No doubts: LaHair believes it's about to turn

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No doubts: LaHair believes it's about to turn

PITTSBURGH Bryan LaHair knows the trend line, and understands that what he does will be magnified.

The Cubs first baseman gets that its easy to pick out a bad week or two. Its hard to blend in when youre the cleanup hitter for a team on a 10-game losing streak.

LaHair emerged as a bright spot in April, ending the month hitting .390, and it became a story of perseverance. A former 39th-round pick, he had spent parts of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level, and was willing to go play winter ball in Venezuela.

LaHair woke up on Saturday with 10 home runs, tied with Paul Konerko for the major-league lead among first basemen. But his average had dropped 89 points. He was 1-for-25 in his previous nine games. It hasnt shaken his confidence.

Im not getting it done, LaHair said. Im not going to sugarcoat anything. I havent been doing my job to the best of my ability and its tough to do that for (162 games). These kind of things happen. As soon as the season starts, I accept that theres going to be certain parts where I struggle.

Im prepared for it. Its not something I want to happen. But now the challenge is to get past this and get back on track. I got no question Im going to do it. Theres no doubt in my mind.

LaHair looked relaxed sitting in the chair in front of his locker, and he didnt sound the least bit defensive. He believes in all the work that he put in to get to this point, that its made him more mature, better equipped to handle failure.

Its not like LaHair was putting up numbers in garbage time. Seven of his 10 homers have either tied a game or given the Cubs a lead.

Theo Epsteins front office likes LaHairs overall approach, which is why last winter they reassured the Pacific Coast League MVP that thered be a place for him here.

LaHair has been seeing 4.27 pitches per plate appearance, which ranked eighth in the National League. He reached base safely in 32 consecutive games between April 8 and May 15.

Before LaHair cooled off, the team president explained why this shouldnt be a mirage.

The results probably arent going to be this Ruthian, so to speak, Epstein said recently, but I think the quality of at-bats will remain consistent. Its not a fluke. Hes doing things the right way. Hes recognizing pitches out of the pitchers hand really early. Hes letting the ball travel and get deep. Hes really short and compact to the ball.

Hes hitting the ball hard. Hes hitting it where its pitched and hes covering just about the whole strike zone. So hes going to go through slumps and everything, but its really encouraging. Not just what hes doing, but how hes accomplishing it.

LaHair has come back down to earth, part of the natural regression as the advanced scouting picks up and pitchers learn more about his game. Manager Dale Sveum, a former hitting coach, has been a big advocate, but sees a few holes.

Hes getting to the point now where I think hes starting to guess along with the pitcher (and) you cant do that, Sveum said. Hes just not taking his walks. (Its) swinging out of the strike zone, trying to do too much (or) trying to put all the weight on his shoulders.

LaHair wants that responsibility, and isnt looking over his shoulder at first base, even though top prospect Anthony Rizzo is coming fast. The Cubs will want to find ways to put those two left-handed bats in the middle of the order.

LaHair doesnt have to be Babe Ruth, but he could still be in the All-Star conversation.

The whole point of Epsteins year of evaluation was to open up opportunities for the future, and give someone like LaHair 500 or 600 at-bats to finally show whether or not he belongs.

These guys believe in me, LaHair said. The confidence level as far as every time I walk to the box hasnt changed from the first six weeks. Its just when thoughts creep into your mind (you have to remember) its what happens. Its baseball. Im not intimidated by struggling.

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox have no plans for Tim Anderson to take the same path as the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.

An hour before the Cubs announced their shocking news Thursday that the World Series hero is headed to Triple-A, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he thought Anderson’s struggles could be addressed in the majors.

Playing in his first full season, Anderson has had an up and down campaign. He leads the majors with 16 errors committed and has struggled at the plate, hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 265 plate appearances. The roller coaster ride has led to some aggravation for Anderson, who slammed his batting helmet in frustration during Wednesday’s loss. Anderson said the helmet slam was the topic of a postgame conversation he had with Renteria on Wednesday.

“I feel like this year has been the toughest year I’ve dealt with since I’ve started playing baseball,” Anderson said. “I have to keep playing, lock in and control it.

“(Slamming the helmet) doesn’t make you feel better. It’s just a little frustration. You get mad at times, but you just try to control it and keep playing.”

Anderson, who turns 24 on Friday, has had a lot to manage in 2017.

It’s his first full season in the majors. He signed a contract extension in March. Since May he’s been dealing with the loss of his close friend, who was shot to death. Throw in the on-field struggles and Renteria realizes there’s a lot with which Anderson had to deal.

“You just make the sure the perspective they’re having at any particular moment is the correct perspective,” Renteria said. “You try to make sure that the underlying frustrations he might be having, that he’s able to separate it.

“You have ups and down, they’re not always going to be in the best place mentally at times. But for the most part you address it, you talk about it because you understand it, you’ve lived all those things and you just try to give him a little insight and keep it going in the right direction.”

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Anderson made a pair of miscues in a costly third-inning Twins rally on Wednesday night.

But Renteria expressed his confidence in the second-year player, calling him one of the premier shortstops in the league.

The White Sox manager has seen Anderson make the necessary corrections after infield work with bench coach Joe McEwing. The effort and preparation have been there. Renteria just wants to make sure his player can compartmentalize and stay focused. He realizes there’s going to be mistakes from time to time and wants to make sure Anderson is handling them well.

“To say he’s not going to continue to make mistakes every now and then, yeah that’s going to happen,” Renteria said. “It’s there for everybody to see. That’s why everybody takes notice and that’s natural. I think the one thing we have to do as a staff and players also is step back and stay away from the fray of that attention and stay focused on what you have to do. Minimize how all the noise affects you and continue to play the game.”

Renteria remembers his own struggles as a young player and knows how much more scrutiny Anderson faces. Every game is televised and highlights are streamed on the internet. Any little gaffe can be magnified. Anderson admits that at times he’s dealt with frustration he’s never before experienced and it’s caught up to him. Now he just needs to learn how to cope with the stress a little better.

“Nobody wants to go through tough times and struggle,” Anderson said. “Slamming helmets is not the right way to go about it because you could get injured, so try to handle it in a better way.

“It’s been tough times and a lot of frustration, but I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. I try to balance it out and keep going.

“I’m just trying to manage it, balance it out and separate it from each other.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: