Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

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Cubs farm system begins post-Rizzo era

As hard as it is to believe, the Cubs minor league system will continue to play games even without the first half juggernaut that was Anthony Rizzo. The post-Rizzo era began Tuesday, leaving a massive void to be filled by other prospects vying for a spot in the bigs.

Iowa third baseman Josh Vitters saw this opening and absolutely tore into it last week. The 22-year-old standout went 12-for-26 (.462) on his way to extending his hit streak to 10. He also managed to score five runs, tally four RBIs and hit two homers. Not only has Vitters been hitting the leather off of the ball, he is recording quality at bats and getting ahead in counts. His patience and even keel plate approach led him to a .474 on base percentage and 1.29 OPS for the week. The absence of the Rizz Kid leaves a number of question marks in Iowa but Josh Vitters appears to have the answers.

Just when Brett Jackson looked like he was about to break through, he returned to his free swinging ways. The once top prospect's stock has plummeted over the past two months and he has done nothing to fix it. Last week, Jackson went 6-for-26 (.231) with four runs and a home run in three consecutive games. Sounds pretty decent right? Wrong. Over a seven-game span, Jackson struck out 14 times, making 19 K's in his last 10 games. He is striking out at an alarming rate and no one seems to have a solution. This is not just a slump, this is a problem.

Highly touted Double A prospect Junior Lake has had a relatively productive year thus far. He is hitting .300 with four round trippers and 12 RBIs. Although his run production is not where scouts would like it to be, he is finding ways to capitalize in key situations. Last week Lake went 8-27 (.296) with two runs and two RBIs. On top of that, Lake swiped five bags in 10 days taking his season total to eight. If Lake can add speed to his arsenal of weapons, it could be the catalyst that takes him to the next level.

Tennessee Smokies pitcher Eric Jokisch came into Sunday's game 3-0 and had every intention standing pat. He was scheduled to rest but when Smokies starter Trey McNutt was pulled after two innings of work, skipper Buddy Bailey turned to Jokisch for help. 5.2 innings, 10 runs and nine hits later, Jokisch was the one pleading for help. He appeared uncomfortable and rattled the entire time he was on the mound. I will give him the benefit of the doubt due to the unlikely circumstances but this was not the Eric Jokisch we have gotten used to watching this year. It will be interesting to see how he responds to his first loss in his next start.

Daytona Cubs first baseman Greg Rohan is exceeding everyone's expectations this season. He has cooled off in the last few weeks but Wednesday was a turning point and one of those games you do not forget. He went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs. This explosion puts him at 63 RBIs on the season, 12 more than anyone else in the entire Florida State League.

Javier Baez, shortstop for the single-A Peoria Chiefs, continues to struggle to get acclimated to professional baseball. His hitting plight has been peppered with moments of brilliance but his 2-for-18 (.111) week suggests otherwise. He tallied two runs and no walks on the week with an on base percentage of .090. His approach at the plate seems undisciplined and until he strategizes his approach his numbers will continue to plummet.

Joe Musso contributed to this article

Jose Abreu helps White Sox rally to tie record for April wins

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Associated Press

Jose Abreu helps White Sox rally to tie record for April wins

BALTIMORE -- The White Sox closed a record-tying April in the most appropriate of ways -- with another heavy dose of late-inning magic.

Jose Abreu made up for a costly error with two late RBIs, including singling in the go-ahead run in the ninth, and the White Sox tied a team record for April victories with an 8-7 win over the Baltimore Orioles in front of 29,152 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Playing without manager Robin Ventura, who was ejected after a controversial review in the fourth, the White Sox scored five times in the final three innings to rally for win No. 17. They finished the season’s opening month with a 17-8 mark to tie the 2000, 2005 and 2006 clubs for most April victories.

“I’ll put a lot of money with Jose at the plate with runners in scoring position,” Adam Eaton said. “We got the job done. Good team win. Not really how we drew it up, but it shows character with the team for sure. Battling back, each delivering punches and for us to get the last punch in there … Huge night for us.”

It was in particular a big showing for Abreu, who entered the game with a .220 average and 11 RBIs, his fewest in April in three seasons. The occasion became even bigger after Abreu’s fielding error in the eighth -- one of two by the White Sox -- extended the inning for Matt Albers.

