Williams shows compassion for Ozzie's situation

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Williams shows compassion for Ozzie's situation

With the White Sox first home game of the season just hours away, Kenny Williams not only was asked a question about Ozzie Guillen -- he actually answered it. That's because the question asked if Williams felt any compassion for Guillen in the aftermath of the manager's Fidel Castro controversy.

"My standard answer is no comment, and I'd rather talk about the focus of this ball club and what's happening with this ball club compared to anything else," Williams said. "But you used the word compassion. I cannot help but have a little bit for somebody that has meant so much to the organization and meant so much to me personally over the years. So I guess the answer to that is question is, yeah, I do have some compassion as to what's going on."

What Williams did say, though, was similar to the comments of Guillen's former players and teammates.

"You feel for Ozzie," Gordon Beckham told the Associated Press earlier this week. "I think all of the guys in this clubhouse knew what he meant when he said it. It was like, this guy (Castro) has had people trying to get him, take a shot at him, and he's lasted 60 years. Sometimes Ozzie says more than he should."

But Williams reiterated that he's not thinking about south Florida.

"Our focus is right here and I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment beyond that," he said.

American sweep and European rally at Ryder Cup

American sweep and European rally at Ryder Cup

CHASKA, Minn. (AP) -- Even with the first opening-session sweep in four decades, the Americans were reminded anew Friday that no lead is safe in the Ryder Cup.

Not after one session. Not after one day.

And based on the last Ryder Cup on American soil, not until it's over.

Europe battled back from a 4-0 deficit behind its best tandem, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, and capped off a long and rowdy day at Hazeltine when its best player, Rory McIlroy, holed a 20-foot eagle putt and then mocked the crowd by taking a bow.

The American celebration turned into a consolation.

They had a 5-3 lead, the margin after the first day at Medinah four years ago that ended in another European victory. They lost a chance to really put Europe in a hole.

"It's frustrating not to come out a little bit more ahead," U.S. captain Davis Love III said.

Love could not have scripted a better start - a symbolic one, too.

To honor Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday night, Ryder Cup officials placed on the first tee Palmer's golf bag from when he was captain of the 1975 Ryder Cup team. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed then set the tone with a 3-and-2 foursomes victory over Stenson and Rose, and the Americans delivered the first sweep of the opening session since that 1975 team at Laurel Valley.

Phil Mickelson, feeling more pressure than usual because of his influence on changes and on this team, also produced big shots. His wedge into 5 feet that Rickie Fowler converted was key in the Americans winning three straight holes for a 1-up victory over McIlroy and Andy Sullivan.

"With everything going on - me not having a point and Phil being a big part of getting the players a lot more involved to Arnie passing and him being a huge part of the week, this is big for us," Fowler said.

It just didn't last.

"The guys were disappointed with the way they played this morning and the way they performed," European captain Darren Clarke said. "But they showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done this afternoon."

Beaten for the first time, Rose and Stenson went right back out against Spieth and Reed and handed the American duo its first Ryder Cup loss. The Europeans made nine birdies in 13 holes for a 5-and-4 victory in an afternoon session in which the board was filled with European blue.

Sergio Garcia, who along with Martin Kaymer made only one birdie in a foursomes loss, teamed with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello to dismantle J.B. Holmes and Ryan Moore. McIlroy and Pieters never trailed against Johnson and Kuchar, handing them their first loss in four Ryder Cup matches.

The lone American point in the afternoon came from Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, who had no trouble against Kaymer and Danny Willett.

Willett had a little trouble with the crowd, especially when they lampooned him around Hazeltine with references to hot dogs and his brother, Pete, who had written a column in a British publication disparaging American galleries.

"It was anticipated," Willett said. "Coming to America is a tough one, just like when the Americans come to Europe. They gave me a little bit more. I think it was exactly what we thought it was going to be."

It wasn't just directed at Willett, however.

The crowd was loud and boisterous from the opening tee shot in misty conditions. There were a few rude comments, not unusual in America for a Ryder Cup. McIlroy had a 20-foot birdie putt to halve the morning foursomes match against Mickelson and Fowler when a fan from across 100 yards away shouted, "Get an American to putt it for you." That was a reference to McIlroy and Rose losing a playful $100 bet to an American fan who made a putt in Thursday's practice session.

