Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

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Hamilton getting closer to return from injury

ATLANTA -- Before the majority of his teammates were even onthe bus to take them to Philips Arena for the Bulls Wednesday-morningshootaround -- sans Brian Scalabrine, his workout partner -- Rip Hamilton waslaunching shots, going through drills and perhaps most importantly, gettingjostled and hit in his effort to return from a right-shoulder injury. However,despite his considerable progress as of late, its unlikely the veteranshooting guard suits up Wednesday evening against the Hawks.Im trying to get as many shots as possible and get myworkout, in addition to the stuff Ive been trying to do in practice, so Imjust trying to get acclimated, get more strength in my shoulders, Hamiltonsaid before the teams shootaround. Theres still some pain in there, but itsgetting better each and every day. Im able to shoot. That was the biggestconcern because its my right side. Im able to get my shot off and I thinkthats the thing that Im really happy with.Well see how it goes today. Today was actually thefirst time I did a little bumping. Thats what me and Scal were doing, himchasing me and bumping, and having a little contact. It was good because thatsthe biggest thingme getting hitnow, the contact, he continued. I definitelythink so. Im happy with my progress. I know that its not going to bepain-free. We just want to prevent me re-aggravating it, anything of that sort,but theres going to be pain. But as long as I can get my hand over my shoulderand be able to shoot the ball, Ill be fine.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibideau: Hes doing fine.Game-time decision. Doing more and more. Hes very close.Hes had some contact, he went on to say. His legs aregreat, so hes over all those injuries. We want to make sure the strength isthere in the shoulder. Were very encouraged. Hes doing great right now.The 13-year NBA veteran admitted that workout sessionsarent the same as actual games, but since he prides himself on hisconditioning, Hamilton believes hell get in the swing of things soon after hiseventual return.The games are always different than practice, but Itrain myself to be the best-conditioned athlete in the NBA. But I think thebiggest thing is rhythm, timing. I think theyre the biggest things, trying tocatch your second wind when youre out there for the first time, he said. Theschedules been crazy. I tell people that. Its no secret why everybodysgetting hurt. The back-to-back-to-back games, the traveling, its an adjustmenton everybodys body, but I feel as though when youre out there playing, youforget everything. You forget that youre hurt, youre injured, theres pain oranything like that. The only thing youre focused on is the game and trying toget a win.Today was the first day we actually took a littlecontact on it, so the more, the better and thats the one thing that wereall -- me, Thibs -- really trying to figure out. OK, whens the right time to reallypush it, because you cant dictate contact on the floor when youre playing,so were just trying to figure out when is the best time to really push it,continued Hamilton, who noted that hell wear something protective on hisshoulder when he returns to game action. The guys have been doing an awesomejob. The guys that have been coming off the bench and stepping up, and playingstarters roles have really been awesome. Ronnies been awesome, C.J.s beenawesome, Lucas, Kyle. Those guys have been doing an unbelievable job, so I givethem a lot of credit for playing the way they have been playing and doing whatthey have been doing the last couple weeks.As far as the Bulls other currently-sidelined startingguard, Derrick Rose, the leagues reigning MVP is also on the road to recovery,though unlike Hamilton, he hasnt participated in full-contact drills yet.Hes doing more. Again, game-time decision tonight,said Thibodeau. Hes running now, on the court, so that parts good. Doingmore shooting, more moving. Hes coming along.Injuries aside, Thibodeau has other concerns -- specificallyrebounding and defense -- heading into Wednesdays game, coming off the seasonsworst loss to the Nuggets at home Monday.Weve been a great rebounding team all year. I thinkits one of our strengths. We gang rebound, really. Weve got to get everybodygoing and the more you go, the more you get, so youve got to make the effortto go and youve got to fight for the ball. Hopefully we can correct that, heexplained. Its not any one particular thing and your offense is also tiedinto it, so right now, were not playing with energy and intensity andconcentration. So, weve got to get that part back first and thats in allareas, and theres stretches in those games where weve played very well. Everygame tells you something and we have to correct the things were not doingwell, clean those things up and then strive to be more of a 48-minute team. Toplay with consistency and intensity is so important in this league. I think wewill respond well.

Joe Maddon vents frustrations with tensions already rising in Cubs vs. Pirates

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Joe Maddon vents frustrations with tensions already rising in Cubs vs. Pirates

PITTSBURGH — “Still smells like champagne,” said one wise guy walking through the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park late Monday night.

The Cubs had just beaten the Pittsburgh Pirates, with some of the same raw emotions from last year’s wild-card win resurfacing during a 7-2 win in early May. There’s that much at stake in the National League Central that maybe we shouldn’t spend so much time fixating on the St. Louis Cardinals.

The eye-for-an-eye moment came in the seventh inning, with Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Lobstein drilling Ben Zobrist with his first pitch. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had already watched Cubs starter Jason Hammel hit Starling Marte with a pitch in the sixth inning and issued a warning to both benches.

Manager Joe Maddon yelled at Lobstein and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli screamed at the visiting dugout, and it felt like October all over again.

