McLaughlin looks ahead to 2013

789690.jpg

McLaughlin looks ahead to 2013

Lane Tech's Jack McLaughlin is a mix of contradictions. He is a North Sider who is a White Sox fan. He wears No. 24 because of Joe Crede, not Willie Mays. He is a pitcher with pinpoint control, not an overpowering fastball. And though he understands that baseball is his future, he won't disavow a commitment to his friends and teammates to play football."I always loved playing football and I made a commitment to both sports," he said. "I started at quarterback last year and the team looks to me to lead them. I plan on sticking with my commitment. It's a matter of honor. But I know my future is baseball."Lane Tech coach Dean Stavrakas appreciates McLaughlin's loyalty."He is one of the finest young men I've had the privilege of coaching. But if he really works hard this winter, he will be the best known name in Chicago as a senior," he said.Stavrakas wants him to beef up and skip football this fall. The thought of one of the best baseball players in the state running with a football against 300-pound linemen and 225-pound linebackers is a scary proposition."He wants to do it," the coach said. "I've been talking to him about not doing it. He should spend the off-season conditioning and trying to get a shot at a Division I college and the major leagues. Colleges are looking at him. If he threw 90 miles per hour, that would open eyes, too."McLaughlin doesn't register 90 mph on a radar gun yet. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander averages 82-84 mph. He plans to pitch every weekend this summer for Academy Elite. His goals are to add 6 to 7 mph to his fastball and add another pitch, maybe a slider or sinker, to his fastball, curveball and changeup."I want to add something that goes down and in to a right-handed hitter but looks like a fastball," he said. "I love the feeling of just making kids look terrible while I'm pitching. I like to dominate. I love when the ball is in my hand and everyone is looking at me to make a pitch. I like being the center of attention."McLaughlin can't wait for the 2013 season. Lane Tech closed its 2012 campaign with a 21-14 record, losing to Simeon 2-1 in for the Public League championship, and to Maine West 7-1 in the regional opener. Considering the Indians got off to a 3-9 start, they finished in a blaze of glory.Next year? McLaughlin returns with 20 other underclassmen, including designated hitter Mike Henry, center fielder Matt Delaney and first baseman Walter Nolan-Cohn.But 2012 could have been better. McLaughlin said the 2-1 loss to Simeon "summed up the whole year. There are no words to explain it. We worked hard all season for that game. But we just didn't pull it off," he said."I was happy with my performance. I gave my team a chance to win. But I tip my hat to (Simeon pitcher) Shane Brown, who pitched a great game, too. I have one regret, a 3-ball, 2-strike changeup in the first inning against Blake Hickman. I left it high and in and he hit it to left for a run-scoring double. It turned out to be the difference in the game."Next year's goal is to qualify for the state finals for the first time since 2001. With a new 4 million baseball stadium scheduled to be opened for the 2013 season, there is renewed excitement at Lane Tech. As a senior, McLaughlin hopes to re-establish the winning tradition and regain the respect that the program once commanded."I hope to attract interest (from college and major league scouts) over the summer," McLaughlin said. "I began to realize what my potential was last year, when I lost 2-1 to New Trier in the sectional semifinal. They were seeded No. 4 and we were seeded No. 14. They had Charlie Tillson, who was a major league draft choice. He was my only strikeout of the game."McLaughlin made an error on Tillson's bunt in the first inning. Tillson stole second and third and scored on a fly ball."They had no respect for us at all," McLaughlin said. "We stuck with them the whole game. Their pitcher is at Illinois. I was a sophomore and held my own. It said to me that I can do this at a high level. With our great tradition, teams should have more respect for us."McLaughlin finished with a 7-6 record and a 1.78 earned run average with
69 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 66 23 innings."He doesn't throw hard. The key is his control, down and in and down and away on everything, rarely high," Stavrakas said. "He has command of his fast ball, curveball and changeup. He can throw any of them at any time for a strike. If only he'd stop playing football and concentrate on baseball..."McLaughlin is listening.

