Bears keep adding "starters" to the depth chart

738742.png

Bears keep adding "starters" to the depth chart

One aspect of the annual NFL teams offseason mission statement is to build both the quality of a roster as well as the quantity. That means not only depth but specifically depth that is good enough to either contend for a starting job or replace a starter without precipitous falloff.

The Bears, in Phil Emerys first offseason as a general manager, have added not only volume to the roster, but also players who come in not as starters, but could be.

The latest is linebacker Geno Hayes, signed to a one-year deal after starting 42 of 56 games played at weakside linebacker in four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hayes succeeded longtime Pro Bowl fixture Derrick Brooks in Tampa and is a speed addition at 6-1, 226 pounds.

The Bears previously signed guard Chilo Rachal, a one-time starter for the San Francisco 49ers. Kelvin Hayden was a starting cornerback with the Indianapolis Colts with a stop in Atlanta last year before signing with the Bears. Brandon Marshall obviously was a starter-plus for Denver and Miami. Corner Jonathan Wilhite started 17 games over his five NFL seasons.

Jason Campbell was a starting quarterback with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders. Michael Bush started nine games last season for the Raiders. Devin Thomas started 11 games over his four seasons.

In 2011, Hayes started 13 of 16 games played, finishing third on the team with 86 tackles and seven tackles for losses, adding one interception and two forced fumbles.

The knock on Hayes, and why the Bucs were willing to let go of a one-time starter, was maturity and discipline, one NFL source told CSNChicago.com. He made flash plays but was prone to taking chances all pointing toward a big upgrade to special teams.

Why Kris Bryant is such a money player for this Cubs team

Why Kris Bryant is such a money player for this Cubs team

PITTSBURGH — Dressed in a towel, Chris Coghlan walked through PNC Park’s visiting clubhouse late Monday night and saw the group of reporters around Kris Bryant. Coghlan wanted to get paid and talked over the interview: “Did you put it in my locker? I didn’t see anything when I got in.”

The Cubs had just won their 100th game for the first time in 81 years. Before that 12-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Bryant promised Coghlan all the cash in his wallet — the meal money for this entire road trip — if the leadoff guy scored on his 100th RBI.

“He still hasn’t paid me, by the way,” Coghlan said Wednesday afternoon, hours before blasting a bases-loaded triple in the second inning of a 6-4 win. “I won’t take his money. He said he would, (but) I’m going to bust him. I just want to make him pull it out. That’s all.”

Coghlan understood how much it bothered Bryant to finish last year with 99 RBIs, how anxious he could get while being stuck on that same number again for almost a week. Once Bryant notched his 100th and 101st RBIs with his 39th home run, one of the first postgame questions was about getting No. 40.

“That’s how the world works,” Coghlan said. “Trust me, that’s on his list, to knock that off. Trust me, this guy wants to win the MVP, too.

“I think he’s going to win the MVP. But that’s how the world works: OK, now it’s 40 (homers). But if he hits like three in the next five games, (what about) 45? That’s just the way it is. You’ll never change that.

“You want to embrace that, because that’s how you don’t get complacent. But I think contentment is a wonderful attribute to obtain. And there’s a huge difference between contentment and complacency. In our society, we forget that and put the two together.”

Coghlan knows that he doesn’t have Bryant’s all-world talent, but he still recognizes the serious attitude and singular focus. At the age of 31, Coghlan has perspective as someone who became the National League’s Rookie of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2009, got non-tendered four years later, had to sign a minor-league deal with the Cubs and got traded to and from the Oakland A’s within four months this year.

“KB is very goal-driven — that’s what makes him successful,” Coghlan said. “He has the highest expectations. What I joke with him about is (that) even when you accomplish what you want, there’s always something next that presents itself.

“But now that I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve realized: Man, there are some times I wish I would have enjoyed the moment a little bit more. Because now when you look back, you realize how tough it was.

“That’s what I try to tell him a lot — just enjoy it. I try to get him to laugh and smile because he doesn’t laugh that much. He doesn’t smile all the time.

“He’ll smile for a game-winner, but a regular one, it’s just, ‘Oh, you know, no big deal.’”

