Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

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Bollig happy to stick up for Blackhawks teammates

Brandon Bollig shook off his gloves and prepared to face St. Louis tough guy Ryan Reaves. It was the hometown kids moment in St. Louis last week, a chance for his family to see him at his pugilistic best.

Even if theres a mixed reaction to Bollig putting up his dukes.

I dont think my mom likes it too much but my dad enjoys it, said Bollig with a smile, the same one he usually displays during his fights. Theyre along for the ride and fans at this point. Its as fun for them as it is for me. Theyre happy to see me at this level.

And now that hes at this level, Bollig will do whatever it takes to stay here.

Bollig is known for his fighting prowess and he hasnt disappointed in his short stint with the Blackhawks -- he has five fights in seven games games. He added that fifth on Tuesday night, going after Reaves for his hit on Jamal Mayers in the Blackhawks 4-3 shootout victory over the Blues. Bolligs energy and drive to stick up for teammates has resonated throughout the Blackhawks locker room.

There was no hesitation. He just jumped right in the pile there and fought him. That got us pumped, said Patrick Kane. Its good to know we can play a physical game like that.

But coach Joel Quenneville said the rookie has brought so much more than just the bruiser mentality.

I thought hed be pretty excited the last time he went into St. Louis. But I like how hes playing, and Im not talking about his fighting, he said. I think that, positionally, he has awareness. He brings energy and finishes hits. Technically, hes doing the right things. Hes been a nice fit for us.

On Bolligs response on Tuesday, Quenneville said, he did what he had to do. That was a good response to a big hit.

Bollig knows his calling card and figures itll be that way most of his career. The native of St. Charles, Mo., doesnt mind the fights, although even hes surprised that hes had this many so soon. He and Reaves bout in St. Louis was a lengthy and memorable one for Bollig, who tapped Reaves on the helmet in a good-fight gesture afterward.

You have to have respect for guys who are willing to do it that much, Bollig said. Its obviously something you have to have a certain mental awareness to do, and maybe be a little messed up in the head to do it all the time. Everyone here is kind of tough in their own right.

Bollig has proven his toughness quickly in the NHL. His teammates appreciate several aspects of his game. And whatever keeps him in the big leagues, hes ready to do it.

I think at this point willing to do what I have to do to stay here; if its fighting every night, Im wiling to do that. Bollig said. I hope theres not a time when I get tired of it or not willing to do it because thatll be the time Im done with the game.

Jake Arrieta stellar again as Cubs roll past Pirates

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Associated Press

Jake Arrieta stellar again as Cubs roll past Pirates

PITTSBURGH – This time, the Cubs didn’t need to consult their no-hitter protocol with Jake Arrieta, who walked the first two Pittsburgh Pirates he faced on Tuesday night at PNC Park before slicing up that lineup again with surgical precision.

Arrieta returned to the scene of his shutdown performance in last year’s National League wild-card game, giving up only two singles across seven scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory before the Cubs pulled the plug at 99 pitches with a six-run lead.

Arrieta (6-0, 0.84 ERA) is clearly going to do everything he can to defend his Cy Young Award. The Cubs (19-6) have now won Arrieta’s last 19 regular-season starts, opening up a five-game lead in the division and going for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon with Jon Lester on the mound.

White Sox react to John Danks’ departure

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White Sox react to John Danks’ departure

John Danks has called Chicago his home since 2007. But after nearly 10 years on the South Side, the White Sox have decided to part ways with their longest tenured player.

Danks will be designated for assignment later this week, the team announced Tuesday, ending his time with the White Sox.

“It’s always tough,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t really know what’s out there, but at this point, we’re going in a different direction.”

Entering Tuesday, the White Sox held the best record in the American League at 18-8. Danks started in four of those contests, but all resulted in losses in which he had an ERA of 7.25.

That was enough for the White Sox to make a change.

“It’s just one of those things how we’re doing so well and he didn’t get a win. That’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Todd Frazier said. “I’m sure he could’ve came around in his next start or maybe the next one after that. But he’s a bulldog.

“He’s a guy that wants to contribute and he has. He’s done it for years and just cause he hasn’t gotten a win in the first three or four starts that he’s had doesn’t signify what he’s done in the past.”

The success Danks had in the past convinced the White Sox to sign him to a five-year, $65 million contract extension prior to the 2012 season.

Danks struggled to find consistency with his game from 2012-16, going 25-48 with a 4.92 ERA in 97 starts.

His results ultimately proved that he didn’t live up to his contract.

But off the field, the impact he had on his teammates is something you can’t put a price on.

“Everybody loves him, he’s a great teammate, he’s a great pitcher,” catcher Dioner Navarro said. “Just going through a tough stretch right now. Part of life, I guess it’s part of him going home, reflecting on things and seeing what he wants to do.”