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

GLENDALE, Ariz. — His split-fingered fastball could use a little work, but Miguel Gonzalez is ready for the regular season.

The White Sox pitcher allowed four earned runs, all with two outs, in his penultimate Cactus League start on Wednesday. Gonzalez also gave up nine hits as the White Sox lost to the Oakland A’s 5-3 at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm pretty excited for (the regular season)," Gonzalez said. "We all know that spring can be a little long sometimes. But we are here, we are here to work and keep doing what we are doing. We are going to be OK."

Gonzalez allowed two runs each in the first and second innings. Both rallies came with two outs and were a bit of a surprise to the right-hander, who left after 4 1/3 innings. Gonzalez wonders if his split-fingered fastball might not be as sharp as normal because of the dry desert air in Arizona that affects many pitchers.

"It wasn't there today," Gonzalez said. "Not quite as good as I thought it would be. Bullpen I felt really good. Falling behind hitters first two innings. That doesn't really help you, especially a team like this that's very aggressive.

"I'm working on (the splitter). It's fine. I mean it's a little different then it is in Florida. It's not as humid. But you can't think that way. You have to go out there and keep working."

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Melky Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two RBIs for the White Sox. Yolmer Sanchez tripled and homered in the loss. Former White Sox farmhand Frankie Montas struck out four over two scoreless innings to earn the save for Oakland.

The White Sox sent four more players to minor league camp before the game, including reliever Tommy Kahnle. The team sent five players to the minors on Tuesday, including pitcher Carson Fulmer. While Fulmer would love to start the season in the majors, he said it won't hinder him from taking advantage of his time at Triple-A Charlotte.

"Obviously last year getting a taste, it's that dream you've had since you were a kid," Fulmer said. "You want more of it. It's not an addiction in a way. But once you get a taste of it you want more of it. All of us young guys are trying to get back to where we've been. I think time will tell, but I think we'll get a chance here soon and get a chance to create something special."

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Patrick Sharp returns to Chicago.

For the first time this season, Sharp will lace up the skates in the building and city he spent 10 seasons and won three Stanley Cups. He missed the first three meetings of the year due to a concussion, but played in the fourth on Feb. 4 that turned out to be a 5-3 loss for Dallas. The former Blackhawks winger revealed last month that he's been dealing with an undisclosed injury for quite a while that has worsened over time, and will eventually need season-ending surgery, which will likely come when the Stars are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

2. Johnny Oduya faces former team.

Sharp won't be the only one facing his former club tonight. Oduya will face off against the Stars for the first time since being re-acquired by the Blackhawks on Feb. 28 from Dallas, where he spent the last year and a half after signing a two-year contract in the summer of 2015. He was a key part of the team's blue line that won their first division title since 2005-06 last year.

3. Jamie Benn scoring drought.

After scoring 12 goals in his previous 16 games, including three in two games to start March, Benn hasn't scored in six straight, his second-longest drought of the season; his first stretched to nine games from Oct. 20-Nov. 10. It's been a tough season in Dallas, and Benn only recently started looking like the player that finished last season ranked third with 41 goals and second with 89 points. But he's still one of the best players in the league, so don't think a down year makes him any less dangerous on the ice.  

4. Ryan Hartman with a hot stick.

Hartman had been quiet for a little bit, failing to find the back of the net in nine consecutive games. He's been lights out in the last three, where he registered a season-high six shots on goal and scored the game-winning overtime goal in Toronto, and scored two more in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime loss to Vancouver. He's now up to 18 goals on the season, which ranks fifth among all rookies, and all but one have come at even strength. Two more would put him at 20 goals, and would make him the seventh Blackhawks player this season to reach that total.

5. Another successful night coming for the power play?

The Blackhawks took advantage of their six power-play opportunities on Tuesday against Vancouver by cashing in on two of those. They were only 1-for-13 (7.7 percent) in their previous seven games. They're welcoming a Stars team that ranks dead last in the penalty kill department with a 74.0 percentage, and the Blackhawks will look to build off last game's success and keep it rolling.

Buy tickets to tonight's game here!

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse