Healthy Boozer quietly setting example

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Healthy Boozer quietly setting example

Even Tom Thibodeau will admit, the way Carlos Boozer introduced himself to Chicago didnt exactly endear him to the city. After tripping over a gym bag during training camp, the prized free-agent acquisition was forced to miss a huge chunk of the early season with a right-hand injury.

This season, its been a different story, as the power forward has been the only Bulls starter to play in all 50 of the first-place teams games this season. A big reason for that is that Boozer reported to training camp after the NBA lockout in much-improved physical shape.

Its huge. He got hurt early last year, but I think he came back in excellent shape, so I think thats helped him a lot and last year his injury was misfortune. Then, he had the turf toe at the end of the season and the ankle sprain, but that was probably from all the time that he had off and this year, hes just been ready, right from the beginning, said Thibodeau. Hes lighter and I think thats a very good point. Particularly for big guys, I think light and lean as they get older is critical.

I think its difficult to lead when youre injured and the team was new to him. You have to be playing to lead, really. Now that hes been here for two years, I think hes a lot more comfortable knowing his teammates, his teammates know him knowing the system. Its hard to lead when you get hurt in the first week, you dont know your teammates and you dont know the system. Carlos has been a terrific player in the league for a long time, he continued. Hes playing strong. Hes always had that strength. I think its made him quicker. I also think it helps to avoid injury.

Though Boozers numbers are down from a season ago, hes been efficient and a key cog in an overall relatively healthy big-man rotation featuring fellow starter Joakim Noah and backups Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. The quartet will have to play well Monday night against the deep, dangerous Nuggets at the United Center.

Theyre tough, said Thibodeau. Leading scorer and forward Danilo Gallinari being out makes them a little bit different, but theyre very deep. They have a number of guys on their second unit that are really starters. You look at Andre Miller, hes a starter in the league. Sixth man and veteran forward Al Harringtons a starter. Starting point guard Tywon Lawsons been terrific for them. Rookie forward Kenneth Faried is a high-energy guy. Center Timofey Mozgov is tough. Forward Wilson Chandler, of course, picking him up late after playing in China due to the lockout, hes still getting acclimated, but hes still a terrific player. And shooting guard Arron Afflalo has really established himself as a solid two-way player in this league, and each year, hes gotten better and better. Hes playing at a high level for them.

Recently acquired center JaVale McGee is another starter. Hes athletic, changes the game with his defense, can run the floor. This team flies up and down the floor, the balls in the paint, they can put it on the floor, theyre unselfish they probably dont get enough credit for that they make the extra pass and they have a lot of versatility to their lineup because they can play Lawson and Miller together. Chandlers the type of guy that can play three positions, Harrington can play four positions, so theres a lot of flexibility with the guys and theyre all hard-playing. They all play hard, he continued. "Nuggets head coach George Karl has been there a long time. Hes done a terrific job. I dont think people overlook them because theyre going to play fast, theyre going to play hard. Now, theyve taken on some injuries, so that sort of slowed them down a little bit, but theyre going to be playing with great urgency. Theres a bunch of teams that are fighting for those last spots in the West and theyre one of them, so theyll be ready to go.

Thibodeau is fortunate that the Bulls will have Noah in the lineup Monday, as the center avoided a suspension though not a league-imposed fine for being ejected from Saturdays eventual win over the Raptors after throwing a ball in the direction of an official.

Im disappointed with his frustration. I think Jo has grown quite a bit, in terms of his professionalism, and it was a tough game, said Thibodeau. As a team, we werent playing very well, but I do want him to control his emotions.

Thibodeau did let his guard down a bit when asked about the ongoing NCAA Tournament.

I follow it a little bit. I think itll be terrific. I think itll be a great Final Four. I think its a wonderful time of the year for college basketball, he said, giving his trademark politically-correct answer before being asked about whether Kentucky, led by Chicago native Anthony Davis, was the favorite to win the Final Four. They Kentucky are deep, but I tell you, I wouldnt overlook Louisville either.

That might not sit well with his star point guard, Derrick Rose, who played at Memphis for Kentuckys coach, John Calipari.

I havent talked to him since the tournament started. I dont want to jinx him or anything, so Im just going to wait until after they win it and Im just going to call him then, said Rose. Theyre a great team. If anything, I think Coach deserves it and theyre the team to do it.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.