Brandon Saad stood in the Johnnys IceHouse West locker room with a smile on his face. It was a confident smile from a guy whos feeling a little more comfortable entering this training camp.
Comfortable and confident. But not overly so in either category to where hes penciling himself into the Blackhawks roster.
Its not really easy, Saad said. Ive got to come in and prove myself again.
Saad has been here, done that as far as the Blackhawks summer prospect camp. But he realizes that his performance here, and in training camp, will be key to making and possibly staying with the Blackhawks this season. After all, nothing is guaranteed, no matter how upstart his performance was last season.
Its a fresh start and I have to work hard; just the comfort level is different, Saad said. Im more familiar this second time around, but theres not much feedback yet. Ill come in here and try out and I have to play well.
Saad made the opening-day roster thanks to his work ethic and productive camp. And after finishing his season with the Saginaw Spirit, Saad rejoined the Blackhawks for two playoff games against the Phoenix Coyotes. And that recall gave Saad a boost of confidence that he hopes to take with him through to this fall.
The Blackhawks brass is high on Saad, and has been since last camp. General manager Stan Bowman said last week that he expects Saad to push for a big role this season. Coach Joel Quenneville talked at the draft about the strides Saad made, even from the start of last season to when he returned for the playoffs.
Saad had visions of making and staying with the Blackhawks last season. He got a good taste of what it will take to do so.
I just keep doing my thing, thats all, Saad said. Hopefully Ill be here all year. Thats the goal, to try to work hard this summer to make that.
The Cubs are down to only one starter in next month's All-Star Game in Miami: reigning MVP Kris Bryant.
Jason Heyward lost his grip on the final starting outfielder spot to Marlins star Marcell Ozuna in the latest All-Star balloting update released by the MLB:
That may be for the best, as the Cubs are currently banged up (Heyward. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list) and slogging through a season where they've hovered around .500. So maybe four days off in a row would be beneficial for the defending champs.
Heyward is 29,270 votes behind Ozuna and Zobrist is 118,248 votes behind Heyward. It appears as if Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon are sure things for the top two outfielder spots in the NL.
Bryant is only 58,082 votes ahead of Nolan Arenado at third base. Anthony Rizzo trails Ryan Zimmerman at first base, Javy Baez comes in well behind Daniel Murphy at second base and Buster Posey has more than twice as many votes as runner-up Willson Contreras at catcher.
Addison Russell is third among shortstops. Kyle Schwarber — despite being demoted to the minors last week — is eighth among NL outfielders.
It's a far cry from 2016, when the Cubs made up all four infield spots in the NL starting lineup.
Voting ends in four days. Fans can head to MLB.com to vote.
Major League Baseball released the latest American League All-Star voting update Monday and Avisail Garcia has jumped back into fifth place among outfielders.
The White Sox right fielder jumped past Boston's Mookie Betts since the last returns were announced on June 13.
Since then Garcia has slashed .319/.447/.819 with a homer, 5 RBIs and three doubles in 12 games.
Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and George Springer remain the top vote-getters in the outfield, though Trout won't play in the Midsumemr Classic because of a thumb injury.
On the year Garcia is batting .331 with a .904 OPS, 11 homers and 51 RBIs; the RBIs are the same number Garcia had all of last year.
Garcia is the only White sox player among the top AL vote-getters at any position.
Voting ends June 30.