Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can

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Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can

The circumstances are different, but the rhetoric is the same.

Tommy Rees won't start Notre Dame's season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland on the first day of September. He's suspended for the game, the result of a "set of poor decisions," as coach Brian Kelly said, made at an off-campus party last May. At Wednesday's practice, Rees didn't take a single snap in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.

Rewind to last season, when Dayne Crist was benched for all but a handful of plays after being yanked following a rough first half in Notre Dame's season-opening loss to USF. Despite his demotion and infrequent playing time, Crist was held in high esteem for his attitude and work ethic.

"Even if he's not out there, he's still a leader on the team," former running back Jonas Gray said last October. "A lot of guys look up to him."

"Great guy, great leader," added Michael Floyd in December. "For all the stuff that went on in his career here, he still held his head up high and stayed a good friend to me and a good teammate to everyone."

Rees' career path may not follow that of Crist, who transferred to Kansas following the conclusion of Notre Dame's regular season last year. But, for now, the explanations of Rees' fellow quarterbacks as to how helpful he's been sound somewhat familiar.

"He's been such a positive influence on all three of the younger guys," Andrew Hendrix said. "Having Tommy back there at all times is really an invaluable resource that we have."

Everett Golson, who's been pegged by some as the favorite to win the starting gig, rooms with Rees and said the junior has been very accessible when it comes to helping him out. But, at the same time, Golson acknowledged how odd it is for Rees to watch while nearly the entire team moves forward without him, at least for the first game.

"It is awkward," Golson said. "I praise Tommy for that, because I don't know if I could really do that. Tommy's a great guy."

And Gunner Kiel, a true freshman, is trying to soak up as much of Rees' experience with the Notre Dame offense as he possibly can.

"He knows so much about the game," Kiel said. "I talked to Tommy outside of football, and he says he wants to be a college coach. He definitely has the ability and mind for it. It's great having him in there to teach us all the stuff he knows."

It's likely too early to peg Rees as nothing more than a coach this season. Maybe that's in his future -- Hendrix agreed with the notion that Rees would make a fantastic college coach.

But Kelly has said Rees can "attempt to climb the depth chart" after the Navy game, and the third-year coach has also said he won't hesitate to make a switch at quarterback if he isn't pleased with the level of play from that position in the season opener.

So the door isn't completely shut on Rees starting another game for Notre Dame in the future. He's apologized for his arrest, which resulted in a pair of guilty pleas on misdemeanor charges. While he's not directly a part of Notre Dame's quarterback battle, Rees' teammates see a player who's still doing everything he can to help.

"That's the past," Hendrix said. "We're just moving forward."

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”