pitch count (103).

“I do feel different,” said Hammel (6-1, 2.17 ERA). “I’m definitely not happy with the walks. I know I can do better, as long as I clean that up. I still think the timing’s off with the delivery that I’ve adapted to now.

“But I’m not thinking that far down the road right now. I’m just going game by game, pitch by pitch. I think that’s going to be the right mentality for me. Instead of: ‘Don’t falter.’

“I’m not a negative thinker anymore. I’m just going to stay positive. We’re going to stay here and now and be present.”

Hammel described his outing as “effectively wild” and joked about his second three-game hitting streak: “Who’s counting?” It also helped that the Cubs built a six-run lead before he threw his first pitch, so manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t be so quick to turn the game over to the bullpen.

Hammel excelled for the Cubs in 2014, going 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in his first 17 starts before getting packaged with Jeff Samardzija in the Addison Russell blockbuster trade with the Oakland A’s. But Hammel found it difficult to uproot his family midseason and struggled to make a quick adjustment to Oakland, finishing at 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA in the American League.

Hammel got off to another hot start last season (2.86 ERA in 103-plus innings) before a leg injury messed with his mechanics and led to a breakdown after the All-Star break (5.10 ERA in 67 innings).

“I believe it’s sustainable, absolutely,” Maddon said. “The biggest thing, again, is if he knows where his fastball is going, he will pitch deeply into a lot of games, because his ball’s got great movement on it. So there’s a lot of mishits, and also his breaking ball is really good.”

Hammel understands his importance to this team, how carrying this momentum all the way through to the finish line would be huge for the 2016 Cubs.

“I don’t see why not,” catcher David Ross said. “He was our best starter last year in the first half. That says a lot with the group that’s in this room.

“He does a good job of keeping those guys off-balance and making the pitches when he needs to. He just looks a lot more sound mechanically. Even when he gets out of whack, he finds his way back into the count.”