Kap: 'The Riz Kid' gets off to a strong start

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Kap: 'The Riz Kid' gets off to a strong start

Every high school team has that one gifted freshman who gets called up to varsity and threatens all the veterans positions.

Sometimes the elder statesmen label the youngster as an outcast, other times his talent is embraced and it pushes everyone else to perform better. Anthony Rizzo is the new kid on campus and Cubs veterans are certainly leaning toward the latter.

Since Rizzo was called up a week ago the Cubs have won five out of six and have shown flashes of improvement as a team. "The Riz kid" himself has gone 7-for-23 (.304) with two home runs, five RBIs, two doubles and a .986 OPS. He has also delivered the game-winning RBI on three occasions. And lets be honest no matter how good he is none of the seniors want to get outplayed by a freshman.

Since Rizzos arrival Luis Valbuena is hitting .333 -- .87 points above his average -- with six RBIs and a 1.030 OPS. David Dejesus is also a prime example of the Rizzo effect, hitting .64 points above his average since the call-up. Darwin Barney has been hitting well above his average. That, coupled with a few outstanding nights in the field shows great progress for him as well.

Whether related to Rizzos arrival or not, Starlin Castro took four walks last week, which is more than a third of his season total. I dont know if its the unrelenting Chicago heat, Rizzos arrival or a mystery element, but the Cubs have more closely resembled a team with playoff hopes than one in last place of late.

Rizzo doesnt appear to be feeling the pressure either -- because honestly, there isnt much. This is the perfect environment for a talented prospect to find his bearings in what can be a cruel and unforgiving league. If anyone is feeling the heat it is Rizzos teammates who are trying to keep pace with the new guy.

Cubs brass has made it clear that this team is in the process of a massive roster overhaul and sometimes all it takes is a fresh, talented face in the clubhouse to remind some of the veterans that tomorrow is never a guarantee.

It is much too early to pass judgment on the new guy but there does seem to be an aura about him. In one week "The Rizzard of Oz" has granted Valbuena a swing, Barney a glove and Castro an eye.

But most importantly, he has granted Chicago a glimmer of hope for the future.

Joe Musso contributed to this update.

Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

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Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

One team is playing as well as it has all season and is closing in on a playoff spot. The other team is facing the possibility of elimination by the end of the night.

A hot Seattle Sounders team hosts the struggling Chicago Fire on Wednesday on CSN. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

Seattle (11-13-5, 38 points) is 5-1-2 in its past eight matches. The Sounders have been boosted by the arrival of Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and likely Rookie of the Year winner Jordan Morris has been red-hot. Lodeiro has three goals and eight assists in nine matches. Morris is up to 12 goals on the season after scoring four in the past four games.

“Of course we are very, very careful with their transition with guys like Morris up in front,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They can be very dangerous in attack.”

[SHOP: Pick up a Fire home jersey here]

The Fire played at New York City FC on Friday. The team returned to Chicago before making the trip to the Pacific Northwest. All that travel in a short period of time plus facing a surging team in front of a big crowd at CenturyLink Field is not a good recipe for success for the Fire.

While the Sounders are closing in on the playoffs — they sit three points back of sixth-place Portland but have two games in hand — the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) are trying to get out of last place. The Fire are five points below the closest teams in the standings, Columbus and Houston. If Montreal beats San Jose and D.C. defeats Columbus, both games that will finish before kickoff Wednesday in Seattle, the Fire would need to get at least a tie to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Despite the long odds to make the playoffs, Paunovic says motivation is not a problem.

“That’s part of our job, keep them motivated and work on that,” Paunovic said. “So far because of their commitment, I think that was easier to do. We of course have to continue doing that. The team is already addressed on that.

“We have the responsibility for ourselves. We have the responsibility for our profession and we have a responsibility for our supporters.”

The Fire arrived in Seattle without goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who is out for the second straight game with a toe injury. Lampson hasn’t started in MLS play since Aug. 6. The only other injury listed by the club is John Goossens, who has missed the past two matches with a back injury. Goossens is questionable.

The big news out of Seattle is that Clint Dempsey’s irregular heartbeat, which has kept him out of the past five matches, has ended his 2016 season early. Dempsey’s loss is massive, but Seattle still has plenty of talent for the Fire to worry about.

“They like to keep the possession, especially in the opponent’s half,” Paunovic said of the Sounders. “They have very quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro I think the team improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home I think they have very good support and they feel more confident, but they are a team that is not unbeatable. They also had early in the season their issues and there are some weaknesses we can say that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of.”

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

TV: CSN

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Bears make Joique Bell, CJ Wilson signings official, send Kyle Fuller to IR

Bears make Joique Bell, CJ Wilson signings official, send Kyle Fuller to IR

With injuries all over the place, the Bears had a bevy of roster moves to announce on Tuesday night.

The most notable of those were the signings of running back Joique Bell and defensive lineman CJ Wilson, as well as moving injured defensive back Kyle Fuller to injured reserve.

Bell is a five-year NFL veteran whose played in 68 games in his career, most recently over the course of four seasons with the Detroit Lions from 2012 to 2015. In his career, he's rushed for 2,234 yards and 22 touchdowns on 561 attempts.

Wilson has spent the past six seasons in the NFL and has played for Bears division rivals the Green Bay Packers and the Lions, as well as the Oakland Raiders. He's played in 78 games in his career, contributing 111 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

Fuller hasn't appeared in any of the Bears first three games after appearing in 32 games over his first two NFL seasons.

Additionally, the Bears announced that linebacker John Timu has been elevated to the active roster and that linebacker Jonathan Anderson and tight end Greg Scruggs have been waived.