LIVE: Cubs fight to sweep series against Cardinals

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LIVE: Cubs fight to sweep series against Cardinals

Brewers claim Neil Ramirez off waivers from Cubs

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Brewers claim Neil Ramirez off waivers from Cubs

The Milwaukee Brewers are in that uncertain place where the Cubs used to exist, trying to collect as many long-term assets as possible, trying to see which interesting project players might actually stick around for their next contending team.

The Brewers have now claimed reliever Neil Ramirez off waivers from the Cubs, potentially adding a right-handed weapon to their bullpen, though that idea comes with the standard disclaimer.

"The biggest thing is good health," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. "If he’s able to maintain good health and get an opportunity, he’s going to pitch really well."

The Cubs acquired Ramirez as part of the Matt Garza trade with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and watched him develop into a dominant setup guy the following season (1.44 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43-plus innings).

But Ramirez has been on the disabled list three separate times since the middle of that 2014 season, accounting for only 14 innings during last year’s breakthrough into the playoffs. The Cubs didn’t find a role for him this season (4.70 ERA in eight appearances) and designated him for assignment on May 21.

"He’s got a great arm," Maddon said. "He’s got a wipeout slider. The velocity, I guess, came back a little bit, but I wasn’t here to really see the difference. Primarily, with good health, this guy can be very good. And I wish him nothing but the best. It’s no more complicated than that. If Neil stays well, he’s going to pitch well."

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

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Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

The Bears of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have been comfortable with prove-it scenarios in their year-plus in Chicago. Indications are growing that they’re leaning toward another one with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

By way of perspective: When Pace took over as Bears general manager a year-and-a-half ago, he hired Fox, and Fox in turn brought Adam Gase with him from Denver as his offensive coordinator. What ensued was a detailed, under-the-radar scrutiny of Jay Cutler, with Gase reaching out to Cutler’s former coaches for their perspectives, among other vettings of the incumbent quarterback.

Neither Fox nor Pace publicly expressed more than tempered positive feelings about Cutler, even with the organization on the hook for a significant amount of money because of the contract given Cutler by former general manager Phil Emery. Chairman George McCaskey stated that the new staff would not be constrained by money if the decision was to move on without Cutler, whose contract still was decidedly not to the liking of the revamped organization, sources have told CSNChicago.com.

Proceeding with restraint and reservations yielded results for a new staff feeling its way with what Emery had declared a “franchise” and “elite” quarterback. Working with Gase and then-quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, now Cutler’s offensive coordinator, Cutler produced the best statistical season of his career.

Now the Bears appear to be following a similar theme with Jeffery (who actually is a “franchise” wide receiver and has the signed tag to prove it). Not that the Bears aren’t down with Jeffery, just not to the degree he envisoned, and perhaps the Bears would be offering if Jeffery had been a gameday “show” more often than he was in 2015.

The Bears placed their franchise tag on Jeffery in late February, and the fourth-year wideout signed the deal that guarantees him $14.6 million for this season. The tag gives the two sides until July 15 to reach a multi-year contract, after which point the tag is Jeffery’s 2016 contract.

Pace has expressed what has sounded like gradually lessening optimism that a long-term deal would be negotiated. The staff was comfortable with Jeffery’s recent injury issues that cost him about half of last season, at least comfortable enough to consider a new contract — with reservations, the kind that come with talking an expensive contract with a player who missed nearly half the preceding season.

Concurrently, Jeffery has been a no-show for all of the Bears’ offseason programs or practices, working out on his own, first in California, lately in Florida.

Jeffery’s absence points to the obvious, that a deal to his liking, in the Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas range of $14 million-to-$15 million range per year, has not reached near completion. Matt Forte played through his tag season. Jeffery will play for his (players don’t skip $14.6 million), and the continued absence even from voluntary sessions says that is the anticipated short-term resolution.

Unfortunately, irrespective of tags, if there is one unofficial indicator of contract problems, it is the no-show.