With the White Sox leading 7-5, Abreu couldn’t handle a nice throw by Todd Frazier with two outs in the eighth and Manny Machado reached. Albers -- whose scoreless streak was snapped after 33 1/3 innings -- hit Adam Jones with the next pitch and Chris Davis followed with a game-tying, two-run double off Zach Duke.

But a team that has scored 49 of its 95 runs (51.6 percent) from the seventh inning came through again.

Eaton started the winning rally with a bunt single off Orioles closer Zach Britton, who exited the game as he injured himself retrieving the ball. Carlos Sanchez then walked against reliever Vance Worley to set up Abreu, who also singled in the tying run in an eighth-inning rally. Abreu drove an 0-1 cutter from Worley to right and Eaton slid in to home ahead of the throw from Joey Rickard. Nate Jones, who got the final out in the eighth, retired the side in order in the ninth to close it out.

The White Sox also rallied back from a pair of earlier deficits, long after Orioles starter Kevin Gausman departed.

Brett Lawrie, who had a solo homer in the third, walked and stole second base in the seventh and Austin Jackson singled after a 10-pitch battle with Mychal Givens to get the White Sox within 5-4.

The White Sox scored three runs off Darren O’Day, who hadn’t allowed a run all season. Sanchez had a pinch-hit double to open the eighth inning and scored on Abreu’s tying RBI single to right. Frazier blasted a 411-foot homer -- his seventh -- to center to put the White Sox up 7-5. The team’s 49 runs from the seventh inning on are the most in the American League. The White Sox, who finished with 10 hits, also have six comeback wins.

“It seemed like everybody picked everybody up tonight,” Frazier said. “It’s just a good character builder here.”

The offense came through for starter Mat Latos, who had his worst start of the season. The Orioles tried often to go the opposite way against Latos and it worked to the tune of four runs and 11 hits.

Baltimore had at least two hits in four of the five innings that Latos worked, including solo homers by Pedro Alvarez and Jonathan Schoop to tie it at 3 in the fourth.  

Latos allowed two hits to start the third, but was spared more damage when Adam Jones grounded into a controversial 5-4 double play that resulted in the 12th ejection of Ventura’s career.

Machado, who had singled ahead of Jones, slid late into second base and made contact with the leg of Lawrie, who never threw to first. Ventura asked for a review as Machado appeared to be in violation of the new slide rule. After a stoppage of at least six minutes, review officials determined that Machado didn’t interfere on the play and Jones was safe at first. Ventura immediately argued the call and loss of challenge with crew chief Gerry Davis, who ejected him.

But Latos pitched around it. He stranded two more runners on in the fourth to keep the score tied, but Baltimore pulled ahead in the fifth as Latos walked Matt Wieters and Alvarez doubled deep to center to make it 4-3.

Latos saw his ERA increase to 1.84 from 0.74.

“I was fortunate,” Latos said. “The offense showed up and put up a bunch of runs on the board and the defense showed up and we were able to get away with a really good win, a hard fought win.”

Ventura is pleased with how his team has handled its early success. Even though the White Sox have proven to be a fiery team in the dugout, Ventura thinks his veteran core has helped them keep a level head. While he’s pleased with the team’s April, he doesn’t think White Sox players will get ahead of themselves.

“They're looking for Sunday,” Ventura said. “They're excited about the win, no doubt, the way they're playing. But very good group about focusing on what's at hand and not looking in the rear view mirror.”

Today on CSN: Sale, White Sox close series with O's

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Associated Press

Today on CSN: Sale, White Sox close series with O's

The White Sox take on the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at noon. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today's starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (5-0, 1.66) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (1-2, 3.91)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Nick Kwiatkoski Chicago Bears NFL Draft Profile

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Nick Kwiatkoski Chicago Bears NFL Draft Profile

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 150 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Nick Kwiatkoski (LB), West Virginia

6’2” | 243 lbs.

2015 stats:

85 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 INT

Selection:

4th round, 113rd overall to Chicago Bears

Scouting Report:

"Kwiatkoski is known for his weight room work and has transitioned his body type from safety to inside linebacker. He has some physical limitations that could prevent him from becoming a full-­time starter, but his mean streak and ability to finish as a tackler could serve him well as a special teamer which is likely how he will have to make a team." - Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles