Vitters Hoping For Big Fall

Vitters Hoping For Big Fall

Sunday Oct. 17, 2010
Posted: 8:20 a.m.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
The Arizona Fall League can be used as a springboard or a showcase for some players, letting them finish the calendar year on a positive note. Very often a good a good AFL showing will also create some buzz around a player heading into spring training the following year.

Josh Vitters falls under the former category while Kyle Smit can, at least for the moment, be classified as part of the latter. Both are playing for Mesa this fall and each played a big part in Saturday nights 10-1 victory over the Peoria Saguaros.

The Cubs made Vitters the third pick in the 2007 draft yet he hasnt lived up to such a lofty selection. Hes made a steady climb through Chicagos system and played well enough but has yet to dominate the way a high draft pick is expected to dominate. He split this season between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, struggling when he reached the Southern League before a broken hand ended his year in July.

To say that Vitters has something to prove this fall would be an understatement. A big showing in the AFL would go a long way toward putting some polish back on his young career despite the fact he only turned 21 in August. More efforts like Saturdays would accomplish that task.

Vitters had a homer and four RBIs and has four hits and five RBIs in his last two games. He had only 39 RBIs in 91 games at two levels during the regular season so this marks a fine start for the third baseman. Ryan Flaherty went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

As for Smit, well, it certainly appears as if the Cubs found a gem when they acquired him from the Dodgers in a deadline deal this July. He pitched two scoreless innings and earned his first AFL victory. He hasnt allowed a run in four AFL innings after pitching to a 1.96 ERA and winning five of the 12 games in which he appeared for Tennessee following the trade.

Based on what he did after the deal and how he has performed thus far in the AFL, Smit should have a wonderful opportunity to open some more organizational eyes in spring training.

Chris Carpenter also pitched two innings, allowing a run on two hits and a pair of walks. Hes walked three and allowed five hits through four AFL innings.

The Saguaros, who have a healthy contingent of White Sox prospects, managed only seven hits. Jared Mitchell, who drew two walks, had one of them. Jason Bour, who split the season between Birmingham and Winston-Salem, went 0-for-1 in his AFL debut while Eduardo Escobar went 0-for-3.

Anthony Carter made his debut and struck out three batters in his inning of work. He appeared in 46 games for Birmingham during the regular season. Charlie Leesman allowed a run in one inning for the second time in as many outings.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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