Cubs-Sox: Samardzija wants the spotlight

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Cubs-Sox: Samardzija wants the spotlight

Toward the end of last season, Jeff Samardzija punctuated a conversation about his future by saying something like this: It would be a shame if I won all those games somewhere else.

Samardzija wasnt bragging or making threats. No one knew who exactly would be running the Cubs or picking up the option year on his contract.

Its just that Samardzija was finally starting to see results and felt like he was on the verge of another breakthrough. He knew the organization had invested a lot of capital in him, and not just the 10 million.

A Chicago guy who grew up in Indiana and starred at Notre Dame wasnt satisfied with being a pretty good reliever, or leaving with unfinished business.

After Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, Samardzija met with the Cubs president and laid out a daily plan for how he would train in Arizona and transform himself into a frontline starter.

The entire city will see how far Samardzija has come on Friday at Wrigley Field, when he takes the ball against the White Sox for the start of a three-game crosstown series.

These are some of my favorite games of the year, Samardzija said. All of Chicago is watching. The place is packed. Its rowdy. Its the atmosphere you want to pitch in.

Samardzija loves the bright lights. Thats one reason why former general manager Jim Hendry and current scouting director Tim Wilken took him in the fifth round of the 2006 draft and gave him a big contract to give up his NFL ambitions.

Thats another reason why the Epstein administration thinks Samardzija and Matt Garza could be difference-makers if the Cubs one day get back to October.

During the offseason, Samardzija purposely moved to his place in Arizona, a distraction-free zone where he joked there is nothing to do except work out and play golf.

Samardzija has the long hair, the dude personality and the Notre Dame pedigree, but that image doesnt quite fit someone who grew up in a strong middle-class family that wasnt afraid of hard work.

I only got in there because I could play ball, not because I could pay tuition, he said with a laugh.

Samardzija has a great sense of humor, and hes clearly comfortable in his own skin. He gets it in a way other professional athletes around the city might not.

Samardzija mentioned how hes looking forward to pitching at Comiskey next month. In his mind, thats what it is.

Its still the Sears Tower, he said. Were stuck in our ways around here.

Samardzija was asked to name his favorite call from White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson.

There are a lot of good ones, Samardzija said. I always liked the ones where he just didnt talk for about an inning-and-a-half. And then all of a sudden hed be like The 2-2two outs Where are the other 15 pitches?

That was when DJ (Darrin Jackson) was there, too. I loved watching those guys. Theyre entertaining. Theyre fun to watch. Theyre fun to listen to. You could always get a good nap in during the Sox game.

Samardzija is a good talker, but he has the numbers to back it up now (4-1, 2.89 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 43.2 innings). After all those growing pains and trips back down to Triple-A Iowa, it wouldnt have felt quite right to put them up in another uniform.

Id rather win games here for the Cubs than anywhere else, Samardzija said. Its where I want to be. I only said that because I had some confidence that I was going to be here and that things were going to go the way I thought they were going to go.

So now its up to me to do what I can this year and next year and really prove to them that I belong here for a long time.

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

A little rain Friday couldn't dampen the Cubs' spirits as they welcomed the Seattle Mariners into town.

The Cubs offense rudely greeted their American League opponent en route to a 12-1 victory at Wrigley Field that included a 74-minute rain delay after the game was well in hand.

As the Cubs have gone through a little offensive lull over the last week or so, they've maintained they need to take what's given to them from opposing pitchers and try not to do too much.

They did that and a whole lot more Friday afternoon, giving the announced crowd of 40,951 fans a lot to stand up and cheer about all game.

Chris Coghlan - just activated off the disabled list Friday morning - got things started with a two-out, two-run single in the second inning and then came around to score on Kris Bryant's single.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the fifth inning and the Cubs then touched up the Mariners bullpen for six runs in the sixth inning, including a three-run double from Anthony Rizzo and a solo homer from David Ross.

In all, the Cubs rapped out 14 hits and walked six times. Bryant led the way with three hits and a pair of walks.

It was all the offense starter Jon Lester needed, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts for his 11th victory on the season.

Lester even got in on the offensive onslaught, drawing a walk and scoring a run in that sixth inning. 

With the Cubs up big, Joe Maddon opted to take out Lester for the top of the seventh after 95 pitches, giving way to Justin Grimm and former Mariner Mike Montgomery for the final three innings.

The game got so out of hand, the Mariners brought in infielder Luis Sardinas to pitch the eighth inning (and he promptly retired Addison Russell, Heyward and Javy Baez in order).

The lopsided score also helps the Cubs' new bullpen, giving Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop the day off.

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

Bears Camp Shorts: Kyle Long out, 'The Interceptor' is in the house

BOURBONNAIS — As expected, right guard Kyle Long was absent from practice on Friday, nursing a calf strain that the Bears will handle conservatively and not rush their Pro Bowl offensive lineman back onto the field.

Long strained his left calf late in Thursday’s practice and Friday saw veteran Ted Larsen step in at right guard with the No. 1 line, as the Bears leave rookie Cody Whitehair in place as the starting left guard for now.

