From Comcast SportsNetDwight Howard's season is over. His chances to help Team USA win another Olympic gold are likely done, too.Orlando's All-Star center told ESPN.com he will have season-ending back surgery, and Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed the plan to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night."It's in his best interests to have surgery sooner rather than later," Smith told the newspaper.Friday's operation in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk also will keep him from playing in the Olympics in London, Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN.com."I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse," Howard told ESPN.comHoward has been dealing with back problems since early March, but it wasn't until last week that a doctor discovered the herniated disk."He said I can start rehab right away and be back to full contact in four months," Howard told ESPN.com. "So I'm not really concerned. If anything, I'll come back stronger."Howard has missed the last six games because of the injury. Orlando holds the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and coach Stan Van Gundy said last week that he was preparing to play the rest of the season without Howard.Now it looks as if Team USA will have to plan to play without Howard as well.USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Thursday night he hadn't been told of Howard's plans and it was too early to speculate on the Olympic team.The final roster of 12 players and six alternates is due June 18 and the U.S. may have to consider increasing its pool of possible candidates with Howard out and fellow big man LaMarcus Aldridge iffy following right hip surgery."I understand exactly who's involved," Colangelo said. "The only thing I don't know is the extent of Dwight Howard's situation, and I really want to find out more about that. But we may have to consider, you know, invitations to a couple (other) players. That's a possibility. We'll talk about it."The Miami Heat may see Orlando in the playoffs. When the news of Howard's surgery hit their locker room Thursday night, Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- both likely Olympic-teamers -- wished Howard well and said it was disappointing not to have him in the mix for the London Games."He's a big part of our team for the Olympics and I hate to lose him because of an injury," James said. "I wish him the best."The surgery is the latest development in the Magic's soap-opera season that has grabbed more attention than the team's record.Howard was the subject of season-long trade rumors until declaring in February his intention to remain in Orlando for one more year. The controversy continued earlier this month when Van Gundy said Howard asked team management to fire him. Howard has since denied that. Another report from an Orlando television station this week said Howard called Magic owner Rich DeVos to say he was refusing to play for Van Gundy again.Before this season, Howard had only missed two games in his career because of injury.Howard is averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.The Magic also have been playing without Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) since April 5. He's averaging 10.7 points and is shooting 34.9 percent on 3-pointers.With Howard and Turkoglu sidelined, Van Gundy has started Glen Davis at center with Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson at forward. J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson start in the backcourt.
Carlos Rodon is on a roll, Carson Fulmer made his first big league start and Lucas Giolito’s White Sox premiere is on deck. With Reynaldo Lopez already in the majors and Michael Kopech now at Triple-A Charlotte, the first wave of the White Sox pitching future is on hand.
Rodon turned in another good outing to help the White Sox to a split of Monday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field. The third-year starter overcame a slow start and delivered 6 1/3 strong innings in a 7-6 victory in Game 1 at Guaranteed Rate Field. While Fulmer was knocked out after only 1 1/3 innings in the nightcap, White Sox manager Rick Renteria is enthusiastic to see that several of his young pitchers have reached their final stage of development.
“It's a glimpse of what's to come,” Renteria said. “I think they should be excited. We're excited to finally get to have them here with us and start to see them a little bit more and we can start to gauge where we're at, where they are in their development. We look forward kind of starting to scratch the surface of what's coming in the future.”
The White Sox need look no further than Rodon’s own path to identify how a young pitcher’s development can zig and zag. The third pick of the 2014 amateur draft raced through the minor leagues, struggled with command once he arrived in the majors, found some solid footing late in the 2015 season, battled again early in 2016 before he righted the ship over the final two months. And that’s before Rodon spent three months on the disabled list with a sore left shoulder and had command issues when he returned nearly two months ago.
But now, Rodon is on yet another of those rolls in which he appears to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. His re-emergence has yet again presented the White Sox with hope that Rodon can front the new wave of starting pitchers. After Monday’s effort, Rodon has five straight quality starts with a 2.25 ERA and 36 strikeouts over his last 36 innings.
Even so, Rodon knows he has more work ahead to get where he wants.
“There’s still stuff to work on,” Rodon said. “There’s stuff I need to get better at and more strikes, more command and trying to get back to that no walk thing.”
The White Sox understood they needed to be patient with Rodon and are even more aware of how they’ll need to be now that Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer have reached their final stages of development.
Fulmer, who was up for the day as the team’s 26th man, is headed back to Charlotte. As much as he struggled in his first chance, Fulmer — who allowed two three-run homers — is almost certain to get another down the road. Even if it never pans out as a starter, Fulmer almost certainly would be given a chance to succeed in relief.
“I guess perhaps we have a longer-term view of a given player, more rope so to speak, to prove who they are, show who they are over an extended period at the big-league level,” general manager Rick Hahn said earlier this month.
The same goes for Lopez, who appears to be improving after he was placed on the DL with a strained back, and Giolito, who has shown a vast improvement after a slow start at Triple-A Charlotte. The team announced he and reliever Brad Goldberg were headed back to Triple-A following the game. The option of Goldberg makes room for Gioliito, who will be added to the 25-man on Tuesday.
“I’m still confident in my ability to go out there and throw strikes and help us win,” Fulmer said. “I’m always going to continue to learn. That’s never going to stop for me as a baseball player and I have to go through these experiences to get better as a baseball player and as a pitcher. Take the positive out of this outing and learn from what happened to tonight.”
The White Sox went into their rebuild with the long-term approach in mind, knowing how critical it was to develop. For Giolito, it was regaining the confidence that had him rated as the top pitching prospect in baseball headed into last winter.
Whether it’s simplifying his thought process, trusting his routine between starts or finding confidence in his curveball, Giolito knows he’s in a better place as he makes his first White Sox start since they acquired him last December. After posting a 5.40 ERA in his first 16 starts at Charlotte, Giolito has rebounded with a 2.78 ERA in the last eight turns he has made.
“Started out pretty rough,” Giolito said last week. “Certain times where it’s like, ‘What do I have to do? What do I need to work on?’ And then finally putting together a really, really solid routine — certain drills, certain things I’m doing every day to better myself and trusting it.
“The results are starting to come with that and I feel like I’m much better off than I was in the beginning of the year and the confidence is much better.”
Having worked with them in a spring training and later spent a month in the minors on his rehab assignment, Rodon has anticipated the arrivals of Lopez, Giolito and Fulmer. He’s excited to see what everyone can do and how they handle their on-the-job training.
“It’s fun for these guys to be back up here and part of this team again,” Rodon said. “It was good to be down there and watch them. It’s time to watch them grow up and play in the big leagues.”
The scrum for a foul ball is one of baseball's great traditions. Usually, it ends with one hyped fan hoisting the souvenir high above his or her head while surrounding fans look on with intense jealousy.
Not Monday night, though. Something far weirder happened after a ball found its way into the Guaranteed Rate Field seats.
One Sox fan seemed to have scooped a keepsake until a sly woman committed straight thievery, prying it right from his hands.
The dude's baffled face is high-level entertainment as he struggles to comprehend how he just got straight up hoodwinked.
Watch the video above to see the robbery and Jason Benetti debate Steve Stone on what really happened.