Return of No. 1 pick Kevin White a focal point as Bears begin OTA's

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Return of No. 1 pick Kevin White a focal point as Bears begin OTA's

It was sometime around a year ago that Kevin White’s season started coming off the rails as the rookie wide receiver began experiencing pain in his left leg that ultimately turned out to be a season-ending stress fracture. This week White and the Bears will reset with the startup of organized team activities (OTA’s) that run a handful of days per week, culminating in a mid-June mandatory minicamp before the Bears break until the July 27 opening of training camp in Bourbonnais.

Fewer storylines around the Bears to this point carry the individual significance as that of White, the team’s No. 1 draft choice last year with the intent of his becoming a linchpin of the offense for quite a few years.

Insiders said that White, in the closed portions of practice late last season prior to his being placed on IR, displayed jaw-dropping speed and burst, to the point of Jay Cutler joking that he couldn’t overthrow the kid. The decision to leave White shut down for the balance of the season had more to do with the Bears’ 5-8 record than health concerns; had the Bears beaten San Francisco and Washington and were within reach of the playoffs, White likely is put on the roster with an eye toward the postseason.

But none of that really matters in hindsight. What does matter is what White now does in an offense headed by a new coordinator (Dowell Loggains) and with presumed fellow receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, each of whom had their own 2015 lost playing time due to health issues.

“It’s hard,” Loggains said during rookie minicamp earlier this month of any early impressions of White. “But I can tell you about his character, and he’s everything that we expected.

“He’s a hard worker. His attitude is contagious because he is very positive; he doesn’t have bad days. I think that between him and Eddie and some of the other receivers, they’re bringing out the best of each other, and competition does that. We feel good about the receiver room. It’s a deep room and they’re making each other better.”

94 Days to Kickoff: Lyons Township

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94 Days to Kickoff: Lyons Township

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Lyons Township Lions

Head coach: Kurt Weinberg

Assistant coaches: Jon Beutjer, Bryan Bergman, Mike Morrison, Tim McAlpin, Kevin Diete, Sheldon Harris, Jason Brauer

How they fared in 2015: 5-5 (2-4) West Suburban Silver. The Lions made the Class 8A state playoff field. Lyons Township lost to New trier in the opening round.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Lions reload on the offensive line?

Names to watch this season: QB Ben Bryant, WR Hasahn Austin, DL Mickey Brown

Biggest holes to fill: The Lions bring back 10 returning starters (four offense, six defense), but they will also need to replace all five starting offensive linemen lost to graduation.

EDGY's early take: Weinberg has led the Lions into the state playoff field in each season since taking over the program in 2009. I fully expect the Lions to again challenge for the conference crown and beyond. Lyons Township has some strong offensive skills back and if an inexperienced line play comes around beware.

Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

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Starters help White Sox bullpen maintain health for lengthy stretch

The White Sox are at another point in their schedule where every inning is precious.

So even though they only managed a split in Monday’s doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have to feel good not to have taxed their bullpen.

Mat Latos and Erik Johnson combined for 12.1 innings pitched and five relievers combined for another 5.1 on Monday for the White Sox, who are in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 16 days. Given they have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana scheduled the next two games, the White Sox feel pretty fortunate at the midway point of their lengthy run.

“We didn’t really abuse anybody,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “These doubleheaders can kind of get away from you and both sides probably had that. You get out of these things without having to use anybody in both games and extending anybody.”

With the way things had recently gone for Latos and Johnson’s command issues in his last start, Monday’s doubleheader could have been trouble for the White Sox bullpen.

Latos hadn’t completed six innings since April 24 and posted a 7.84 ERA in his last four starts. And in his only major league start this season, Johnson allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Boston Red Sox on May 5.

Not only do the White Sox have two more here against the Indians, they start a four-game series in Kansas City on Thursday and then head to Citi Field for three against the New York Mets. Only then do they have another day off.

Johnson made two early mistakes, but mostly followed in the footsteps of Latos, who delivered six innings in the opening game before he departed with a 6-3 lead courtesy of a three-run homer by Brett Lawrie.

While Johnson left a 3-0 fastball up to Rajai Davis and he ripped it for a two-run homer, which put Cleveland up 3-1 in the fifth, he faced only five over the minimum through six innings.

“EJ did a good job for us, we just weren’t really getting anything going,” Ventura said.

Johnson — who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the start — entered the seventh inning at 93 pitches. With his team trailing by two, Ventura hoped to steal another inning from his right-hander. The Indians took advantage as Juan Uribe homered and scored another run off the combination of Johnson and reliever Matt Purke, who allowed a hit in 2.1 scoreless innings.

“You want to help the team out and save the bullpen as best you can, especially on these nine and nines,” Johnson said. “That’s your job as a starter for a regular nine inning game, whether it’s a doubleheader or not.

“I’m thankful for the opportunities and if they keep coming I’m going to keep coming back here.”

For now, the opportunity belongs to reliever Tommy Kahnle, whom was added as the 26th man before the doubleheader. By optioning Johnson to Charlotte, the White Sox will employ an eight-man bullpen.