From Comcast SportsNetFOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots can make quick work of the NFL draft. With no picks after the fourth round, Bill Belichick and his braintrust could be done long before the seven-round selection process is over.Don't count on it.Belichick usually stays busy making deals on draft day -- trading up for a player he wants or down for a lower pick plus an additional choice the following year. In 2010, he sent the 22nd pick to Denver for the Broncos' 24th and a fourth rounder. Then he shipped that 24th selection and his own fourth-round pick to Dallas for the 27th and a third rounder.As usual, his plans for the three-day draft starting Thursday night are shrouded in mystery. He didn't even have a pre-draft news conference, sending director of player personnel Nick Caserio out to address reporters instead.For now, the Patriots have two picks in the first round (the 27th and 31st), two in the second (16th and 31st), and one each in the third and fourth (both the 31st)."Historically, there's been a lot of movement as it relates to our picks," Caserio said. "Right now is where we are, but the door is always open. I would say that those things kind of evolve as the draft sort of moves along."We'll see how it goes."The Patriots sent their fifth rounder to Cincinnati before last season for WR Chad Ochocinco, who had a disappointing year with just 15 receptions. They traded picks in the next two rounds on the same day, Sept. 5, 2010, with the sixth rounder going to Philadelphia for linebacker Tracy White and the seventh rounder to Kansas City for safety Jarrad Page.But they do have an extra pick in each of the first two rounds. Of course, they could trade any of those, most likely for a pick in the current draft."You try not to look too far into next year because there's an air of uncertainty," Caserio said. "You don't really know what that quantity of players is going to look like. You may have some idea throughout the course of the fall when you're going through it, but I'd say for the most part you're focused on (this) year."And this year they have plenty of positions to shore up despite reaching the Super Bowl against the New York Giants that wasn't decided until the final play -- Tom Brady's desperation heave into the end zone that fell incomplete in a 21-17 Patriots loss.The Patriots allowed the second most yards overall and in pass defense last season, and need help throughout the unit.They were 14th in the NFL with 40 sacks, led by Mark Anderson and Andre Carter with 10 each. But Anderson signed with Buffalo as a free agent and Carter is a free agent whose season ended with a knee injury in the 14th game of the season. The secondary also could use help, especially at safety where 2010 first-round draft pick Devin McCourty moved over from his normal cornerback position.Among those who could be available in the first round to help the pass rush are Nick Perry of USC, Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Vinny Curry of Marshall and Shea McClellin of Boise State."I think the quantity of front seven players, I'd say is higher than it's been in the past," Caserio said. "There are some other positions where maybe there aren't as many players. It evolves and it rotates every year. I'd say every draft is sort of different just in terms of quality and quantity of player."In the secondary, the Patriots could have a shot at cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore of South Carolina and Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama and safety Harrison Smith of Notre Dame.New England also lacked a deep threat last season, but the signing of free agent Brandon Lloyd could make the need for a speedy young receiver less pressing.There's an unusually large number of underclassmen in the draft and that could pose a dilemma for teams."You need to delve in a little bit further, especially with underclassmen because you could have a player who let's just say has been out of high school for three years," Caserio said, "or let's say he's a redshirt sophomore, who only played one year of college football at a productive level or started for one year, so you have to make that determination. Next year, do you think that performance would improve or would it decline?"Another issue is the possibility that some veterans will retire. Left tackle Matt Light and right guard Brian Waters may go that route."Our thinking won't change," Caserio said. "We'll approach it the same way and we'll deal with things on a day-to-day basis, however they unfold."
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tyler Saladino hit leadoff on Wednesday, finishing with a home run and a single.
Saladino's first-inning drive was one of eight combined homers hit between the White Sox and San Diego Padres, who finished in a 9-all tie at Camelback Ranch. Before the game, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said that Saladino, who finished 2-for-2, would see most of his playing time at second base.
"He's been developing and continuing to grow every single season," Renteria said. "The flexibility that he brings allows him to be in the lineup over an extended period of time. But we want to make sure we take care of him as we want to do with everybody else, kind of keep them all fresh as much as we can.
"He's developed into a pretty good major league baseball player."
Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico and Jake Peter all homered for the White Sox. Delmonico led the White Sox with five homers this spring. Abreu went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs.
