From Comcast SportsNetKANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Kansas City Royals have slowly and methodically allowed their top prospects to climb through their farm system in recent years, piecing together a team they believe can compete in the wide-open American League Central.All that's been missing has been the pitching.They dipped into the farm system to solve that problem, too.The Royals sent top prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi along with two other minor leaguers to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night for former All-Star James Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis, making an aggressive move to bolster a rotation that was one of the worst in the major leagues last season."We have to start winning games at the major league level, and the way you develop a winning culture is by winning major league games," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "It's time for us to start winning at the major league level."Kansas City, which hasn't had a winning season since 2003, has long had one of the best farm systems in baseball, and slowly the cream has risen to the big league level -- first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Salvador Perez form a fine nucleus. But there's been a dearth of starting pitching for years, and that's what Moore and the rest of the front office have been trying to fix this offseason.He's already re-signed Jeremy Guthrie to a 25 million, three-year deal, and took on former All-Star Ervin Santana and 12 million of his contract from the Angels. But the trade for Shields and Davis is Moore's most aggressive move yet, giving Kansas City the ace it has been lacking since trading away Zack Greinke, along with another piece that could fit in the rotation or the bullpen."When you can acquire a pitcher like James Shields and Wade Davis, we have to do it, because that's what we've committed to our team -- we've committed to our organization," Moore said. "It's important that we start winning games."Along with giving up Myers, an outfielder widely voted the minor leagues' top player last season, the Royals also traded away Odorizzi, a talented right-hander who should soon compete for a spot in the Rays' rotation. Left-hander Mike Montgomery and third baseman Patrick Leonard also are headed to the Rays, while the Royals will receive a player to be named or cash."We're constantly working to balance the present and the future, and always trying to thread the needle," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "As an organization we rely more on the contributions of our young players basically than anyone else in baseball, and with this trade we're hoping to replenish our system and add a lot of players we feel can help us sustain this run of success that we've had for the last five years."Shields, who turns 31 this month, has been a stalwart in the Tampa Bay rotation the past seven seasons. He was an All-Star two years ago, when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and was 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 33 starts last season, when he pitched 227 2-3 innings -- his sixth consecutive year of at least 200 innings pitched.The only other pitchers to log at least 200 innings in six straight seasons are the Jays' Mark Buehrle, San Francisco's Matt Cain, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and the Tigers ace Justin Verlander."If you're going to win consistently in the major leagues, you're going to need a rotation that gives you innings, competes, helps you win," Moore said. "That's what our goal is, to put together a very good rotation. We feel we've done that."Shields is due to receive 10.5 million this season. He has a club option for 12 million in 2014 with a 1 million buyout.The Royals suddenly have a glut of starting pitchers with Shields, Santana and Guthrie joined by Bruce Chen and Luis Mendoza, who are expected back from last year. Luke Hochevar is eligible for arbitration, while Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will return at some point during the middle of the season after having Tommy John surgery.Davis also could be thrown into the mix.The right-hander started 64 games for Tampa Bay from 2009-11, but he was shuttled to the bullpen last season when the Rays had an abundance of starters. He flourished as a reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA, creating some flexibility for him in Kansas City.Davis is due to make 2.8 million this season and 4.8 million in 2014, with the Royals holding options on the next three years.The jewel of the deal for Tampa Bay is undoubtedly Myers, who turns 22 on Monday.The power-hitting outfielder batted .314 with 37 homers and 109 RBIs in 134 games at Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, and eventually could help provide some protection in the batting order for Rays star Evan Longoria. Myers showed what he could do during the All-Star Futures Game hosted by Kansas City, when he had a pair of hits and drove in three runs at Kauffman Stadium.He'll finally get a chance to prove it at the major league level at Tropicana Field.Odorizzi was 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA for Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, and made two late-season starts for Kansas City, going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 7 1-3 innings. Montgomery was once considered one of the Royals' top prospects, but his stock slid last season, when he went 5-13 with a 6.07 ERA last season while getting demoted from Omaha to Northwest Arkansas.Leonard hit .251 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs in 62 games for short-season Burlington."We're excited to add these guys, anxious to get to know them beyond the information we have on them," Friedman said. "I think it's very possible that Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi will help us win games in 2013, and Mike Montgomery as well."
Overshadowed in the aftershocks of the Bears’ release of veteran guard Matt Slauson (and safety Antrel Rolle) was another roster trim this offseason that went largely ignored because four days earlier, the Matt Forte non-return had gone down. That was the release of Jermon Bushrod, as much a fixture for two years at left tackle as Slauson was at left guard.
Probably because Bushrod had been replaced by Charles Leno Jr. last season as the starter, Bushrod’s exit had been expected since mid-year as he struggled with injuries. Bushrod had voiced his own farewell address late in the season.
But Bushrod, as with Slauson, was a core member of a group that arguably needs to be closer-knit than any other position group. Bushrod and Slauson were mentors to Kyle Long and to even Leno as he was replacing Bushrod, if anyone needs a character testimonial.
While coaches and GM Ryan Pace are on record stating that the best five offensive linemen will start, which points to positions for each being determined through this offseason, that also demands cohesion, which the group had with Bushrod and Slauson.
Bears history is replete with solid centers who anchored and fused lines together: Jay Hilgenberg, Jerry Fontenot, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, even Bulldog Turner and Mike Pyle, looking further back. One key was that each was the best lineman in the group, or close to the best. That makes leading easier, when you’re secure and very good.
Hroniss Grasu is neither at this point of his career. Manny Ramirez is a new guy and on a one-year deal at age 33. Meaning: Who is the linchpin of an offensive line on whom the healths of Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford and others rest? Kyle Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman and a force in more ways that just talent-wise.
The challenge for the Bears projects to be less finding talent to replace Slauson in particular, but finding the individual and collective character to make the whole thing work. This is about more than just the 2016 season.
The White Sox aim for win No. 20 in their series finale against the Boston Red Sox tonight on Comcast SportsNet Plus. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.
Today’s starting pitching matchup: Henry Owens (0-0) vs. Erik Johnson (0-0)
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Carlos Rodon hasn’t been too far off the mark in his outings early in 2016.
His April 18 start aside, the team’s 2014 first-round pick has thrown the ball very well. Yet six starts into his sophomore campaign, Rodon has a 1-4 record.
The young White Sox left-hander made only one big mistake on Wednesday night and Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took advantage. Ortiz’s fifth-inning home run off a Rodon fastball got the Red Sox on track and they tacked on several runs late to snap a three-game winning streak for the White Sox, who fell 5-2 in front of 14,383 at U.S. Cellular Field. Jose Abreu homered, but that was all for the 19-9 White Sox, who were stymied by seven sharp innings from Clay Buchholz.
“Just one pitch, and that’s the name of this game I guess,” Rodon said. “One pitch changes the game pretty dramatically. That’s why people love baseball I guess.”
Rodon has discovered the importance of one pitch several times this season.
He threw an outstanding game in his first start at Oakland on April 6 only to be felled by an opposite-field homer by Mark Canha. In his last turn in Baltimore, Rodon was on cruise control before his defense did him in. Later in the contest, Rodon allowed another opposite-field blast to Nolan Reimold, which sealed the southpaw’s fate.
On Wednesday, Ortiz taught him a lesson after Rodon issued a two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts with the White Sox leading 2-1 in the fifth. Rodon left a 1-1 fastball over the plate and Ortiz turned on it and drove it 397 feet to right on a windy, cold night.
“Don’t throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,” Rodon said.
It was the sixth homer of the season and 509th of his career for Ortiz, who is set to retire after the season ends.
But Big Papi wasn’t done yet.
He followed a pair of one-out singles in the seventh inning with one of his own against Zach Duke. Ortiz beat a White Sox shift and dribbled a single through an open spot on the left side of the infield to drive in run No. 22 on the season and put Boston ahead 4-2. The Red Sox added another run in the eighth.
Ortiz, 40, is hitting .311/.404/.633.
“He comes up big in certain situations,” White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton said. “Ortiz is a heck of a hitter, and he’s gonna make you pay.”
The White Sox couldn’t do the same with Buchholz, who entered the game 0-3 with a 6.51 ERA. Eaton said the right-hander kept them off-balance by using all five of his pitches. Buchholz appeared to have trouble keeping the ball down in the first as Eaton flew out deep to left ahead of a Jimmy Rollins single and Abreu’s two-run homer, his first since April 19. Abreu’s fourth homer snapped a 61-plate appearance drought and put the White Sox ahead 2-0.
But Buchholz settled in and retired 19 of the last 22 batters he faced, including 10 in a row.
He limited the White Sox to two runs and three hits while striking out six.
“We got off well there, Jimmy getting on and Jose hitting a homer, but we can’t stop there,” Eaton said. “You know as an offense you can’t stop there.”
A lack of run support has also been an early theme in Rodon’s starts.
The team has scored a total of 10 runs with Rodon on the mound in six starts. Entering Wednesday, his 2.1 run support average per nine innings ranked 67th among 73 qualified starters, according to baseball-reference.com.
The limited backing has often left Rodon -- who minus his April 18 start against the Los Angeles Angels has a 3.03 ERA -- susceptible to one mistake costing him the game.
“I think he learns something every time out there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There's something to be gained from it and for him, he's going to be better for it. He's got great stuff, a competitor and all that, but you always learn stuff as you're going through this. Even looking at Sale or Quintana, they're still doing things and you learn something every time you're out there. Carlos is no different.
“We know he's a good pitcher, but even the good ones run through tough stretches.”