A major change for the struggling Ravens offense

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A major change for the struggling Ravens offense

From Comcast SportsNetOWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- Cam Cameron was fired Monday as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, who have lost two straight and are still striving for consistency in the running and passing game.Cameron ran the Baltimore offense since the start of the 2008 season for coach John Harbaugh. Since that time, the Ravens' attack has repeatedly taken a back seat to the team's defense, and this year the offense ranks 18th with 344.4 yards per game.Jim Caldwell, who was hired as quarterbacks coach before the season, will assume Cameron's duties. Caldwell was head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-11.Harbaugh didn't give a detailed explanation for the move, which came less than 24 hours after the Ravens lost to the Washington Redskins 31-28 in overtime."We put 28 points up, so you're not going to say it's a reaction to a down offensive performance. It's not that. I think that's really important to point out," Harbaugh said. "It's what I believe is best going forward for our offense and for our football team."Cam was doing a heck of a job here. He was doing a heck of a job here for a long time. Nobody knows that better than me, and nobody has stated that more times. I believe that. I also believe right now at this time, the timing says this is the best thing, and this is what we're going to do."The move comes with the Ravens stuck in their first losing streak since they dropped three in a row in October 2009. Yet Baltimore (9-4) needs only one win to sew up its fifth straight playoff appearance and holds a two-game lead in the AFC North over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with three games to play."I don't know that staying pat wouldn't have gotten us there," Harbaugh said. "What you try to do is put yourself in the best position possible as you see it to be the best football team you can be and then go compete and go see what you can get accomplished."Our first goal right now is to secure a playoff berth. Our second goal is to win the AFC North. That's squarely in our sights. Our next goal is to secure as high a playoff seed as we can. The next goal is to win playoff games, get to the Super Bowl and win that thing. I feel like this is going to give us the best chance to do that."Caldwell, 57, was quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Indianapolis before taking over as head coach. He will make his NFL debut as an offensive coordinator on Sunday against the Manning and Denver Broncos (10-3)."I had an opportunity to talk with (the offense) and really, in a nutshell, I just tried to make them understand that what we're trying to do is get that much better," Caldwell said, holding his index finger and thumb about an inch apart. "That's about it. That's a difficult task, obviously, trying to get that done in this league. But that's what we're shooting for. It's not a system change. Obviously the Ravens' offense is the Ravens' offense. It's not a philosophical change. John sets the philosophy here of this team and we follow suit."Although Harbaugh refused to criticize Cameron, the Ravens' offense has sputtered at times this season. Baltimore scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions against the Redskins but managed only seven points after halftime. Fifth-year quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 182 yards and committed two turnovers in the third quarter.Baltimore's running game ranks 17th in the NFL despite the presence of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who has topped the 100-yard rushing mark only three times (compared to six times last year). Rice led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2011.Flacco, meanwhile, has been erratic while operating the no-huddle attack and has showed little improvement from a year ago.Maybe things will change under Caldwell. That's Harbaugh's hope, anyway."The move was made because it gives us a chance to be the best we can be. It's just an opportunity to try to get this thing going," he said. "We feel like it's what's best for the team at this time. So that's why we made the move. There's nothing more to it than that."Flacco has committed pivotal turnovers in the last two games, but those defeats can be attributed heavily to the defense. Two weeks ago, the injury-riddled unit couldn't stop Pittsburgh Steelers third-string quarterback Charlie Batch in a 23-20 loss, and the Redskins moved downfield rather easily during a beat-the-clock touchdown drive in the waning minutes of regulation.Cameron, 51, went 1-15 as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2007 before being chosen by Harbaugh to run the Baltimore offense. The Ravens made the playoffs in each of his previous four seasons, and under his direction Flacco became the team's career leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.Harbaugh worked as an assistant coach for Cameron in 1997 at Indiana. After taking over for Brian Billick in Baltimore, one of his first moves was to hire Cameron."There is a very human side to this. Cam is my friend, he taught me a lot about coaching, and he is an outstanding coach," Harbaugh said. "Personally, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach. Cam has been a significant contributor to all of our successes over the past four, almost five, seasons. Deservedly, he is highly-regarded, and we owe thanks to him for what he did for the Ravens."In other news, Harbaugh said injured linebackers Terrell Suggs (torn right biceps) and Ray Lewis (torn right triceps) could return Sunday. Harbaugh described guard Marshal Yanda's sprained right ankle as "somewhat serious" but not a break.

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

Rule 5 pick Dylan Covey takes advantage of showcase as White Sox down Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — If Carlos Rodon starts on the disabled list as expected, the White Sox won't turn to any of their vaunted top prospects in the interim.

The news on Rodon has been encouraging so far as no structural damage has been discovered. Still, the White Sox won't clear Rodon until after he receives a second opinion on Monday. While the length of Rodon's absence won't be determined for several days, the White Sox are certain of one route they won't take — they don't want to disrupt the development of their young starting pitchers. Were a DL trip for Rodon necessary, the White Sox would likely select either Saturday's starter, Dylan Covey, or minor leaguer David Holmberg over their top prospects. Covey made a strong impression on Saturday afternoon with 3 2/3 scoreless innings pitched and the White Sox rallied for a 10-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark.

"When you have an opportunity to stabilize action or movement for players it serves them better," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "They get a little more comfortable where they're at. They get comfortable with the staffs they're working with and the information they're gathering, being in a routine. It is a little disruptive going from team to team to team. It happens, but it's not the most conducive (to learning)."

The White Sox are all about development this season. Therefore, they have no plans to call upon Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer or Michael Kopech unless they're A) ready and B) throwing every fifth day in Chicago. Renteria's comments Saturday reiterated Rick Hahn's earlier message, saying the club doesn't want to disrupt the development path.

That puts Covey, a Rule 5 draft pick in December, with a decent opportunity to make the club out of camp. Covey commanded the strike zone on Saturday only hours after Renteria said he hoped to see the young right-hander replicate an Arizona Fall League performance that initially warmed the White Sox up to him.

Aside from a two-out walk in his final inning, Covey was sharp the whole way. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

"My last couple of outings I was definitely feeling the stress," Covey said. "I was kind of pitching a little passive, pitching to not make a mistake instead of just going right after guys. So today and yesterday I just thought I'm just going to throw every pitch with conviction and see what happens. I got a lot of weak contact today and some swings and misses, so I felt good."

Covey threw 44 pitches, 27 for strikes. He potentially could stay in Arizona on Thursday and make an additional minor league start to build arm strength, which would get him to roughly 60 pitches before the regular seasons started.

The White Sox don't officially need a fifth starter until April 9 and they're off the following day. That break could allow the White Sox to start Covey as part of a bullpen day. Covey said he recently changed his mindset after lackluster results in relief this spring. The right-hander has a 6.94 ERA this spring in 11 2/3 innings.

"Obviously my last two outings out of the pen I wasn't getting crushed, but I just wasn't commanding the ball or commanding the count as much as I would like to be," Covey said. "The mistakes get hit a little harder when you're falling behind in the count. Today I wanted to have the mindset of attacking hitters, throwing everything down in the zone and going right after them, and it worked out."

The White Sox blasted six home runs in the contest, including a majestic, go-ahead grand slam by first baseman Danny Hayes in the top of the ninth inning. Hayes is hitting .351/.400/.595 with two homers and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs this spring. Jose Abreu, Nick Delmonico, Cody Asche, Everth Cabrera and Jacob May also homered for the White Sox. 

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."