Clevenger on ejection: 'It won't happen again'

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Clevenger on ejection: 'It won't happen again'

With the Cubs sunk in an eight-game losing streak and trailing 3-1 - not to mention three touchdowns under .500 - Steve Clevenger's ejection in the fifth inning of Thursday's 5-3 win against Cincinnati for arguing balls and strikes was, on one hand, a welcome site.

Clevenger yelled and pointed at home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Nelson stuck his head right back in Clevenger's face. It was dramatic. It was entertaining. It was something.

If only Clevenger weren't the catcher.

Call it growing pains or just a mental lapse, but Clevenger's decision to speak his mind mid-at-bat to the man who calls balls and strikes for his own pitchers, too, showed how young and raw this Cubs team is.

The 26-year-old argued that the pitch Nelson called a strike was in the same spot as the previous pitch, which Nelson called a ball.

"I felt the ball was outside, and the next pitch was the same exact pitch, I thought," Clevenger said. "He called it a ball. As a hitter, you can't hit like that (when) you don't know whether he's going to call a strike or ball. You can't hit like that."

TV replays showed the ball was well outside, even farther off the plate than the previous pitch, in fact.

But regardless of how calls affect his hitting, the Cubs want Clevenger thinking more like a catcher. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said after the game that a catcher needs to show more composure than Clevenger did.

Clevenger knew that, too, and apologized to Sveum after the game.

"I can't get ejected in that situation," Clevenger said. "I went up and apologized to Dale for getting ejected and said, 'Won't happen again. Can't happen.'"

Ejections aren't all that uncommon in baseball, but with a team this young, everything is a learning experience for these Cubs. Clevenger said he'll talk to Nelson, the umpire who tossed him, when he gets a chance later this season.

A catcher getting ejected while batting is a stupid mistake. But if there's any season for stupid, and learning from it, it's this one.

Johnny Oduya won't play when Blackhawks face Penguins

Johnny Oduya won't play when Blackhawks face Penguins

The Blackhawks are happy to have Johnny Oduya back in the fold. They just won’t be getting him back on the ice tonight.

Oduya is expected to be here at some point today but will not play when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks got Oduya back on Tuesday night, sending Mark McNeill and a conditional fourth-round pick from the 2018 NHL draft to the Dallas Stars.

Coach Joel Quenneville already has designs on re-pairing Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who formed a great duo during previous seasons. But that's when Hjalmarsson comes off his upper-body injury; on Tuesday Hjalmarsson was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to Thursday.

It's dependent on Oduya's health, too. The defenseman is coming off a re-aggravated ankle injury that cost him more than a month; he was back in the Stars' lineup on Sunday against the Boston Bruins. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Oduya as much time as necessary to be 100 percent healthy.

"We'll see how he is and where he's at," Quenneville said. "We're looking forward to getting him on the ice and making sure, coming off this injury, he's more than ready to go."

As for tonight's game, Scott Darling will get the start. Corey Crawford, coming off an illness, skated again this morning and will serve as the backup against the Penguins.

"I felt way better today," Crawford said. "It was a good practice. Just go with the flow, no rush right now. 'Darls' is playing great so that's always good. I just gotta battle, get the timing back in practice and go from there."

Artem Anisimov, who missed Tuesday's practice, skated this morning and will play tonight.

BLACKHAWKS VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

7 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Live stream: NBC Sports app

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Tomas Jurco-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

 

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Michal Rozsival

 

Goaltender

Scott Darling

 

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body).

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forward lines

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel

Carl Hagelin-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist

Scott Wilson-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl-Matt Cullen-Eric Fehr

Defensive Pairs

Brian Dumoulin-Ron Hainsey

Cameron Gaunce-Justin Schultz

Ian Cole-Chad Ruhwedel

Goaltender

Marc-Andre Fleury

INJURIES/ILLNESS: None.

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

INDIANAPOLIS – About this time last year, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was evincing optimism about progress toward a long-term deal with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. That eventually faded to black in the form of a franchise tag that secured Jeffery for the 2016 season at a cost of $14.6 million.
 
This year, no optimism, at least not yet. The Bears have not ruled out having Jeffery for a sixth NFL season, but...

...where last offseason was spent deciding upon the best scenario for retaining Jeffery, this offseason is involving scenarios in which Jeffery is not back.
 
"Our approach – starting with [player personnel director] Josh Lucas, [pro scouting director] Champ Kelly, our pro scouts – they've done a great job, and our free-agent board is stacked," Pace said on Wednesday at the outset of the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's options in free agency and in the draft, and we have to see how it'll play out. We'll know a lot more in the coming week; a little over a week from now I'll be able to answer questions a little more directly.
 
"We have plans in place for every one of these scenarios. I feel extremely prepared for this free-agency process that we're about to enter and it gives me confidence with all these different scenarios."

The Bears opted against a second franchise tag, one that would have committed the Bears to $17.5 million for a receiver who missed 11 full games over the past two seasons and portions of others with injuries in 2015. After a season that saw Jeffery total 52 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games, missing four with a suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance policies.
 
Jeffery was not worth what he thought he was last season, based on production vs. cost. While they were unwilling to let the open market factor into Jeffery's value last year, the Bears were not prepared to use the tag again, a move that would have effectively cost the Bears $32 million over two years and still had him head for free agency after 2017 with nothing to show for it.
 
"It was thought-out thoroughly, obviously," Pace said. "I think sometimes when you can't come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it's necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player's value, and that's really where we're at.
 
"He's a good player and we'll see how it plays out. But I think there are certain instances where testing the market is a necessary part of the process...We're constantly having dialogue with him and that'll continue like it has pretty much always."