The window is closing on Garza

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The window is closing on Garza

PITTSBURGH Time is running out if the Cubs want to cash in Matt Garza for prospects before the trade deadline.

Garza always says he doesnt care about the rumors, and has downplayed a potential elbow issue. This was his immediate focus: Leaving Pittsburgh on Tuesday and returning to Chicago to be with his pregnant wife and await the birth of their child.

Garza will be re-evaluated on Friday, almost a week after exiting his last start in St. Louis with a cramping feeling in his right triceps. The Cubs have pretty much ruled out starting him this weekend against the Cardinals.

That would only leave July 30 against the Pirates as a possible showcase start. The trade deadline will come at 3 p.m. on July 31 in Chicago, where the Cubs will have a night game at Wrigley Field.

Assistant general manager Randy Bush said hes very optimistic that Garza wont have to go on the disabled list: Everythings looking good with him.

The feeling was that if the Cubs were going to trade Garza, it would be right near the deadline, when an aggressive or desperate executive finally decided to meet their demands.

Otherwise, Garza is still under club control through 2013. Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer could reopen talks this winter.

Even with the Garza question mark hanging over the rotation, and Ryan Dempster weighing where hed approve a trade, manager Dale Sveum minimized the risk of injury.

Dempster is still planning to start on Wednesday at PNC Park, in what could be his final game in a Cubs uniform.

Any time somebody steps on a field, I guess, somebody could get hurt, Sveum said. But theres nothing you can do about it. Right now, hes a Chicago Cub and hes pitching tomorrow and were gonna do everything we can to win tomorrows game. Thats whats going on now in the Chicago Cubs world.

Theres a lot more going on behind the scenes. The Cubs can only hope that Dempster who has already been on the disabled list twice this season makes it through without any issues.

You still dont just hold people out when nothings happening, Sveum said. If it was a position player, would you hold him out for a week, because his names mentioned and things are in the works? You just dont do those things.

You dont start taking people out of lineups and missing starts because of rumors or because their names mentioned.

The Dempster negotiations have clearly reached a more advanced stage. Check back Wednesday morning to see if the plans have changed.

You dont take him out of the rotation until it happens, Sveum said. Until Theo calls me and tells me that something happened, you dont change anything.

Justin Morneau takes batting practice but won't rush rehab process

Justin Morneau takes batting practice but won't rush rehab process

Justin Morneau took 25 swings during batting practice on Saturday and bounced back well enough to hit in the cage Sunday morning, clearing another hurdle as the 35-year-old eyes his White Sox debut sometime after the All-Star break in July. 

Saturday was the first day Morneau took batting practice since undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason. The 2006 American League MVP said he doesn’t have a hard timetable on when he’ll go out on a minor league rehab assignment but plans to keep taking batting practice and travel with the White Sox to Houston next weekend and make a determination from there. 

“We have a plan that we want to make sure to not come back too soon and don't come back at less than what's going to be useful,” Morneau said. “You push it as much as you can, but you have to be smart about it, too, and realize that coming back too soon and not being completely healthy is going to hurt in the long run. It's a fine line of figuring out the best way to do it. But so far it's been good.”

Morneau has 13 seasons of major league experience but admitted he was nervous stepping in for batting practice on Saturday. He quickly felt better after taking a few swings and didn’t experience anything unexpected during or after his first batting practice session. 

“It's different facing 65 than it is facing 95, too, so that'll be a test and then getting in the game and swinging and missing and all that kind of stuff,” Morneau said. “It’s a little more controlled when you know what's coming and you know every pitch is the same. But it's reacted well so far.”

Morneau traveled with the White Sox to Cleveland and Boston last week and has maintained a presence in the team’s clubhouse since signing a one-year, $1 million deal on June 9. The longtime Minnesota Twins first baseman was in the dugout when the White Sox blasted seven home runs on Saturday and had memories flash back of his time playing here as an opponent (in 64 games at U.S. Cellular Field, he hit 15 home runs with an .836 OPS). 

“I saw that and went, 'There's a reason I remember I like hitting here,’” Morneau said.

61 Days to Kickoff: St. Edward

61 Days to Kickoff: St. Edward

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: St. Edward Green Wave

Head coach: Mike Rolando

Assistant coaches: Marc Rusinko, Steve McShane, Eloy Diaz, Scot Brockner, Mike Childers

How they fared in 2015: 6-4 (4-1) Metro Suburban East Conference. St. Edward made the Class 4A state playoff field and lost to Richmond-Burton in opening-round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can youth reign supreme in 2016 for the Green Wave?

Names to watch this season: Quarterback Dylan Mlinarich, wide receiver/defensive back Saveon Smith

Biggest holes to fill: Can the Green Wave replace the overall offensive production lost to the spring graduation of running back Dwayne Allen?

EDGY's early take: St. Edward has a very young yet experienced team as the Green Wave welcome back 13 starters from a season ago. Look for this team to challenge for a conference crown and way beyond this fall.

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

The 2016 NHL Draft has officially come and gone, and it's time to assess how each team in the Central Division fared. Taking each team's circumstance under consideration, grades were determined by the execution of their big picture plan. 

Chicago Blackhawks: B+

For the second straight year, the Blackhawks didn't own a first-round pick after trading it at the deadline for Andrew Ladd. They did, however, have the most draft picks out of any team in the Central Division (nine), including three second-rounders after acquiring two of them in a deal that sent Andrew Shaw to Montreal.

The first one, No. 39 overall, was used to select Alex DeBrincat, who was projected to go in the first round but slipped because of his size (5-foo-7, 165 lbs). Scouts are already comparing this pick to Brandon Saad in a sense that it's a player with high upside and has the potential to be a second-round steal.

One thing we do know is, DeBrincat can score and he does a lot of it. The 18-year-old winger registered two consecutive 51-goal seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hocky League, where he compiled 104 points in 2014-15 and 101 points in 2015-16.

The Blackhawks added some defensive depth by drafting defenseman Chad Krys, who played with DeBrincat on Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championship, at No. 45 overall and Russian winger Artur Kayumov with pick No. 50 to cap off the trio of second-round selections. 

Along the way, the Blackhawks stockpiled a pair of 2017 draft picks, giving them 10 total when they host the draft in Chicago for the first time ever.

Colorado Avalanche: B

The Avalanche are quietly gathering a young and skilled forward group in Colorado. While defense has been an issue since Patrick Roy took over as head coach, they've been near the bottom of the league in puck possession numbers as well, and the selection of Tyson Jost at No. 10 overall is a step in the right direction to patch up both areas.

Draft experts are comparing Jost to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a two-way centerman who has the ability to play against top competition on a nightly basis.

Already with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog as the franchise cornerstones, Jost figures to draw into the lineup at some point over the next couple seasons, along with offensively-gifted Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen, who they drafted at No. 10 overall last year.

The Avalanche also selected two defensemen, Josh Anderson in the third round and Nathan Clurman in the sixth round, addressing a glaring need.

Dallas Stars: C

The Stars have created an identity in Dallas built on speed and strong puck possession numbers, and their first-round selection of Riley Tufte is an interesting one. He's one of the tallest forwards in this year's draft at 6-foot-5, but scouts say he's a strong skater with great hands for his size.

While he may not blend in with the fast-paced style, he's a versatile player that can play up and down the lineup, the type of hockey player every team needs.

To address their goaltending situation, the Stars drafted Colton Point in the fifth round as a potential long-term project and solution in the crease. This came shortly after the Stars officially gave up on and parted ways with netminder Jack Campbell, who was once thought to be the next big thing, after he was shipped to Los Angeles for defenseman Nick Ebert.

Minnesota Wild: C

The best move of the weekend for the Wild was, hands down, the decision to buy out the final year of Thomas Vanek's contract and the $6.5 million cap hit that came with it. While the penalty will be $1.5 million this year and $2.5 million in 2017-18, it opened up $5 million in cap space for a team that currently has just seven forwards under contract in 2016-17 and wants to contend before the championship window starts to close.

As for the draft itself, the Wild had only one pick in the first three rounds — and four total — but luckily for them it was a first-rounder used on forward Luke Kunin at No. 15.

He's regarded as a solid two-way player who plays with high energy, something the Wild could use as they transition into the Bruce Boudreau era.

Nashville Predators: B+

The Predators had eight draft picks this year (with at least one in each round), and — surprise, surprise — they used five of them on a defenseman, including their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) Dante Fabbro and second-round selection (No. 47 overall) Samuel Girard.

Fabbro is expected to play next season at Boston University, but with Shea Weber on the back-nine of his career and Seth Jones being traded to Columbus in exchange for Ryan Johansen, the Predators are hoping Fabbro can be their next young stud on the blue line.

St. Louis Blues: B

The Blues owned only one draft pick in the first three rounds last season, but this year they had three in the first two, and eight overall.

Tage Thompson fits the crop of the Blues as a versatile power forward with offensive skill, and they liked him enough to trade up two spots to take him at No. 26 overall. Jordan Kyrou, their second-round selection, drew some positive reaction as a guy that jumps off your television screen. 

Thompson and Kyrou were two of seven forwards drafted by the Blues, with the other being a goaltender, Evan Fizpatrick, with the 59th overall pick.

Speaking of goaltenders, the Blues also made one of the biggest trades of the weekend by dealing Brian Elliott to Calgary for a second-round pick (which turned out to be Kyrou at No. 35) and a conditional third-rounder in 2017, with the caveat that Elliott re-signs with the Flames.

With Jake Allen ready to take on the full-time role in net and the Flames desperately needing a starter, it's a deal that made sense for both sides, but perhaps the Blues could've gotten more for Elliott given his 2016 success, both in the regular season and postseason, and great value at $2.5 million.

Winnipeg Jets: A-

The Jets are building something special in Winnipeg after owning two first-round picks for the second straight year.

Auston Matthews, who went No. 1 overall to Toronto, is certainly the most well-rounded player in this year's draft, but the Jets arguably drafted the player with the highest ceiling with the second overall pick: Patrik Laine, who compared himself to Alex Ovechkin, a six-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner.

Laine will make an immediate impact on the Jets in his first season. Factor that in with the possibility of Kyle Connor, who was named USA Hockey's College Player of the Year and left college early to sign his entry-level contract in April, joining the Jets at the same time as Laine and Winnipeg's future is almost here.

Logan Stanley, a 6-foot-7 defenseman, may have been a reach at No. 18 overall, but the growing threat of losing Jacob Trouba, who's a restricted free agent on July 1, via a trade or an offer sheet may have forced their hand to keep that blue line stocked with young, promising talent.