There will be a 14-year-old in the U.S. Open

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There will be a 14-year-old in the U.S. Open

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Paul Casey has withdrawn from the U.S. Open, paving the way for a 14-year-old from China to be what officials believe to be the youngest player in championship history. Andy Zhang lost in a playoff at a sectional qualifier in Florida. He was the second alternate when the week began at Olympic Club. Brandt Snedeker also withdrew Monday. Casey pulled out because of a recurring shoulder injury. Zhang has been part of the IMG Leadbetter Academy in Florida and is based in the Orlando area. Tadd Fujikawa previously was the youngest in the modern era. He was 15 when he qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

CINCINNATI – Flooded with offers, Ben Zobrist turned down the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals – three teams the Cubs could potentially face in the playoffs – because he believed in The Plan, closing a four-year, $56 million deal by the winter meetings for the chance to make history in Chicago.    

Zobrist has been exactly what the Cubs wanted, a patient switch-hitter to set an example for a young lineup, a versatile defender who can play all over the field and an insightful clubhouse presence. But that contract should really pay off in October, the way the Kansas City Royals added dimensions to last year’s World Series winner with a trade-deadline deal for Zobrist.

“Talent really doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Zobrist said. “Every team that’s going to be there is talented. But that talent makes less of a difference when you’re playing against those caliber teams. It really comes down to execution.

“The teams that execute – the teams that make the pitch, make the play, have the good at-bat when they need it – are the teams that win. Regular season is what it is. We’ve had a great season. We know that we’re probably the best team that’s out there regular season. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything for the postseason.”

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One week out from the roar at Wrigley Field and the playoffs Cubs fans have been waiting for since the Mets swept last year’s National League Championship Series, Camp Joe Maddon crossed another day off the bizarro spring-training calendar with Friday night’s 7-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park   

There aren’t many conclusions to be drawn from a 102-win machine rolling over a last-place team, but Zobrist did end Josh Smith’s perfect game by leading off the fifth inning and drilling a ball into the right-field seats. The crowd chanted “Let’s go, Cubbies!” in the eighth inning after Zobrist blasted his 17th home run out toward the same general area.

It’s one thing to have a strong relationship with Maddon and believe the recruiting pitch from team president Theo Epstein. It’s another to see the vision come to life across 160 games, in an industry where the teams that win the offseason typically buckle under the pressure.

Zobrist – who played in six postseason series with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays and put up an .880 OPS in 16 games during Kansas City’s World Series run – believes the Cubs have what it takes to become that special team.  

“For sure,” Zobrist said. “Just based on the mix of personalities and character and players that we have in this room individually.

“You know that when you put them together, it’s a ‘super-team’ of sorts. We really have to prove our record right, prove people right that we can do it when it counts. And that’s going to be the most important thing going into the postseason.”

Carlos Rodon sets White Sox, AL record with seven straight strikeouts to open game

Carlos Rodon sets White Sox, AL record with seven straight strikeouts to open game

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon tied an American League and a team record when he started Friday night’s contest with seven consecutive strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins.

Rodon, who struck out 11 in his previous turn on Sunday, matched the mark set by White Sox hurler Joe Cowley on May 28, 1986 in a loss at the Texas Rangers.

Of Rodon’s seven strikeouts, two were on called third strikes by plate umpire Tripp Gibson. Twins outfielder Logan Schafer snapped the streak with a one-out double in the top of the third inning.

Houston’s Jim Deshaies (1986) and the New York Mets’ Jacob de Grom (2014) hold the major league record with eight straight strikeouts to start a game.

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Doug Fister set the AL record with nine consecutive strikeouts in 2012 and Tom Seaver holds the MLB record with 10 straight in 1970.

Combined with Sunday’s start, when he struck out the side in the eighth at the Cleveland Indians, Rodon whiffed 10 straight batters. Rodon’s run is the longest consecutive strikeout streak in the majors since Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne struck out 10 in a row in May 2003.