Kaplan: No need to rush Rizzo

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Kaplan: No need to rush Rizzo

With reports circulating regarding a possible call up of the top Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo from Class AAA Iowa, I decided to look at his service time and how that will factor into the team's decision regarding when to promote him to the big leagues.

Rizzo is having his second consecutive banner year in the minor leagues but last season when he received a promotion to the San Diego Padres he struggled mightily hitting just .141 with 46 strikeouts in 128 at-bats and eventually ended up back in the minor leagues and being traded to the Cubs in the Andrew Cashner deal.

While I understand the interest in seeing the Cubs move incumbent starting first baseman Bryan LaHair to left field and starting Rizzo at first base while rebuilding a struggling team it is important to look at the service time rules as it affects free agency and how it will affect Rizzo. A player receives free agency after six full seasons in the major leagues. There are 183 days of service time possible in a big league season and a player is required to have 172 days to count as a full season. Rizzo accumulated 68 days of service time in 2011 which means he needs 104 days this season to achieve a full year in the big leagues. However, if the Cubs keep him in the minor leagues long enough this season he will fall short of a full year by a few days which prevents him from reaching free agency until after the 2018 season. The date that the Cubs should have circled on their calendars is June 23rd because if Rizzo is not on the big league roster before then he will not have enough days left in the season to reach 172 days.

Now could the Cubs promote him in early June to use him in some interleague games when the team will need another bat in the lineup because of the DH? Sure, but if they do they will need to send him back down to make sure he does not have the necessary 104 days. To some that may not seem like a big deal but when you have a player with the potential impact of Rizzo it is imperative that the Cubs do all they can to hang onto an asset as long as possible. Why rush to call him up now when the team is as bad as it is and you gain nothing and you move him towards free agency and a potentially huge payday one year earlier than is necessary?

Some pundits have wondered about Rizzo and his Super Two arbitration status but for him to miss out on a year of arbitration would require the Cubs to keep him in the minor leagues until late July at the earliest and that is not something that I see happening. Free agency is one thing to keep an eye on but in this case the Cubs are not concerned with his arbitration status and if he plays as well as they hope, they will not have a problem paying him.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy." 

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