White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

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White Sox not taking exception with Konerko's beaning

The White Sox may have pulled out a 3-2 win over the Cubs Friday at Wrigley Field, but the loss suffered in the third inning may loom larger.

A 2-2 splitter from Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija ran inside on Paul Konerko, hitting him in the face and leaving the White Sox captain crumpled in a heap at home plate for a few scary moments. The 36-year-old first baseman got up and had to be escorted off the field with a towel pinned to his face, as he suffered a small cut above his left eye thanks to the 85 mile per hour pitch.

"You never want to see a guy get hurt, period. To have a ball around someones head is a scary situation," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Its something you dont want to see."

Manager Robin Ventura said he didn't have an update on Konerko's status, which was announced as just a laceration and swelling, although he was set to undergo further tests. Pierzynski saw Konerko before he left the park, though, and offered somewhat encouraging news.

"His eye was pretty swelled up, but he was cognizant and didnt say he was dizzy or anything," Pierzynski said. "Ive seen him get hit before and get up and go to first. It was a little scary when he didnt get right up. He seemed fine and well see how he feels tomorrow."

Konerko homered in his previous at-bat, so when Samardzija's offering sailed inside, naturally there were calls for blood from the White Sox fans in attendance at Wrigley Field. The Sox, however, weren't playing that game -- at least, so they say.

Philip Humber threw a fastball up and behind Bryan LaHair to lead off the bottom of the fourth, a pitch Humber and Ventura insist just got away from the White Sox starter. But home plate umpire Tim Timmons had other ideas and issued a warning to both benches.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't label the pitch as retaliatory, but if it was, he thought the Sox could have done a better and safer job of sending the message.

Are you expecting retaliation of somebody throwing at somebody elses head? No," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, youre not really expecting any retaliation after somebody gets hit by a split-finger fastball. Were obviously not trying to hit Paul with any kind of pitch like that.

"But if theres retaliation, youd sure appreciate if the guy throws a little bit lower than he did. Unfortunately, you know, he didnt."

Sveum, essentially, just hoped the pitch got away from Humber and that it wasn't thrown in response to Konerko's beaning. Ventura tried to add some credence to that thought after the game.

"If we wanted to do anything, we would have hit him," Ventura said, referring to Samardzija, who led off the bottom of the third. "It's just baseball, you just keep going."

"That one just got away from me," added Humber. "It's just one of those things that happens during the game."

Pierzynski and Samardzija chatted before the Cubs pitcher came up to hit in the third, during which Samardzija apologized. From the sound of it, Pierzynski and his teammates knew the beaning wasn't intentional.

"He was asking if Paul was ok and that was it," Pierzynski said. "It was an offspeed pitch and we knew it wasnt intentional and Samardzija just said to tell Paul he was sorry, I didnt mean to do it. I was like yeah, we know. It was no big deal."

But in these crosstown contests, plenty of things can be blown out of proportion. Luckily for Gordon Beckham, most of the vitriol was directed at the umpiring crew when he, for all intents and purposes, tackled David DeJesus off the second-base bag, leading to a questionable out call that ultimately got Sveum ejected for the first time in his managerial career.

"I couldn't stop. I tried to get there and realized right when I lunged out that I was going to be late and ended up basically tackling him," Beckham said. "Didn't mean to do it, obviously."

For the first time in a little while, Friday's game felt like a classic crosstown matchup. The beaning of Konerko, the play at second, Samardzija's game-tying single, Beckham's go-ahead home run and, of course, Kerry Wood's final career pitch contributed to a lively atmosphere after questions about the series going stale were numerous this week.

"I think that was more than the typical game, it seemed like there was a lot of stuff going on," Beckham said. "Both teams played really hard, so you gotta be proud about that. We were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Fortunate is a good way to put it. The Sox are hoping Konerko, arguably the most irreplaceable player on the roster, won't miss much time. Without Konerko, the Sox may be fortunate to come away with wins.

Someone else who's hoping Konerko is back soon is his golfing buddy, who happens to be the manager on the other side of town.

"I hope Pauls all right, because hes a friend of mine," Sveum said. "I play with golf with him. Hopefully, its no big deal.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NHL season as he made the Blackhawks roster out of training camp.

It didn’t last long, however, as Baun was back with the Rockford IceHogs after two games with Chicago. As for that season in Rockford?

“That was a whole other story,” said Baun.

Indeed, Baun lost a good portion of his Rockford season when his right wrist was sliced twice by another player’s skate in mid-November. That, however, is all behind him. Now Baun hopes to replicate his 2015 camp performances and latch on with the big club longer.

Baun will play in his first preseason game this fall when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. The 24-year-old skated is expected to start on a line with Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero, with whom he skated on Friday morning.

“I just want to simulate what I did last year, and it went well at the beginning,” Baun said. “I want to keep working hard, do what I did last year in the exhibition season and hopefully I can stick again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Baun’s stint was short lived last fall; he was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 16, and was looking to have a strong season there. Less than a month later, however, he suffered his right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than three months. Baun said he still wasn’t quite right even when he returned.

“I was trying to get back with the wrist and stuff, and I’m not sure it was 100 percent by the time I came back,” said Baun, who now wears Kevlar guards on his wrists. “So it was good to get a summer of training back in and get my legs under me.”

As for that wrist, Baun said it’s definitely “much better now.”

“The strength and dexterity is back,” he said. “It’s a small muscle, so to get the dexterity back was kind of tough.”

Baun is looking for another opportunity. Considering the opportunities for forwards this season, a good showing could lead to some more time in Chicago.

“I’m just trying to focus on my own game like last year. I think that worked for me, trying not to look too, too much into what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Consistency is the biggest thing here. They’re just looking for a guy who can come in, game in and game out, and improve.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford, who just wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey play on Thursday night, will probably get “three or four days off” before joining camp, assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “They’ve been going for a long time,” Kitchen said. “We’ll give them some time off.”

- Coach Joel Quenneville flew to Pittsburgh with the team.