The first change on the Bears embattled offensive line came from an unexpected direction Wednesday when guard Chilo Rachal abruptly left the team for personal reasons and was replaced on the 53-man roster by rookie undrafted free agent James Brown from the practice squad.Rachals exit points to Chris Spencer returning to the starting lineup. Spencer was demoted from the left-guard spot after the loss to Green Bay and has lately been replaced by Jonathan Scott as the extra lineman in the Bears jumbo packages.Rachal suffered through an abysmal game against the San Francisco 49ers,unofficiallyallowing a sack and QB hurry in addition to two holding penalties.Rachal signed a one-year deal last offseason and told CSNChicago.com last week that he hoped to play well enough for an extension here. He stayed after practice every day working on his hand-punch on the heavy blocking bag.Brown was a surprise find after last Aprils draft, having been expected to be selected in a market that is having increasing difficulty finding adequate supplies or and quality in offensive linemen.But the current difficulties at tackle for the Bears do not point to Brown suddenly going from the developmental squad to blocking Jared Allen.Its not like at this point of the season you can take a James Brown, whom Im very high on of course Im always high on all the players because they work so hard and say, OK, youre the guy now, offensive coordinator Mike Tice sad on Wednesday. That would be desperation.
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.
With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.
Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.
“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”
Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.
Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.
“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.
“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”
Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Saturday: