Cubs Minor League update: Rizzo still raking

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Cubs Minor League update: Rizzo still raking

AAA Iowa Cubs

Although his average may be dropping slightly, Anthony Rizzo continues to dominate the Pacific Coast League. This past week he went 9-for-28 (.321), but surprisingly this extremely respectable number lowered his batting average from .355 to .348. What is most impressive about Rizzos past week were his five round-trippers and 11 RBIs. His five bombs pushed his total to 12 home runs on the season. Rizzos hitting was in no way a concern and yet he continues to get even more comfortable at the plate. Come June or July, if Rizzo is continuing to pound the ball in this fashion Dale Sveum and the Cubs are going to need to make space in the lineup for a new first baseman.

The slumping Brett Jackson continues to make scouts scratch their heads in confusion. If people are beginning to worry about the big-bodied center fielder, this week did nothing to calm their nerves. Jackson went 2-for-19 this week (.105) with eight strikeouts. This lowered his average back down to .233. But where there is a problemthere is a solution. Jackson is hitting .375 against left-handed pitching, while he struggles to keep his head above water while facing righties at .188. Jackson simply needs to become more comfortable with facing right-handers in order to fulfill his big time potential.

Another Iowa standout this week was Chris Rusin who was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week. In his two starts he was 2-0 in 14 innings pitched with 12 strikeouts. This included a superb eight inning shutout performance on Sunday. Rusin is the first Cub to receive this honor since May 31, 2010.

AA Tennessee Smokies

21-year-old shortstop prospect Junior Lake spent his first full week with his new club and performed pretty well. Despite only going 5-for-23 (.217), Lake drove in three runs with a home run and two extra base hits. His slugging percentage was a respectable .484, and he showed patience at the dish, walking seven times. Lake will only continue to get better as he gets more seasoning both offensively and defensively and as he defines his position either at shortstop or somewhere else on the infield.

Righty hurler Kevin Rhoderick was the stand out pitcher of the week for the Smokies. The Oregon State product allowed no hits in his two relief appearances this week. Rhoderick has been thrown into a number of difficult situations this year and has performed exceptionally well. He carries a 1.29 ERA, and has recorded 17 Ks in 14 innings pitched. He has only allowed two earned runs in his 12 appearances. Rhoderick possess the stopping power every manager desires to have in their bullpen.

Class A Daytona Cubs

Illinois native and former Northwestern Wildcat Eric Jokisch was named the Florida State League pitcher of the week for the second week of May. Jokisch had two wins in two starts in which he allowed no runs in 13 innings of work. He was dominant on the hill due to his impeccable location, giving up no walks to opposing hitters all week. He also racked up 16 strikeouts along the way. Jokisch improves to 3-3 on the season with a 2.90 ERA.

Highly touted outfield prospect Matt Szczur continues to struggle through the opening half of the season. He went 2-for-11 in his three games played this week. He had no RBIs and only one extra base hit. His average continues to dwindle at a mediocre .250. Much like Brett Jackson, Szczur has the ability to be a big contributor in the next few years, but they both must find a groove and turn around what has been an average 2012 season.

Joe Musso contributed to this article

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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