Ventura: Sale, Danks likely to be held back at start of spring


Ventura: Sale, Danks likely to be held back at start of spring

White Sox spring training games start in exactly one month but dont count on seeing Chris Sale or John Danks in any early action.

With the beginning of World Baseball Classic action on March 2, Major League Baseball has pushed up the start of spring training to accommodate teams. The White Sox play against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Feb. 23, which is typically a week earlier than spring training games begin.

Despite the schedule, Ventura said Wednesday the White Sox early plans wont include Sale, who completed a career-high 192 innings last season, or Danks, who had shoulder surgery in August, in the name of preservation.

Were starting really early, and I really wouldnt want him to get going, and probably Sale the same thing, Ventura said in an event at the Gilda Club, a free cancer support community for men, women and children. Probably not start them off when we start playing games. Probably push them back to maybe in the middle, where we would have been anyway, just to save him a little bit.

Ventura, who will enter his second season as White Sox manager, also said his staff has considered a different middle of the order for the 2013 season. Last season, slugger Adam Dunn often manned the third spot in the order. But with only two left-handed hitters in the starting lineup -- leadoff man Alejandro De Aza is the other -- the White Sox might put space in between the two. Alex Rios, who led the 2012 White Sox with 184 hits, a .304 average and 93 runs, is considered a top candidate if Ventura elects to switch up the lineup.

When we start our first game, Dunn might be there, but again were kicking it around, Ventura said. Maybe Rios starts there. With us not having a lot of left-handed hitters right there, you might have to separate him and De Aza a little bit more than you would normally.

Ventura also said the teams plans at third base arent concrete. Free agent signee Jeff Keppinger -- who received a three-year, 12-million deal -- is expected to man the hot corner and is the teams best option for now, Ventura said. But Ventura said Keppinger might not be restricted to third base when hes in the lineup.

I dont know if hes etched in stone, but theres a strong -- right now, thats where hes at, Ventura said. Over the course of spring, it could change as far as doing something else. I would say, as of right now, I would see him there. Not stone. Stronger than parchment.

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

LOS ANGELES – Within minutes of the last out on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, ESPN’s @SportsCenter account sent out a photo of Moises Alou at the Wrigley Field wall to more than 30 million Twitter followers: “The last time the Cubs were up 3-2 in an NLCS was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Marlins. Most remember it as ‘the Bartman Game.’”

As Kerry Wood once said: “Irrelevant, dude.”
Look, the Cubs still need to find a way to beat either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill this weekend, with Kenley Jansen resting and waiting for the multiple-inning saves. The obligatory description for Kershaw is “the best pitcher on the planet.” Hill’s lefty curveball – and “the perceptual velocity” of his fastball – freezes hitters. Jansen has a mystical cutter reminiscent of the great Mariano Rivera. The top-heavy part of this Los Angeles playoff pitching staff has held the Cubs to zero runs in 16.1 innings.

But until proven otherwise, forget about this idea of a Cubs team weighed down by the history of a franchise that hasn’t played in the World Series since 1945.

Just look at Javier Baez getting in Anthony Rizzo’s airspace during Game 5, the human-highlight-film second baseman standing right next to the All-Star first baseman as he caught a Kike Hernandez pop-up for the second out of the third inning.

It didn’t matter that this was a 1-0 game and MVP-ballot players Justin Turner and Corey Seager were coming up. This is what the 2016 Cubs do. Rizzo caught the ball, quickly flipped it underhand and it bounced off Baez’s chest – in front of a sellout crowd of 54,449 and a national Fox Sports 1 audience.

“We always mess around,” Rizzo said at his locker inside a tight clubhouse jammed with media after an 8-4 win. “So I’m screaming: ‘Javy! Javy! I got it! I got it, Javy, I got it!’

“And usually he’ll yell at me: ‘Don’t miss it!’ Or I’ll yell at him: ‘Don’t miss it!’

“We do that a lot. If it’s a pop-up to him, I’ll go right behind him. It’s just little ways of slowing the game down and having fun, too.”

Rizzo is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency this year. As a super-utility guy, Baez got credit for 11 defensive runs saved in 383 innings at second base, or one less than co-leaders Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, who each did it in almost 1,300 innings.

“Sometimes when I call (Rizzo) off to get a fly ball, he starts talking to me,” Baez said. “I tell him: ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want. Just don’t move my head. You can touch me if you want. Just don’t move my head.’

“And I told him to be ready for it, because I was going to do the same thing. You just got to be focused on the fly ball. No matter what’s happening around you, you just got to catch it.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This isn’t about Bartman. It’s about a group of young, confident players who are growing up together and absolutely expect to be in this position. It’s manager Joe Maddon designing “Embrace The Target” T-shirts and telling them to show up to the ballpark whenever they want and then blow off batting practice.

“For sure, we’re relaxed,” said Baez, who’s gone viral during these playoffs, the rest of the country witnessing his amazing instincts and flashy personality. “I’m relaxed when I play defense.”

The thing is, Rizzo and Baez could be playing next to each other for the next five years, the same way Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be anchoring the left side of the infield.

This is how Rizzo introduced Russell to The Show when a natural shortstop tried to learn second base on the fly last year and track pop-ups in front of 40,000 people: “Hey, watch out for that skateboard behind you! Don’t trip!”

“Oh yeah, we yell at each other all the time,” Rizzo said. “It’s just one of those things where you got to stay loose.”