Moon: Seven keys to the Bears' schedule

736778.png

Moon: Seven keys to the Bears' schedule

The Bears 2012 schedule is laid out, but how will a player be looking at it?

The standard bromide is of course we look at them all the same, one game at a time." Thats not exactly true. Take it from one former player.

Matt Bowen had a solid NFL career thats now moving into a solid media phase, with work for a number of outlets including CSNChicago and also the National Football Post. He listed for NFP some of the filters through which he viewed schedules so lets apply those to the new Bears schedule and evaluate:

Opening day opponent

Thats where the offseason focus will be, right on through training camp and preseason. Its Indianapolis, same as in 2008, the last time through the AFC South for the Bears, but this time, no Peyton. Somebody at Halas Hall is probably already working on cut-ups of Stanford game film.

No NFL game can ever be considered truly easy. But a home game against a team coming off a 2-14 season presumably with a rookie starting his first NFL game is one you dont lose if you want to be taken seriously for the rest of the year.

The first quarter

Coaches including Lovie Smith talk of the season in terms of four-game units. All 16 do count the same in the final total, but getting off to a bad start puts added pressure to recover on the rest of the season.

But a good start also insures absolutely nothing. The Lovie Smith Bears have opened 2-2 or better in five of his eight years. In 2005 they recovered from a 1-3 start to earn a playoff bye. Their 3-1 start in 09 made the slide to 7-9 the more painful.

The Bears open with Indianapolis at home. The Packers draw San Francisco at home in week one and the Bears four days later. The Bears will have prime-time games at Green Bay and Dallas in the first quarter, plus St. Louis. This is a winnable first quarter.
Monday Night games

Most players love the solo time on center stage, but Matt points out that the catch becomes the following week, particularly if you have a road game. And if the MNF contest was away, youre not getting off a plane until very early Tuesday a.m.

Throw in a Thursday game which the Bears have in Week 2, at Green Bay and you have a squirrely start. At least the trips is a short one.

The NFL thought the Bears were worth five prime time games three on Mondays, one Sunday and one Thursday. This means a lot of choppy practice weeks.

Warm and cold conditions

Lets cut to the chase: When do you play at Green Bay? And for the Bears, when do they go to the Valley of the Sun?

This breaks well for the Bears. They play at Green Bay in September, at night. They play at Arizona in December. Theyre at Jacksonville in October. Those are good weather venues.

No at Buffalo or at New England to worry about for cold. You can bet that the Texans and anybody else with an indoor home has already IDd exactly when they have to come to Soldier Field.

Travel

The Bears have the geographic good fortune of being centrally located. But they do have road games in Arizona and San Francisco, the latter involving leaving on Friday for some teams.

Among the five prime-time games are ones at Green Bay, Dallas and San Francisco. Decent frequent-flyer miles but.

Off week

When the break falls is important in terms of rest. Its ideally near mid-season. If its early, the year is long after it, with more games and no off week for recovery (and its an off week, not a bye).

The Bears are off in week six after playing at Dallas and at Jacksonville. They come out of the off week hosting Detroit. Youd like the rest a couple weeks later perhaps but this is pretty good placement for a recovery week.

Cubs add left-handed pitcher to bullpen mix in trade with Brewers

Cubs add left-handed pitcher to bullpen mix in trade with Brewers

The day after the Cubs acquired a new closer, they added a left-handed option to the bullpen.

The Milwaukee Brewers selected Caleb Smith in the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning at the MLB winter meetings and then immediately flipped the southpaw to the Cubs for cash.

Smith is 25 and has pitched only one game above the Double-A level.

Originally selected in the 14th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees, Smith posted a 3.96 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 27 games (seven starts) in Double-A Trenton last year, striking out 70 batters in 63.2 innings.

With Aroldis Chapman back on the Yankees, Travis Wood still a free agent and Mike Montgomery expected to move into the rotation, the Cubs' bullpen was lacking left-handed pitchers this winter.

The Cubs signed veteran southpaw Brian Duensing last week and Rob Zastryzny is expected to contribute after impressing during his rookie campaign (1.13 ERA). 

Smith represents another option for Joe Maddon's bullpen, but the Cubs have to keep the young pitcher on the 25-man roster all season or else he would go back to his original team (Yankees).

Hector Rondon represents proof Rule 5 Draftees can make an impact when he was selected by the Cubs in 2012, but the organization was in a much different position four years ago than they are now as the defending World Champs with a loaded roster.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

Elsewhere in the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs lost right-handed pitcher Armando Rivero to the Atlanta Braves.

Rivero will be 29 in February and began his Cubs tenure in 2013 after defecting from Cuba. He's posted a 2.70 ERA and 12.4 K/9 throughout his four minor-league seasons in the Cubs system.

Rivero has spent the last two seasons in Triple-A Iowa, posting a 2.13 ERA, 1.123 WHIP and 105 strikeouts in 67.2 innings in 2016.

The Cubs also selected infielder Kevin Cornelius from the Yankees with the 30th pick of the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Cornelius hit .299 with a .393 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage in the Yankees system last season, playing 43 games at Advanced Class-A and 13 games in rookie ball.

Teams can protect players from the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. For the Triple-A part of the Rule 5 Draft, organizations can protect up to 38 more players on top of the 40-man roster.

The Cubs lost infielder Daniel Lockhart to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Triple-A portion of the Draft.

Lockhart — the 24-year-old son of former big-leaguer Keith Lockhart, who is currently a Cubs scout — played 89 games in the Cubs system in 2016 at Myrtle Beach (Advanced Class-A) and Tennesee (Double-A).

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will more dominoes fall after Adam Eaton trade?

12-7_adam_eaton.jpg

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will more dominoes fall after Adam Eaton trade?

In the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, CSN's Chuck Garfien goes 1-on-1 with White Sox GM Rick Hahn following the trade of Adam Eaton to the Nationals, which brought more top prospects to the South Side. Will more dominoes fall as the Sox go into a full rebuild?

Hahn says they expect to compete for championships within five years! Chuck also chats with new manager Rick Renteria, who tells us what he hopes to get out of his club in 2017 and beyond.

Plus, Insider Dan Hayes and Siera Santos join the crew to breakdown the timeline of getting some of these new pieces to the major leagues.

Check out the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast here: