Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

741026.png

Cubs ship Byrd to Boston for Bowden

The Cubs had been shopping Marlon Byrd long before his 3-for-43 start to the season. Talks accelerated once Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury went down with a shoulder injury.

The Cubs finalized the deal on Saturday, trading Byrd and cash to Boston for right-hander Michael Bowden and a pitcher to be named later. The Cubs will pay the majority of the roughly 5.9 million remaining on the final year of Byrds contract.

The slow start didnt play any part at all, general manager Jed Hoyer said on a conference call. We had talked about some deals at the end of spring training and our feeling was weve been trying to acquire relief pitching, really, since the end of the winter.

We felt like an area where we have some surplus and some young players we want to play is the outfield.

The Cubs have options in center Joe Mather, Reed Johnson, Tony Campana until top prospect Brett Jackson shows enough at Triple-A Iowa to earn a promotion.

Bretts a big part of our future, Hoyer said, but I wouldnt read into anything with this deal as far as when we might bring him up.

The three former Red Sox executives now running the Cubs Hoyer, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod know all about Bowden, the 47th overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora.

Bowden will report to Wrigley Field, likely on Monday, and take a spot in the Cubs bullpen, where there is definitely opportunity. The 25-year-old was designated for assignment on April 15 and has a 5.61 ERA in 39 career major-league games.

There is potential upside. Bowden spent most of last season as the closer at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 3-3 with 16 saves and a 2.73 ERA. He finished with 61 strikeouts against only 18 walks in 52.2 innings.

Hoyer said the Cubs have a list of pitchers from the Red Sox organization, and will select the player to be named later by the middle of May.

Byrd returns to Fenway Park, where last May he collapsed after a fastball from Alfredo Aceves fractured his face. An All-Star in 2010, he missed six weeks last season and wound up hitting .276 with 35 RBI in 119 games.

Byrd played with maximum effort, but could also be a strong, difficult personality. The 34-year-old outfielder who was hitting .070 will have something to prove in his walk year.

Youre on a big stage in Chicago, and he knows hes going to be on a big stage in Boston, Hoyer said. Hes been in a little bit of a funk here and sort of having the batting average reset (in) the American League (could) be a real good thing for him.

Id be surprised if he didnt go over there and help them. Right now, theyre in a position where theyre a little bit thin in the outfield and theyre going to be welcoming him with open arms.

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

kirk-ferentz-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Hawkeyes going to Outback Bowl for fifth time, taking on Florida

Iowa is going back to the Outback Bowl.

Yes, for the fifth time in the last 13 seasons, the Hawkeyes will wrap their campaign with a trip to Tampa and an appearance in the Outback Bowl. And for the third time, their opponent there will be the Florida Gators. That game kicks at noon on Jan. 2.

Iowa and Florida met in the Outback Bowl to conclude the 2003 and 2005 seasons, splitting those two matchups.

This time around, the Hawkeyes are coming off an 8-4 regular season, a disappointing follow up to their 12-2 campaign a season ago that started off a perfect 12-0 before postseason losses in the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl.

Kirk Ferentz has led his team to a bowl appearance in 14 of his 18 seasons, though Iowa has lost the last four of those games, without a bowl win since taking down Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl.

Iowa is 2-2 in its four previous Outback Bowl appearances, beating Florida, losing to Florida, beating South Carolina and losing to LSU.

As for the Gators, they own an 8-4 record, as well, after falling to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game. Florida is known for its sluggish offense, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country.

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

pat-fitzgerald-1204.jpg
USA TODAY

Start spreadin' the news: Northwestern to face Pitt in Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium

Start spreadin' the news.

Northwestern is heading to New York for its bowl game this season, specifically the Bronx, where it will battle Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Though it isn't your typically warm bowl destination, the baseball-stadium setting should be pretty fantastic. The game will be played at 1 p.m. on Dec. 28.

The Wildcats reached bowl eligibility with their sixth win in the regular-season finale against Illinois. Northwestern is heading to back-to-back bowl games after missing out on the postseason in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014.

This is just the 13th-ever bowl trip for the Cats, though it's their seventh in 11 seasons under Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern has a 1-5 record under Fitzgerald in the previous six bowl games, though that win is one of just two all-time bowl victories by the program.

This season started slowly for the Cats, who lost upsetting home games to Illinois State and Western Michigan and started 1-3. But Northwestern turned things around with back-to-back road wins over Iowa and Michigan State and finished 6-6. The Cats' offense has been particularly effective this season compared to seasons past. Wide receiver Austin Carr took home Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors and is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after leading the conference in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Running back Justin Jackson was the league's leading rusher until getting surpassed by just a couple yards by both Wisconsin's Corey Clement and Penn State's Saquon Barkley, who both competed in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game, adding to their respective rushing totals.

Pitt has had a pretty noteworthy season. Despite having four losses, it beat two teams that finished ranked in the top five of the College Football Playoff rankings: No. 2 Clemson and No. 5 Penn State. The Panthers are coached by former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.