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Kris Bryant jersey right here]

Coghlan got an early scouting report on Bryant while having dinner with Scott Boras, the super-agent who represents several high-profile Cubs. Of course, Bryant probably would have hit the 100-RBI mark last season if the Cubs hadn’t stashed him at Triple-A Iowa for the first eight games, gaining an extra year of club control through 2021 and pushing back his free-agent clock.

“I remember talking about it with Scott,” Coghlan said. “They were like: ‘Yeah, this guy is off the charts with what he can do.’ But the No. 1 thing that we always heard was talking about how good of a kid he was. (Scott) was like: ‘You’re going to love him, because he’s just such a good kid.’

“That’s what the Cubs do so well. I think Theo (Epstein) does that so well (putting the pieces together). It’s not just about your skill set. It’s what type of teammate you are, and that stuff matters when you have to live with each other for seven, eight months a year.”

Ever since Epstein’s front office chose Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft out of the University of San Diego, Cubs fans expected a franchise player who would deliver the first World Series title in more than a century.

Bryant is following up his Rookie of the Year campaign with: a second All-Star selection at third base, the versatility to play all over the outfield and shift across the infield, 120 runs scored, a .295 batting average that’s 20 points higher than last season, a .953 OPS that’s almost 100 points higher than last season and almost 50 fewer strikeouts than his league-leading 199 in 2015.

“It’s phenomenal,” Coghlan said. “That second year, you have so many questions you have to answer. He’s in a big market, too. I was in a smaller market, but what does help him is there are so many other stars around and stories to talk about. I remember my second year, after every game — regardless of what I did — I had to answer for the team.

“What’s remarkable is his adjustments, and I don’t think people talk about it enough. They just think it’s because he’s so great and he’s always done it.

“(But) from watching, I can see his strikeout numbers are down. His swing and miss in the zone is down. He’s covering more pitches. Before, (you knew he would) have to keep making adjustments, because once they figure out his weakness, they’re going to expose that, and they did that at times last year.

“Now you look at him, you’re like: Bro, this is a whole ‘nother step forward. This is getting close to being epic.”

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale had no trouble earning his 17th win of the season, tying his career-high set in 2012.

The White Sox offense powered past the Tampa Bay Rays 13-6 on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, improving their record to 76-81 on the season.

Sale pitched seven innings and recorded seven strikeouts. He also allowed three earned runs on eight hits. It was Sale’s 16th career game with at least seven strikeouts and no walks, according to CSN’s stat guru Chris Kamka.

“I think the whole team and organization takes him for granted, to be sure. I think he’s a heck of a competitor,” Adam Eaton said of Sale prior to Tuesday’s game. “He’s one of the best in the game of baseball and I think we should look at him as such. And when I say take for granted, it’s not a slander on anybody. You just get used to him going seven, eight innings, throwing 115 pitches and giving his best effort day in and day out. He’s definitely not the usual, for sure.”

The White Sox extended their winning streak to four games. The last time they won four consecutive games was July 23-26 against the Cleveland Indians and Cubs. The White Sox had winning streaks of at least four games three times in their first 33 games of the season.

Eaton went 2-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and a double in his return to the lineup after missing three games with an injury.

[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Tim Anderson got things started with an RBI single in the first and RBI double in the second. Anderson also added a solo homer in the eighth inning.

Melky Cabrera hit his 14th homer of the season in the first, bumping his RBI total to 82 on the year, five shy from his career-high.

In the third, Leury Garcia smacked his first homer of the year, a three-run shot to left-center field to extend the White Sox lead to 8-2. Two more runs were scored in the fifth on a fielder’s choice and an error. Jason Coats, pinch-hitting for Justin Morneau, and Todd Frazier each had an RBI single in the eighth.

Sale issued a two-run double to former White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez in the second and a homer to Curt Casali in the fourth.

With five games left, Ventura hasn’t decided if Sale will make one final start before the 2016 campaign ends.

However, Ventura believes that tying his 17 wins in a season is well-deserving.

“You're looking at a guy that's one of the elite pitchers in the game,” Ventura said. “You always want him to match or best his past performances. I think part of that is motivation at this point to be able to go out there and do it.

“His numbers, you look at them and they stack up with anybody. But you want him to continue to win games and you want him to surpass previous accomplishments. Every guy's trying to do that.”