Thibodeau: Rose 'coming along,' takes contact in practice

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Thibodeau: Rose 'coming along,' takes contact in practice

As expected, Tom Thibodeau played his cards close to the vest, but even the poker-faced Bulls head coach couldnt hide the fact that Derrick Roses sore back is gradually improving. The reigning league MVP participated in Sundays team practice at the Berto Center and took on contact, a significant step in his eventual return to the court after missing five consecutive games with lower back spasms.

He did more today. Coming along, so well see how he is tomorrow, the coach revealed. He took on contact today, so I want to see how he is, how he feels, after the contact."

Thibodeau noted that Rose would warm up prior to Monday afternoon's game against the Hawks (as he did before Saturday's loss to the Nets), however, he wouldnt budge when prodded about when Rose would return or if the Eastern Conference All-Star starter will play before the annual exhibition, held Feb. 26 in Orlando.

When hes ready to play, hes ready to play, whether its tomorrow or later. Im not going to base it on anything other than him being ready to play. Not our opponent, not the All-Star Game, not anything but if hes cleared medically and hes ready to play. Then hell play, said Thibodeau, the East teams coach. Each day hes done more. Hes responded well. He hasnt had any problems, so today was more physical. Defended pick-and-rolls, went one-on-one, defended in the post, played in the post, defended catch-and-shoot. So he did a lot today and well see how he is tomorrow and were going to go from there, but its the next step for us.

Thibodeau did admit that when Rose does return, he could be a bit cautious with the superstar point guards playing time, simply due to conditioning reasons.

His conditioning will probably be affected a little bit and his timing, but hell get that back quickly, said Thibodeau, who noted that Rose did some half-court running. Well see what he can handle.

Cubs-Pirates game ends in a 1-1 tie

Cubs-Pirates game ends in a 1-1 tie

PITTSBURGH – This definitely felt like something out of spring training, with Thursday night’s game between the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates suspended as rain kept pouring down on PNC Park, ending after five innings in a 1-1 tie.

Major League Baseball considered this an official game – its first tie since it happened to the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros on June 30, 2005 – and stats will still count after an 83-minute rain delay. But there is no need to make it up with the Cubs having already clinched the National League’s No. 1 seed and the Pirates eliminated from wild-card contention.

The last time the Cubs finished in a tie: a 2-2 five-inning draw with the Montreal Expos on May 28, 1993 at Wrigley Field.

    

Questions about Soler, Coghlan, Almora Jr. as Cubs shape playoff roster

Questions about Soler, Coghlan, Almora Jr. as Cubs shape playoff roster

PITTSBURGH – As the Cubs shape the edges of their playoff roster, there are more outfield questions than answers: Is Jorge Soler running out of time? Will Chris Coghlan be ready? Can Albert Almora Jr. handle October?           

After two MRIs on his right side came back clean, Soler rejoined the team on Thursday at PNC Park, so he could work with the training staff and hitting coaches. Yes, Soler shined during seven playoff games last year – putting up three homers, three doubles, five RBI and six walks – but he’s only gotten nine at-bats within the last two weeks and the Cubs sound like they are losing patience. 

“It’s not awful – I don’t think it’s dire,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He needs to get going, though. We got to find out. This is one of those things you want to test. But if you test too soon, then it could totally take him out of an entire postseason. 

“You got to be careful, in a sense. He felt pretty good today, from what I was told. It’s just once in a while he just feels it in a very, very, very minor way. From a training perspective, it’s all good. We just have to wait for him to say: I feel up to par.”      

Coghlan left cleat marks on the W.B. Mason advertisement on PNC Park’s left-field wall during Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, spraining his left ankle while jumping for a ball hit over his head.

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Coghlan called it a day-to-day issue and didn’t sound worried about where he fits into the playoff picture. Writing off his struggles with the Oakland A’s – and appreciating the opportunity after getting traded back to the Cubs midseason – the left-handed hitter is batting .326 with a .954 OPS through 18 games in September.

“I’ve been real productive,” Coghlan said. “At this point, they already know what type of player I am. It feels good for me just to contribute to the team. (It’s) fun to be out there playing more often and producing at the level that I know I can.” 

It’s unclear if Soler and Coghlan will play during this weekend’s end-of-the-regular-season series against the Cincinnati Reds, but the Cubs don’t necessarily need to see them in action at Great American Ball Park. 

Injuries could potentially create a spot for Almora, a 22-year-old rookie with first-round pedigree and a high baseball IQ who’s viewed as a future Gold Glove-level defender.

“He’s always ready to play,” Maddon said. “And if you put him in any situation, he’s fine.”