Sox make adjustments to staff, payroll during SoxFest weekend

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Sox make adjustments to staff, payroll during SoxFest weekend

White Sox manager Robin Ventura joked Saturday that Harold Baines is the new assistant hitting coach because his first-base coach duties bored him.

While Baines agreed theres some truth to Venturas humor, and the move will benefit his sore knees, but mostly hes excited that the role will tap into one of his true strengths -- the art of hitting.

A six-time All-Star, Baines finished his 22-season career with 2,866 hits and 384 home runs.

Im just trying to give what Ive learned from people like (Greg) Luzinski that taught me when I came up, Baines said. Im just trying to give back the information that was given to me. I like talking about hitting. The little bit that I can give, if it helps one person, thats something too.

Hitting coach Jeff Manto said in November that Baines should provide a significant boost to the teams operation. The two are friends from a season spent together in Baltimore in 1995 and already speak the same language, which means White Sox hitters will hear the same message even if its said in a different way.

Thats what coaches are for, Baines said. Were just trying to get them on the right path. Its something new for me, but I think Im going to enjoy it.

Payroll still flexible

The signing of Matt Lindstrom on Friday increases the White Sox payroll to 100.7 million, with at least another 8 million or so due to Dayan Viciedo and 10 players who are on one-year contracts. Even though the teams starting payroll should be 12 million more than last years opening day mark of 96.7 million, general manager Rick Hahn believes he will have flexibility to add players should the White Sox contend for a playoff spot.

Based on (owner Jerry Reinsdorfs) history, absolutely, Hahn said.

Morel still in mix

Brent Morel isnt out of the White Sox plans, Ventura said Saturday. Morel was limited to 35 games last season with a sore back, but Ventura said he recently saw the third baseman at U.S. Cellular Field and Morel feels good. Morel hit eight home runs in September 2011 and gave the White Sox high hopes about his future.

Even though his 2012 season was lost, the White Sox havent forgotten about him.

Theres no reason for us to push him away, Ventura said.

Williams grills Hahn

Friday's first SoxFest seminar featured a few fans grilling Hahn about the departure of A.J. Pierzynski, but perhaps the toughest inquest came from the guy Hahn replaced.

As Friday's session wrapped up, ex-GM Kenny Williams casually took his place in line behind a fan to ask Hahn and Ventura a question. Williams asked: "Do you think you're going to do a better or a worse job than the last guy?"

Hahn, who's worked with the White Sox for over a decade, had a quick retort: "That's not fair. The last guy had a better support staff."

Paciorek on LaRussa

During a Saturday seminar, former White Sox player and announcer Tom Paciorek said manager Tony La Russa once held him out of a game for health reasons. Paciorek told LaRussa he felt fine and the manager acknowledged the fact before he noted: Every time you play, I get sick.

Staff writer JJ Stankevitz contributed to this article.

Why Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will be 'pulling hard' for the Bears this season

Why Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will be 'pulling hard' for the Bears this season

Jim Harbaugh is a former Chicago Bear, but that's not the main reason why he'll be rooting for the Monsters of the Midway this fall.

Harbaugh, the current Michigan head coach and former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, used to coach alongside current Bears assistants Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell in the Bay Area.

Fangio, the Bears' defensive coordiantor, and Donatell, the Bears' defensive backs coach, held those same positions for all four of Harbaugh's seasons leading the Niners.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Harbaugh voiced his support for his former assistants Monday, speaking with CSN's Pat Boyle at the Golf.Give.Gala golf outing in St. Charles.

"I know (the Bears) are going to have a heck of a defense," Harbaugh said. "Because I know they've got Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell and a tremendous coaching staff. So I'll be pulling hard for them."

Harbaugh also was asked about new Bears quarterback Mike Glennon, and you can hear his comments in the video above, as well as comments from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on another new Bears quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.

Notes from the rewatch: Nemanja Nikolic unable to beat Bill Hamid

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USA TODAY

Notes from the rewatch: Nemanja Nikolic unable to beat Bill Hamid

Two recent trends with the Chicago Fire got flipped in Saturday's win at D.C. United, not even counting that it was the Fire's first road win of the season.

Nemanja Nikolic entered Saturday's game at D.C. United as arguably the hottest striker in Major League Soccer. He had plenty of scoring chances, most of them good ones, but couldn't convert after being very efficient in recent games.

Also, D.C. is a team struggling offensively and entered without its top playmaker in Luciano Acosta, out serving a red card suspension, so it relied on set pieces and long throws to create scoring opportunities. That's something the Fire have had troubles with this year, notably in the LA game a few weeks ago. However, the defense held strong to survive the onslaught of balls into the box.

Here's more on those two things, plus Bastian Schweinsteiger's near assist of the year.

Defending set pieces

Without Acosta, D.C. found itself relying even more on free kicks, crosses and long throws to get the ball in the box. After recent struggles defending set pieces, this could have been a problem on paper for the Fire.

D.C. completed just three of 16 crosses and only one of those three led to a shot. Of D.C.'s three corner kicks, none first went to a D.C. player.

There were five more long throws, four from the left by Taylor Kemp and one from the right by Chris Korb. D.C. won flick headers on a pair of those, but nothing came from those chances. The best chance was when a ball fell to Patrick Mullins in the box following a deflection. He slid for an open shot in the box, but shot over the bar.

Overall, the Fire did well to handle the barrage of balls flung into the box from distance.

Nikolic's missed scoring opportunities

Nikolic still has the league lead in goals, even after not scoring in this one. His 10 goals are more than D.C. and the Fire's previous opponent, Colorado, have scored as teams.

He had seven shots, more than twice the amount of any other player on the field, and put four on target. No other player had more than one shot on target. Despite these numbers, Nikolic did not score.

Matt Polster gave him a good chance in the 29th minute. Nikolic's first-touch shot from 10 yards out was blocked. He hit it well, but it was a good block.

David Accam crossed to Nikolic on the back post just before halftime. Nikolic put the header on target, but didn't get enough on it to get it past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

In the final 10 minutes things really picked up for Nikolic. He tried to round Hamid in the 81st minute, but couldn't get around the big man and then his shot from a tight angle was saved. Three minutes later Hamid made his best save with a diving stop to deny a streaking Nikolic, who was coming in from the right side.

Hamid gets credit for these stops, but Nikolic's best chance came in added time after Schweinsteiger set him up on a platter.

Schweinsteiger robbed of assist of the year

The biggest of Nikolic’s blown chances was Schweinsteiger’s elusive dribbling at the end line in added time. If Nikolic finished the open shot, it would have been one of the best assists you’d see in any league around the world this season. Instead the viral clips of the play were either truncated before Nikolic’s shoots over the bar or included the somewhat comedic finish to a highlight-reel play.

Schweinsteiger got a bit of the last laugh after suffering four fouls, no player was fouled more during the match, against a physical team.

This play got the most attention from Schweinsteiger's game and it could have really blown up had Nikolic finished it off. Don't forget that Schweinsteiger nearly gave D.C. a goal by turning the ball over with a lateral pass right to Lloyd Sam at the edge of the penalty box a few minutes after the Fire took the lead. That certainly would have flipped the prevailing view of Schweinsteiger's performance as well.