No doubts: LaHair believes it's about to turn

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No doubts: LaHair believes it's about to turn

PITTSBURGH Bryan LaHair knows the trend line, and understands that what he does will be magnified.

The Cubs first baseman gets that its easy to pick out a bad week or two. Its hard to blend in when youre the cleanup hitter for a team on a 10-game losing streak.

LaHair emerged as a bright spot in April, ending the month hitting .390, and it became a story of perseverance. A former 39th-round pick, he had spent parts of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level, and was willing to go play winter ball in Venezuela.

LaHair woke up on Saturday with 10 home runs, tied with Paul Konerko for the major-league lead among first basemen. But his average had dropped 89 points. He was 1-for-25 in his previous nine games. It hasnt shaken his confidence.

Im not getting it done, LaHair said. Im not going to sugarcoat anything. I havent been doing my job to the best of my ability and its tough to do that for (162 games). These kind of things happen. As soon as the season starts, I accept that theres going to be certain parts where I struggle.

Im prepared for it. Its not something I want to happen. But now the challenge is to get past this and get back on track. I got no question Im going to do it. Theres no doubt in my mind.

LaHair looked relaxed sitting in the chair in front of his locker, and he didnt sound the least bit defensive. He believes in all the work that he put in to get to this point, that its made him more mature, better equipped to handle failure.

Its not like LaHair was putting up numbers in garbage time. Seven of his 10 homers have either tied a game or given the Cubs a lead.

Theo Epsteins front office likes LaHairs overall approach, which is why last winter they reassured the Pacific Coast League MVP that thered be a place for him here.

LaHair has been seeing 4.27 pitches per plate appearance, which ranked eighth in the National League. He reached base safely in 32 consecutive games between April 8 and May 15.

Before LaHair cooled off, the team president explained why this shouldnt be a mirage.

The results probably arent going to be this Ruthian, so to speak, Epstein said recently, but I think the quality of at-bats will remain consistent. Its not a fluke. Hes doing things the right way. Hes recognizing pitches out of the pitchers hand really early. Hes letting the ball travel and get deep. Hes really short and compact to the ball.

Hes hitting the ball hard. Hes hitting it where its pitched and hes covering just about the whole strike zone. So hes going to go through slumps and everything, but its really encouraging. Not just what hes doing, but how hes accomplishing it.

LaHair has come back down to earth, part of the natural regression as the advanced scouting picks up and pitchers learn more about his game. Manager Dale Sveum, a former hitting coach, has been a big advocate, but sees a few holes.

Hes getting to the point now where I think hes starting to guess along with the pitcher (and) you cant do that, Sveum said. Hes just not taking his walks. (Its) swinging out of the strike zone, trying to do too much (or) trying to put all the weight on his shoulders.

LaHair wants that responsibility, and isnt looking over his shoulder at first base, even though top prospect Anthony Rizzo is coming fast. The Cubs will want to find ways to put those two left-handed bats in the middle of the order.

LaHair doesnt have to be Babe Ruth, but he could still be in the All-Star conversation.

The whole point of Epsteins year of evaluation was to open up opportunities for the future, and give someone like LaHair 500 or 600 at-bats to finally show whether or not he belongs.

These guys believe in me, LaHair said. The confidence level as far as every time I walk to the box hasnt changed from the first six weeks. Its just when thoughts creep into your mind (you have to remember) its what happens. Its baseball. Im not intimidated by struggling.

White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

Zach Putnam is weighing his options after he had a second opinion on Friday and surgery is one of them.

The White Sox reliever went on the disabled list Tuesday with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Putnam, who has a 2.30 ERA in 25 games this season, last pitched on Sunday in Cleveland.

“(Surgery is) possible,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “But again, we are exploring all the options. We want to make sure we have all the possibilities laid out before us. It’s just one of the things we are considering.”

“Still parceling through the options and at this point we don’t have a specific timeframe for him.”

The White Sox bullpen already is short-handed after losing Jake Petricka to potentially season-ending hip surgery earlier this month. Daniel Webb is out for the season after he had reconstructive elbow surgery earlier this month.

The White Sox bullpen currently features three rookies as result of those injuries and manager Robin Ventura doesn’t see any way of avoiding using them in key spots. Michael Ynoa and Chris Beck both got in and out of trouble and earned holds in Boston.

“We’re gonna have to find a way to get nine innings in and they’re gonna get tested,” Ventura said. “I thought Michael did a nice job the other day. I think even Beck after the first hitter, it could have been a mess. I thought he really showed what he’s made of by coming back. He gave up the sac fly and that was it.”

Blackhawks deal Andrew Shaw to Montreal for two draft picks

Blackhawks deal Andrew Shaw to Montreal for two draft picks

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Andrew Shaw had to wait until his third go-around in the NHL Draft before he was selected by the Blackhawks. Two Stanley Cups later, he became a big part of this group.

Like several before him, he said he wanted to stay here. Like several before him, it didn’t happen.

Shaw was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for two second-round selections, as the NHL Draft began on Friday. The forward was going to become a restricted free agent next Friday. And while both sides said they hoped to find a deal to keep Shaw in Chicago, the deal didn’t come.

The Blackhawks get two second-round picks, the 39th and 45th overall selections, in this draft. That now gives them 10 selections in this draft.

Coach Joel Quenneville talked of Shaw’s importance to the team prior to the draft’s start on Friday. His grittiness made him a fan favorite, and Shaw was someone the Blackhawks could always rely on to be that net-front presence.

“He’s one of those players that you appreciate and he’s so versatile and the intangibles jump off the page when we’re talking about him,” Quenneville said. “It’s a situation where players are in some situations where contracts need to be signed and his importance, contributions we’ve seen over the years has been pretty amazing for us.”

Whether it came down to a big money gap between the two parties, as it did with the Blackhawks and Brandon Saad last year, or something else isn’t known yet. Stan Bowman will likely talk following the first round’s conclusion.

Shaw talked in April of how much he wanted to stay here. At the time, it seemed unlikely, considering the Blackhawks’ cap issues. But after Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen were traded more than a week ago, freeing up more than $4 million in cap space, it seemed more likely Shaw would stay. But he won’t.

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

The White Sox held Jose Abreu out of the lineup on Friday and they’re hopeful it will be enough time for his sore leg to heal.

Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu -- who has a .997 OPS in June with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 89 plate appearances -- has experienced tightness in the back of his right leg, “but his left leg is the one that’s really sore,” he said. While Abreu could be used as a pinch hitter, Ventura said the absence is mandatory.

“He definitely needs (a day off) today -- he needs to be able to stay off it and not even DH,” Ventura said. “He’s a big guy. That’s part of the some of the stuff we’ve done the last couple of years is to get him a day here and there and in this one, he just needs it. He’s been on base quite a bit and as sore as his leg feels, it also looks not too good, either.”

Abreu agrees with Ventura’s call as he sees it geared toward the big picture. The first baseman could be seen limping some during Thursday’s contest, one day after he was hit in the leg by a pitch.

“Sometimes your legs are getting tired and your hamstring is getting tight and you need a break,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Today is a break for me. I came early, I did all my treatments. So far, so good for now. But, yes, I needed this day off.

“You always want to play, but sometimes you also have to realize that the best thing you can do is just to take a break thinking of the future.”

Todd Frazier started at first base for the White Sox and Tyler Saladino was at third with Abreu out of the lineup for only the second time all season.