Most striking was how quickly the crowd cheered bad shots for Europe. Typically, there is the slightest delay. Not on Friday. Sullivan, one of six rookies for Europe, hit his tee shot into the water on the 17th that put Europe 1 down and effectively ended the match. The crowd cheered before there was a ripple.

That's what inspired McIlroy in the final match of the day. He and Pieters were 2 up on the 16th hole, with Kuchar already in for a birdie, when the four-time major champion drained his 20-foot putt. Turning to the crowd, he bowed twice and screamed out, "C'mon!"

"I wanted to put an exclamation on that session for us," McIlroy said. "I thought about that celebration before I hit the putt."

More than a celebration, it was a message from McIlroy to what he felt was a hostile crowd.

"I'm not fazed by anything said by the crowd," McIlroy said. "And I'm not fazed by anything the U.S. throws at us."

Joe Maddon keeping thoughts on Cubs’ playoff rotation to himself

Joe Maddon keeping thoughts on Cubs’ playoff rotation to himself

CINCINNATI – After Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price dropped 77 F-bombs on reporters during an epic rant that went viral last year, Joe Maddon explained his dealing-with-the-media philosophy by saying: “At the end of the day, we’re not trying to conceal weaponry being sold to Iran.”

Maddon’s had a clear understanding of how the Cubs want to align their playoff rotation for about a week now, but the manager who will thoughtfully answer just about any misinformed or off-the-wall question doesn’t want to reveal those plans yet.  

“We have an idea of what we want to do,” Maddon said Friday at Great American Ball Park. “But we haven’t had that final conversation with Theo (Epstein) and Jed (Hoyer) and everybody else (in the front office) and all of our coaches.

“What I like to do under these circumstances is talk to the players first before they have to read about it in the newspaper.”

Do the pitchers already know?

“They’re not stupid,” Maddon said.

That type of scenario sparked Price’s meltdown last April, when it looked like one of Maddon’s former players – they worked together in 1985 and 1986 in Midland, Texas, at a Double-A affiliate for the California Angels – could get fired midseason. Price survived 98 losses, and even with the team heading toward another last-place finish this season, the Reds announced a one-year contract extension with a club option for 2018 before Friday’s game against the Cubs.   

Where the manager’s hot seat used to be the dominant storyline around this team at this time of year, the Cubs have now lined up Jon Lester (19-4, 2.28 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 1.99 ERA) for Games 161 and 162 this weekend, giving them two leading Cy Young Award candidates for the front of their playoff rotation.

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Maddon indicated the opponent – whoever emerges from the three-team battle among the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals and wins the National League wild-card game – won’t change how the Cubs set their pitching matchups.

In theory, the Cubs can also rearrange Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) and John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) in a different order for Games 3 and 4, but it sounds like the brass has already made that decision, whatever it is. 

“You could if you wanted to, but I don’t anticipate that,” Maddon said. “Again, I want to make sure before we make that announcement.”

However it shakes out, Arrieta and Lackey will have to wait almost two full weeks from their last regular-season start until their first playoff action on Oct. 10-11, on the road, in a best-of-five series where anything can happen.   

“That’s always been the major complaint I’ve heard,” Maddon said. “It’s just up to us to handle it properly. Now, of course, it may be difficult or rusty or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know. And then again, the rest might just do somebody really good. It just depends on the individual. These are the kind of things that are kind of outside of your control.

“You do your best in order to meet the challenge. That’s it. And you don’t make excuses. You don’t cry about it. You just do it, because, in advance, you know this is how it is set up.

“Otherwise, there’s nothing you can do about it, man.”

The Cubs have first-division problems, avoiding the major arm injuries that decimated the Mets. The Giants would have to burn a Madison Bumgarner start in the one-game playoff. The Cardinals are in this precarious position because their rotation has been so inconsistent.

“We are where we are because of our starters,” Arrieta said. “Our offense has been, obviously, spectacular, (but) we’ve all pitched really well throughout the year. I think we’re in a situation where we should be able to enjoy that for a little while.

“We’ll be ready for the first round.”