With two years left on his contract at the time, Thomas Jones employed it in 2006 before then-general manager Jerry Angelo agreed to work at trading him after the following season (which Angelo did). Forte no-show’d in 2011 after he received the franchise tag that offseason, then signed a four-year deal next offseason after Emery succeeded Angelo.

Martellus Bennett, with two years remaining on his Bears contract, skipped voluntary sessions last offseason. He eventually honored his contract, then was traded to New England this offseason.

Just one glitch in the skip-workouts thinking: Jones got new paper from the New York Jets after Angelo dealt him there. Bennett did get himself traded to New England, but the Patriots haven’t done any more in the way of giving him a new deal than the Bears did. He’s still signed through 2016, still due $5.1 million this season. Maybe he envisions getting more balls from Tom Brady than he did from Cutler, but if he’s counting on more than Rob Gronkowski, good luck with that.

Rick Hahn won't 'publicly point fingers' at Robin Ventura for White Sox struggles

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Rick Hahn won't 'publicly point fingers' at Robin Ventura for White Sox struggles

NEW YORK — White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has no intention of second-guessing his manager, especially not in public.

As a three-week long tail spin continues to bring the White Sox closer toward .500, calls for Robin Ventura’s job have grown louder. The White Sox manager has received his fair share of criticism for game management during a stretch in which the club is 4-15. While Hahn said Tuesday he reviews the decision-making process with Ventura and his coaches in private, he doesn’t want to point fingers to avoid causing any unnecessary distractions.

“Part of the reason we are all drawn to this initially was as fans, and fans focus on the lack of results when things are struggling and look for areas to assign blame,” Hahn said. “For me, I don’t think it’s really in anyone’s best interest when things are going bad to publicly point fingers or second guess or assign blame like that on any individual.

“It’s more important to rally together as a group and focus on putting yourselves in the best position to win the next game ahead of you, which is all you can control at this point. That’s really from a public standpoint all that I think needs to be said. We are in a position right now where all we can control is winning tonight and we are doing everything in our power to put ourselves in the best position to do that.”

Once 23-10, the White Sox have run into an abundance of frustration the past few weeks. The team has gone from leading the American League Central by six games to dropping into third place and trailing the Kansas City Royals by two.

Ventura, who is in the final season of his current contract, has received heavy criticism toward the back end of what started Tuesday as a seven-game losing streak. Most recently, Ventura’s bullpen management in a series-opening loss Friday at Kansas City has been called into question as was his decision to bunt with his No. 3 hitter in Monday’s loss at the New York Mets.

“Look, the game management realm is 100 percent the manager’s purview, and I’m not going to stand here and second guess any decisions he’s making,” Hahn said. “Obviously we all have the benefit of hindsight right now in evaluating a decision. Our conversations in private are about the conversations that lead up to the decision or the thought process that leads up to the decision. And from my standpoint, it’s important to make sure that process is sound and that he and our coaches all have the right information when they’re making a strategic in-game decision, and I’m very pleased with where they are from an information standpoint and from a process standpoint. But it’s not my place, certainly publicly, to second guess in-game managerial decisions.”

As for his decisions, Hahn has done his best not to let emotion rule his. Constantly on the lookout for roster upgrades, including San Diego’s James Shields, Hahn said his team’s slide has made it trying at times to remain patient. But Hahn doesn’t want to make any kind of move — whether for a player or a personnel decision — with emotion involved.

“There is a strong temptation when you’re not in between the white lines or in the dugout to try to do something to have a greater impact between 7 and 10 each night,” Hahn said. “And there’s always that temptation to do something to improve your chances to win. But when things aren’t going well, that becomes perhaps a little bit greater, and that’s when you have to guard yourself against doing something strictly emotional or reactionary that’s going to cause perhaps more long-term damage than any short-term benefit from doing something. That applies to a trade or any sort of change to any process you’ve got going on and anyone in uniform. You don’t want to do something that may provide you with the short-term feeling like you’ve done something to have an impact when you’re going to wind up doing more harm than good by doing that move.”