- Additionally, rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was able to make his way through lunch but not onto the practice field after leaving due to ongoing illness Thursday.

[MORE: Bears wide receivers give defense a taste of its own medicine]

- Former Bears cornerback Nathan “The Interceptor” Vasher is in camp as a defensive intern, and the Bears also have brought in former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae to work with the offensive line and young center Hroniss Grasu. Vasher is part of the NFL’s internship program while Mawae is in as a guest instructor, something routinely done for stretches of training camp and preseason.

Vasher earned his nickname in 2005 when he was a Pro Bowl and All-NFL selection after collecting eight interceptions — the Bears combined total for all of 2015 — for Lovie Smith’s first playoff team.

“The league instituted [the internship program] a while ago,” Bears head coach John Fox said. “Have had a lot of guys that were ex-players that are now coaching in the league. I think everybody kind of searches for what they want to do when they retire at a very young age from the game, so I think some guys have coaching in them, some don't. I think Kevin was a very smart player in his career; he can help in the NFL in the coaching profession."

- The Bears secondary could use a little dose of “Interceptor” right about now. Demontre Hurst managed an interception of a Brian Hoyer pass on Friday, but that represents the lone takeaway by the defense through two days of practice. The lack of takeaways proved lethal to the Bears last season, with the lowest full-season total (17) in franchise history.

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- Thursday’s rains appeared to leave the Olivet Nazarene University fields healthy but apparently a little treacherous, as a number of Bears had their feet slip out from under them through Friday’s practice.

- Officials were on hand to “work” the Bears’ practice on Friday, throwing flags where warranted and drawing occasional sharp disagreements with certain Bears coaches.

“You know, you try to simulate as well as you can a real game and they're out there in games,” Fox said. “These aren't NFL officials; they'll be here next week as we prepare for our Fan Fest at Soldier Field to build towards getting ready for games, but obviously it's helpful. They get to monitor the players and kind of do's and don't's and I think it's good simulated football.”

Third time's a charm as Dwyane Wade embraces Bulls and Jimmy Butler as leader

Third time's a charm as Dwyane Wade embraces Bulls and Jimmy Butler as leader

Joking in presentation but serious in intent, Dwyane Wade sat patiently with Bulls GM Gar Forman, refusing to start his introductory news conference until his wife, Gabrielle Union, arrived for the proceedings.

After 13 years of waiting, and then a couple weeks after formally agreeing to join the Chicago Bulls, a few extra moments didn’t feel like an eternity.

For some, Wade was worth the wait.

“Sounds good, doesn’t it?” Forman joked to Wade about announcing him as a Chicago Bull, before going through Wade’s litany of accomplishments, all of which were done in a Miami Heat uniform.

“You make me feel good about myself,” Wade said.

[MORE: Dwyane Wade says the Bulls are Jimmy Butler's team]

With Jimmy Butler off to the side, Wade made sure to announce that despite his pedigree, his rings, his status as a Hall-of-Fame player and respected voice through the NBA that this team isn’t his; He first mentioned owner Jerry Reinsdorf, then Butler, stopping any controversy before it could develop.

“We’re not gonna go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team,” Wade said. “He’s a young Bull who can play 40 minutes. I ain’t trying to do all that.”

It makes Forman’s opening statement about Wade that much more poignant, aside from the 20 points and on-floor savvy Wade will likely provide to a young Bulls team and inexperienced coach.

“As important and maybe more so, the presence and intangibles Dwyane will bring to this organization and this team,” Forman said. “From the locker room to the floor to how he interacts with his teammates…it’ll serve our team well.”

Wade has gone through the city in recent days after his trip from China, readjusting himself to Chicago.

“This is one of those moments for me, that is a dream come true,” Wade said. “It took a long time to get here. But I’m here. The excitement the city has shown, I can’t tell what you’ve meant to me.”

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It was a long and winding road as Wade said “let’s take a trip down memory lane”, recalling the belief he thought he would be drafted by the Bulls in 2003 when they held the seventh pick.

The Miami Heat had other plans.

Then when Wade hit unrestricted free agency in 2010, he had another two meetings with the Bulls and seriously considered them.

“Prime of my career. My first meeting was back home,” Wade said. “I met with a few teams, met with the Bulls twice.”

“It was a place I was really pulled toward. I had the opportunity to play with two good players, LeBron (James) and Chris (Bosh).”

The Bulls weren’t able to lure Bosh and James to Chicago, so the thought of being a Bull went as far as a deleted picture on his camera that showed him in a Bulls uniform—before he realized deleted pictures could be obtained through a cloud.

The third time was the charm, as the Bulls presented themselves as a reasonable option when talks broke down between Wade and the Heat early in free agency, creating arguably the biggest personnel surprise of the offseason—and a curious marriage of a player who still has enough game to be effective with a team struggling to claim a new identity on the fly as opposed to hitting the reset button.

“I still have a little bit left,” Wade said. “I wanted to come here and be a part of building this organization back up and where it should be.”