Rule 5 pitcher Dylan Covey, who appears primed to make the Opening Day roster, allowed two earned runs in his lone inning pitched. Covey then headed to the bullpen and threw additional pitches there as the White Sox continue to build up his arm strength.
Veteran Anthony Swarzak allowed a run and struck out two in two innings. Reliever Dan Jennings allowed five runs (four earned) and four hits in 1/3 innings.
First-rounder Zack Collins drew a pair of walks in his only plate appearances and scored a run.
The White Sox ended the spring with a 16-15-2 record.
MESA, Ariz. – One minute into the media scrum outside the West Wing, a Washington reporter asked Theo Epstein if this season would be considered a disappointment if the Cubs don't win the World Series.
"Oof, I hadn't thought too much about 2017 yet today," Epstein said after President Barack Obama's final official White House event. "But, yeah, I mean, that's our goal. I think the organization has come such a long way and we have this talented young core. We're clearly in a very competitive phase where I think if we do our jobs, we could be as good, if not better, than any team in baseball.
"So if you're going to compete, you set your sights for the world championship. It doesn't always work out that way. But we see it as our jobs to do everything we can to be back at the White House next year."
Whether or not Epstein would actually go through with a Donald Trump photo op is a different story. But with the Cubs signaling their Opening Night roster – keeping outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella while lefty reliever Brian Duensing begins the season on the disabled list – you could make the case that the team breaking camp on Wednesday looks better on paper than last year's World Series winner.
"This is a crazy talented group," All-Star closer Wade Davis said. "There's 10 or 12 players on this team that are some of the best players in baseball."
That doesn't mean the Cubs will develop the same chemistry or sense of purpose, but this team is completely used to the national spotlight, hanging out with celebrity fans and being followed around like rock stars on the road.
Epstein compared this camp in Arizona with what the Boston Red Sox faced after ending the 86-year drought.
"I will never forget in '05 spring training, we had 5,000 people the first day, 3,000 fans every day," Epstein said. "I was expecting it to be as nuts. But it's been refreshingly normal, reflecting the personality of our players, taking everything in stride."
This doesn't mean the Cubs will stay as healthy as they did last year, when the projected rotation made 152 starts combined. But four-fifths of that group returns with Brett Anderson – given his natural ability, pitching IQ and extensive medical file – appearing to have a higher ceiling and lower floor than Jason Hammel.
As Anderson said: "It's not too often that you have a salty veteran with multiple rings (John Lackey) in front of you and a guy (Kyle Hendricks) that led the league in ERA behind you."
The 2016 Cubs won 103 games and scored 800-plus runs: without Kyle Schwarber contributing a single hit during the regular season; and with Jason Heyward finishing with a .631 OPS (or 103 points below the league average).
Manager Joe Maddon said Geek Department projections have this lineup generating even more offense with Schwarber as the new leadoff guy (even with a brace on his left leg), continued growth from young players like Addison Russell and Willson Contreras and Heyward not being one of the worst hitters in the majors.
The Cubs are also counting on a full season from Davis, instead of a half-season rental like Aroldis Chapman. Where last year's Opening Night bullpen featured three guys who would get DFA'd or traded by midseason (Neil Ramirez, Clayton Richard, Adam Warren), this version features three guys who've already notched the final out in a World Series (Davis, Koji Uehara, Mike Montgomery).
"All the additions are wonderful complements to what this team was already," Schwarber said. "Upgrades. It's going to be really cool to see how it all plays out this season with more guys getting another year of experience under their belt."
Ian Happ raising his profile and hitting around .400 in the Cactus League should help his trade value if the Cubs need to deal for pitching at the trade deadline. The combination of Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in center field should be an improvement over Dexter Fowler for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year.
As someone with fresh eyes – and the perspective from being on Los Angeles Dodgers teams that won back-to-back National League West titles – Anderson hasn't see any signs of complacency.
"Not at all," Anderson said. "The young guys are still hungry. And the handful of guys that weren't here last year makes you that much more hungry and itchy to get back where they were last year.
"It's a really good mix – if not a perfect mix – of young guys, veteran guys and a couple fresh faces that are eager to get back to what these guys accomplished last year."