Vitters One Of The Big Hitters In AFL Opener

Vitters One Of The Big Hitters In AFL Opener

Tuesday Oct. 4, 2011
Posted: 5:50 p.m.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE
Josh Vitters had a monstrous opening day in the Arizona Fall League Tuesday afternoon but it went for naught as Phoenix defeated visiting Mesa, 12-8.

Vitters, who hit .283 with 14 homers and 81 RBIs with Double-A Tennessee during the regular season, hit a pair of homers and drove in five runs. The former top pick appeared in 20 AFL games in 2010, batting .253 with two homers and 13 RBIs. He hit .353 with a homer and eight RBIs in 16 AFL games in 2009

Fellow Cubs prospect DJ Lemahieu went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks. He was also hit by a pitch and scored a pair of runs. Junior Lake, who split the season between Class-A Daytona and Tennessee, went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. White Sox prospect Brandon Short went hitless in five at-bats with three strikeouts for Mesa.

Cubs prospect Marcus Hatley, who split his regular season between Peoria, Daytona and Tennessee, allowed a run on three hits in 1 13 innings. White Sox right-hander Brandon Kloess also pitched at three levels during the regular season Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte also made his seasonal AFL debut, allowing an unearned run in an inning.

In other action, Cubs prospect Brett Jackson went 1-for-3 with a walk Monday night in Team USAs 8-4 loss to Puerto Rico in IBAF World Cup action. White Sox outfielder Jordan Danks went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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