Fire prepare for third game in nine days

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Fire prepare for third game in nine days

Defensively, the Fire was just fine in Wednesday nights 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park, and thats encouraging given the fact that coach Frank Klopas went with a rookie in the back again and had to use a sub back there as well.

Klopas gave Austin Berry his second straight start as a central defender. Berry, the clubs first-round pick in the last Major League Soccer SuperDraft, saw his first game action in Saturdays 2-1 road win over Chivas USA because Jalil Anibaba was serving a one-game suspension.

Anibaba was available this time, but Klopas went with Berry again and it proved a smart decision because Berry was designated as the Man of the Match.

"The team went on the road and won, and I didnt want to change anything," said Klopas, in explaining his decision to stick with Berry.

Anibaba got into the match anyway, in the 51st minute when Klopas felt there was a problem with Dan Gargan on the right side.

"He a warrior, but hes been fighting through certain things and he grabbed his leg," said Klopas. "I wanted fresh legs on that side."

So, Anibaba helped the Fire finish out the first clean sheet of the season for Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson who had played four matches without getting one. The Fire (3-2-3) had just one previous shutout, with Paolo Tornaghi in the nets in the second game of the season on March 24.

Johnson, who played well during some trying times for the team the past two seasons, got his career MLS record above .500 (15-14-16) with his 11th career shutout.

But the play of the four in front of him is noteworthy, since the Fire lost two of last years central defenders, Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta, in the offseason and mainstay Cory Gibbs to knee surgery after the season started. Arne Friedrich, the German veteran, is still rounding into shape after not playing for six months.

"It (his fitness) is getting better every game. A couple more and I should be 100 percent," Friedrich said.

Even in less than ideal shape and playing beside an inexperienced partner, Friedrich likes what hes seeing with the Fire backliners.

"Playing with Austin is perfect," said Friedrich. "Hes very disciplined and organized on the pitch and very good on headers. Everybody know what everybody else is doing."

"Arne is easy to talk to," chimed in Berry. "The whole back line has done a good job communicating and we got the shutout this time a good showing by us."

Enough for the good stuff.

The Fire still could get the goal that would have produced a big victory over the best time in the Western Conference on a night when long-time defensive stalwart C.J. Brown was inducted into the coveted Ring of Fire. Brown is now an assistant coach for RSL (7-3-2) despite getting some great chances.

Dominic Oduros header off the crossbar in the fourth minute set the disappointing tone for the Fire offensively, and Marco Pappa and Rafael Robayo had good chances as the match progressed. The Fire has nine goals in its eight MLS matches and was blanked for the second time on Wednesday, the middle game of its first busy stretch of the season.

The Fire completes a three-games-in-nine-nights stretch on Saturday when Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City (7-2-0) comes to Bridgeview.

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana was pleased with his final warmup before Opening Day.

The White Sox Opening Day starter threw 48 pitches (30 strikes) against a Milwaukee Brewers minor league team at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. Quintana allowed two hits, two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out three in three-plus innings. He next pitches at home on Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

"I finished my preparation on a high note," Quintana said. "I'm heading to the season with good energy and satisfied with all the worked and effort that I put in my preparation.

"I'm absolutely ready for the season to start."

A tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale on Tuesday suggested Quintana will start the season as a member of the White Sox despite myriad rumors. Nightengale noted that the Houston Astros refuse budge on what they're willing to pay for the 2016 All-Star. The White Sox have also held firm on their asking price and haven't been motivated by any of the offers they've received to move Quintana.

The team reduced the number of players still in camp to 34 on Tuesday with the trade of Peter Bourjos and by cutting nonroster invitees Cory Luebke and Matt Purke. Luebke, who has been sidelined for six days after he tweaked his hamstring, finished the spring with a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. He can opt out of his minor-league deal in May. Purke struck out eight in eight innings and finished with a 2.25 ERA. 

Both had been in the mix for one of two open bullpen spots.

Fellow reliever Jake Petricka looked much calmer on Tuesday than he did after taking a comebacker off his hand Monday. X-rays were negative and Petricka played catch. He hopes to pitch as scheduled this weekend in Milwaukee. 

"This is just one of those you do everything you can do to stay healthy, and its part of the game you can't control," Petricka said. "You never want that to happen, especially this late in camp. "But we dodged a bullet and we're good to go."

The White Sox also had a close call with second baseman Tyler Saladino, who was hit by a pitch in the left wrist in minor league action on Monday. Saladino received treatment and could return to action on Wednesday.

"He's doing good, we're just holding him back today for my well being," Renteria said.

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Renteria said reliever Juan Minaya is improving but still likely to start the season on the DL. Minaya suffered an abdominal tear in mid-March. 

"He has been improving solidly and responding to the treatments," Renteria said.

Yolmer Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Surprise, Ariz. 

Michael Ynoa allowed an unearned run and a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Zack Burdi struck out three in a scoreless inning.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

Today on the Sports Talk Live podcast, David Kaplan, Seth Gruen, Teddy Greenstein, and Mark Grote discussed Addison Russell’s injury, if Szczur or La Stella should get the Cubs final roster spot, if the Bulls would be better off facing the Celtics or Cavs in the first round of the playoffs, and Jay Cutler’s butt all over the internet.