“I was able to vent a little bit,” Maddon said. “It’s always fun to vent, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve all been there. You have to vent on occasion. That’s the worst thing you could possibly do for your health long-term — to hold that stuff in. I want to get it out.”

Maddon spent part of his pregame media session talking up Cervelli, calling him a “good dude” who worked out at his wife’s boxing gym in Tampa, Fla., during the offseason: “He came to my Gasparilla party, dressed as a pirate of all things.”

“It’s just a matter of judging intentions,” said Zobrist, who’s new to this emerging rivalry after earning a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals last year. “As a team, you’re trying to think: ‘Well, was that intentional? Was it not?’ But I think in that situation it was pretty clear.

“Our whole team’s going to stick up for each other. Obviously, Joe took exception to it. I think a lot of other guys did, too. I’ve been around long enough — I’ve been hit before. I took my base and scored a run. That’s the way I look at it.”

Maddon had even more fun with the Pirates and the replay system in the seventh inning after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle erased a double play with a successful challenge at first base. Maddon responded by using Major League Baseball’s new takeout rule to challenge Jordy Mercer’s slide into second base.

“I had no clue what I was doing,” Maddon said. “I just knew I could challenge. At that particular juncture, why not? Give it a roll. Bottom of the seventh inning, who knows what they’re going to think?”

Maddon kept rolling and filibustering during his postgame news conference, saying how much he loved the Pirates’ uniforms as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania and comparing this rivalry to his high-school quarterback days and Hazleton vs. West Hazleton.

“People in Pittsburgh can enjoy that,” Maddon said. “They can identify with ‘Friday Night Lights,’ ‘All the Right Moves,’ all of the above. I’m being this way specifically so I don’t comment on the hit by batter.”

Cubs top Pirates to stay baseball's best, but Theo Epstein won't stop making moves

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Cubs top Pirates to stay baseball's best, but Theo Epstein won't stop making moves

PITTSBURGH — Relentless is the word the Cubs keep using to describe a lineup that knocked out Gerrit Cole on Monday night with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates already trailing by two runs at PNC Park.

Relentless could also be a label for Theo Epstein’s front office, even after spending almost $290 million on free agents and even with an 18-6 record that’s the best in baseball following a 7-2 win over the Pirates.

The Cubs want nothing to do with the randomness of another elimination game and can’t take anything for granted with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining. They’ve already lost playoff hero Kyle Schwarber for the season, and the outfield picture is clouded with Jason Heyward dealing with a sore right wrist since early April and Matt Szczur scheduled to get an MRI on his right hamstring on Tuesday morning.

Not that Epstein needed a reminder, but the president of baseball operations flashed back to last year’s National League wild-card game when he flew into Pittsburgh, checked into the team’s downtown hotel across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and went running along the Allegheny River.

From his hotel room, Epstein could sort of see where Schwarber’s two-run homer off Cole flew out of PNC Park last October, giving this franchise a runaway sense of momentum.

“We’ve played really well,” Epstein said, “but I don’t think we’ve completely locked in yet or clicked in all facets of the game. Our pitching staff’s really been carrying us. It’s been the most consistent part of our team yet. As it warms up here, I think the bats will get going and they’ll probably carry us for a while.

“But as far as needs that we might have, or ways that we can get better, we’re always assessing that. I think there’s lots of different ways we could potentially improve the club before the end of the season.”

The Cubs will watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming showcase in Arizona because they always check in on potential impact players at that level. Lincecum — a two-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles — is making a comeback after hip surgery.

While the Cubs should have big-picture concerns about their rotation and a farm system that hasn’t developed the arms yet, Jason Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) is making his own comeback.

Even if manager Joe Maddon doesn’t seem to completely trust Hammel, who gave up two runs across five innings and got pulled after throwing 89 pitches and accidentally hitting Starling Marte to lead off the sixth. Four different relievers combined to shut down the Pirates (15-11) the rest of the night.

Epstein — who is in the fifth and final year of his contract and used “status quo” to describe his extension talks with chairman Tom Ricketts — will have the position-player prospects to bundle if the Cubs do need a frontline pitcher this summer. A franchise-record payroll in the neighborhood of $150 million was also projected to have some room for in-season additions.

After beating up on the division’s have-nots and going 8-1 against the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs should have a better idea of where they stand after Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip to Pittsburgh and a four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

“There’s always the threat of somehow playing to the level of your competition in a negative way,” Maddon said. “I’m not denigrating any team that we’ve played to this point. That is not my point. But if you play teams with less-than (.500) records and maybe they’re not playing as well, you don’t turn that dimmer switch up to the full velocity. But when you’re playing really good teams, I think that naturally brings out the best in you.”

Preview: White Sox, Red Sox duel Tuesday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Red Sox duel Tuesday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Red Sox on Tuesday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins live from the South Side at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tuesday's starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (3-1, 1.47 ERA) vs. Steven Wright (2-2, 1.37 ERA)

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