Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

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Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

The Theo Epstein doctrine isnt quite with us or against us. But the Cubs president is using 2012 to evaluate everyone in baseball operations.

Rudy Jaramillo was fired on Tuesday because Epstein and his inner circle didnt think that the hitting coach fit into The Cubs Way. Nothing personal, they said, just philosophical differences.

Jorge Soler and Albert Almora two elite talents Jaramillo no doubt would have loved to work with appear to be close to joining the organization.

Sources indicated Soler agreed to a major-league deal on Monday reportedly worth around 30 million over nine years. Epstein declined to comment on the 20-year-old Cuban defector, a potential five-tool outfielder to build around.

I saw those reports, Epstein said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. But I cant really address anything until its official. In this case, theres usually a process where theres an agreement and a term sheet and then theres an immigration process with getting visas and then theres a physical.

Epstein said the entire process could take hopefully around a week-ish, maybe longer.

Almora, the No. 6 overall pick in last weeks amateur draft, is facing a July 13 deadline to sign with the Cubs. Advised by agent Scott Boras, the 18-year-old outfielder has emphasized his commitment to the University of Miami.

Weve talked briefly, but I think that process will hopefully pick up here in the coming days, Epstein said. Hes a great student who worked hard to get that full ride to a prestigious university and he does have options. (Those types of kids) should fully examine them. But he loves baseball, too, and well sit down and talk about it.

From here, the front office will pivot toward the July 31 trade deadline, with eyes on adding more prospects to the system. Ryan Dempsters no-trade rights dont seem to be an obstacle, and the Opening Day starter figures to be the first big name to leave Clark and Addison.

Youre constantly balancing or juggling different balls, Epstein said, but its true that once the drafts over with, there seems to be more of a focus on the trade market across baseball. There are more phone calls being made now than there were 10 days ago.

Certainly, thats something well evaluate. Were in a position where any opportunity to get better (and) improve our future is something that we have to take seriously, even if it means making difficult decisions about the product that were putting on the field right now.

Epstein took this job with the understanding that he would have total control over baseball operations. He has the luxury of looking toward the next decade. Hes not worried about breaking the franchise record for losses (103) this season.

Im more focused on where were going, Epstein said. When you focus too much on how fast, then sometimes you make compromises with exactly how youre going to get there. I know you guys are probably sick of hearing me say this, but there arent shortcuts.

We have to focus on putting building blocks in place, whether its acquiring young players who can be part of our core going forward, or making sure the right teaching philosophys in place.

For at least one Badger, loss to Penn State hurts more than 59-0 blowout vs. Buckeyes

For at least one Badger, loss to Penn State hurts more than 59-0 blowout vs. Buckeyes

INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin's last two trips to Indy have not gone well.

Back in 2014, the Badgers were favored heading into their Big Ten Championship Game showdown with Ohio State only to get absolutely destroyed, 59-0.

Saturday night, ranked one spot ahead of opposing Penn State, Wisconsin blew a three-touchdown lead and lost the Big Ten title to the Nittany Lions, 38-31.

It's hard to imagine anything being worse than a 59-0 blowout, but for at least one Badger in the immediate aftermath of this latest loss, this time around hurts more.

"I think it hurt me a little bit more because this is it for me," Wisconsin defensive back Sojourn Shelton said after the game Saturday night. "And I know a lot of guys in that locker room, it’s what we’ve been through. We came back after the bowl game (at the end of last season), we accepted the task of everything that we did, the schedule and everything. This one hurt."

They say it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, though the opposite might be true for leads in a football game. Perhaps it is better to never have led at all than to have a three-touchdown advantage cleared away by an unstoppable juggernaut of an offense that was Penn State on Saturday night.

It was the Badgers who were in complete control early. Corey Clement had a 67-yard touchdown run, the defense was forcing turnovers and scored a touchdown, and it looked like Wisconsin would avenge its 59-0 defeat the last time it was here in similar blowout fashion. But then the Lions turned it on, quarterback Trace McSorley and his bevy of pass-catchers made one highlight-reel play after another and cashed in on four straight touchdown drives.

The Wisconsin lead was gone, and the Badgers looked shell-shocked.

"This one’s tough. Especially just the way that we were rolling in the first half," Shelton said. "It’s tough right now. I can’t go back or anything. Time is going to keep moving. Let it hurt, just move on. It’s the only thing you can do."

Much like Penn State, Wisconsin wasn't supposed to make it this far. The Badgers had a seemingly impossible schedule when the season started, opening against LSU and staring down a stretch of games against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska to open conference play. But Wisconsin survived it, losing just twice to two top-five teams in Ohio State and Michigan and only by a combined 14 points. The Badgers were hands down one of the best defenses in the country, and had they won Saturday night, we might be talking about them as a potential College Football Playoff team.

Instead, it's all what could've been, just like in 2014.

"I think it just hurt so much because I know the work we’ve put in behind the closed doors, the weight room, all the early morning workouts. For us to come up short like this, that’s where it really stings," Shelton said. "I’m not going to say 'bump the Playoff,' but I just think we worked too hard to come up short.

"For the group behind us, let it be a lesson. They’ll be ready."

An awful lot happened after losing to Ohio State two years ago. Head coach Gary Andersen left for Oregon State, athletics director Barry Alvarez coached the team to a big win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl, and Paul Chryst returned as the team's new head coach.

The questions always come after a loss like this about "getting up" for the bowl game. Shelton doesn't think that will be a problem. Why? Because these Badgers have done it before.

"We’ve been here before. Same stadium, worse loss. We’ll bounce back."

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.