When Frazier arrived to Chicago during the offseason after being acquired by the Cincinnati Reds, Danks was one of the guys who helped him get acclimated to the Windy City.

“We became real close quick,” Frazier said. “Great guy. We’re about the same age. He came up a lot earlier than me. I know he’s had some really good years. Just one of those guys you really look up to. We’re gonna miss him. I’m especially gonna miss him.

“He kind of taught me a little bit about the Chicago Way. He’s just one of those guys who’s going to be in the back of your mind a little bit every couple days just thinking about how he’s doing.”

In addition, Danks used his experience to mentor young players like 23-year-old starter Carlos Rodon. The two would often hang out most of the time during games, and sometimes away from the diamond.

“It was huge,” Rodon said of Danks’ presence. “A veteran like that, you'd figure a young guy coming here, kind of would ignore him or wouldn't really be around for him. He was different, a different guy. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of stuff about this game.”

For the White Sox, the clubhouse will be a bit unusual not having that familiar face that’s been around for so many years.

But as the White Sox learned earlier this season, adapting to change is something that comes with the game.

“The game will go on, but our thoughts and prayers go out to him, his wife and his future family,” Adam Eaton said. “Saying goodbye to him was tough for all of us, but like I said it's part of the game. It's sad to see him go.”

Cubs: Jorge Soler, Ryan Kalish and what the outfield picture looks like now

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Cubs: Jorge Soler, Ryan Kalish and what the outfield picture looks like now

PITTSBURGH – More than five hours before first pitch, Jorge Soler took early batting practice on Tuesday afternoon in an empty PNC Park while a group of Cubs coaches watched the young Cuban hitter.

The Cubs unveiled a different outfield look for that night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, trying to jumpstart Soler by batting him second and putting him in left, while keeping Dexter Fowler in center and moving Kris Bryant to right.

The team with the best record in baseball can’t be in scramble mode in the first week of May, but the Cubs are almost burning through the depth they acquired this winter.

Jason Heyward is still dealing with the sore right wrist that’s been bothering him since early April. An MRI on Matt Szczur’s right hamstring revealed a strain that landed him on the disabled list. The Cubs promoted Ryan Kalish – a guy who planned to play independent ball before signing a minor-league deal in March – from Triple-A Iowa.

Manager Joe Maddon has been asked about Soler – who began the day hitting .186 with a .591 OPS – in the context of trading for pitching, losing playing time with the Fowler signing and getting another chance after Kyle Schwarber’s season-ending knee surgery.

So Maddon didn’t feel like looking for a deeper meaning to Soler’s opportunity this time.

“It’s Tuesday, that’s it, I swear,” Maddon said. “Because you got other options to deal with. There’s different ways to look at this. I’m going to continue to try to do my best to keep everybody solvent. That’s the best way I can answer that. George obviously has prodigious power ability, so we’ll see how it plays.

“But I’m not going to make any promises.”

Beyond Bryant’s versatility as an All-Star third baseman, the Cubs also have super-utility guys Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez with the ability to toggle between the infield and the outfield.

It’s a remarkable comeback story for Kalish, another former Boston Red Sox prospect with connections to Theo Epstein’s front office.

Kalish struggled to stay healthy at Fenway Park and eventually recovered from cervical fusion surgery – performed by the same doctor who did the neck procedure for Peyton Manning – to make the Opening Day roster for Rick Renteria’s Cubs in 2014.

Kalish spent last year hanging out in Southern California, thinking about life after baseball and watching old buddies like Anthony Rizzo perform in the playoffs.

“I needed to keep trying,” Kalish said. “There were points where people were saying (stuff), even close friends wondering like: ‘Hey, maybe it’s time to move on?’ But I just couldn’t have that.

“I was going (to independent ball) if this didn’t come. The crazy part is that season hasn’t even started yet. It starts in like two weeks. But with all this developing, it just puts it all in perspective. It makes me appreciate what I have.”

The Cubs don’t want to rush Albert Almora from Iowa, even though they know their 2012 first-round pick could play above-average defense in The Show right now. Almora just turned 22, isn’t on the 40-man roster yet and has spent about a month on the Triple-A level.

Until this setback, Szczur had maximized his opportunity after the Cubs ruled out Shane Victorino (calf) for the Opening Day roster. Victorino is still working into game shape at the team’s Arizona complex and getting closer to joining the Triple-A club.

Szczur, who’s out of minor-league options, went from a bubble player to a key contributor, hitting .367 with two homers and 10 RBI in 34 plate appearances and becoming a late-game defensive replacement for Soler.

“It’s always bad timing,” Szczur said.