Bears say they have to play better but can they?

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Bears say they have to play better but can they?

MINNEAPOLIS Sitting in front of his locker on Sunday afternoon, one member of the Bears offense took his time before answering. The hesitation, stretching on to a surprising 15 seconds or so, was an answer of its own.

The usual response to a question about a teams confidence is routinely upbeat. This one was not, and when the answer finally came it was about the level of confidence but rather about the Bears overall situation.

We have our window, the player said, quietly, but its getting pretty thin.

With their fourth loss in the last five games, the Bears (8-5) took one huge step closer to the abyss. They finished Sunday afternoons 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) as the No. 6 playoff team, down from No. 2 just a month ago.

They went into the Metrodome in acute need of a win against a team they had defeated six straight times. They left with quarterback Jay Cutler out with an unspecified neck injury after throwing two costly interceptions to hand the Vikings 14 points.

The Bears have gone from team that finds ways to win to one that finds ways to lose. The offense has scored 17 or fewer points in the four losses and perhaps there is no more telling indictment of the Lovie Smith offenses than that they are now 12-49 when they fail to score at least 18 points. Five of those 12 wins were in the 2005 season when the defense was the NFLs best in points allowed.

Notably perhaps, or not, defensive end Julius Peppers said afterwards that if the Vikings can beat the Bears after losing six straight, the Bears can do the same to the Packers, whove beaten the Bears five times.

It was not convincing logic.

The Bears dropped touchdown passes. Two, one by Devin Hester, one by Alshon Jeffery. And thats not even the bad news.

The really bad news is that those werent the only problems.

There were a lot of problems, said Cutler, one of those problems. Offensively I didnt play well (he didnt play well defensively, either). Interceptions, however they happened, they still happened. Weve just got to play better.

The overall is that you are what your record says you are. The Bears are 1-4 in games that have increasingly mattered. At this point. 13 games in, the biggest question is whether or not the Bears actually can play better.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle is more bad news for Cubs: ‘You can’t cry about it’

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

 

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”