Fire acquires Lindpere; announces preseason schedule

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Fire acquires Lindpere; announces preseason schedule

The Fire has been relatively quiet this offseason, but that changed in a hurry on Friday when the club acquired Estonian midfielder Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls for an international roster spot.

Lindpere will bring experience to a Fire midfield that struggled last season after Sebastian Grazzini left the club to return to Argentina in midseason. Lindpere started his professional career with stints at several Estonian clubs beginning in 1997. He also performed for his countrys national team.

His career blossomed when he moved first to CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria and then to Tromo IL in Norway before he joined the Red Bulls in 2010. In addition to Lindperes signing, the Fire announced its preseason schedule on Friday.

Prior to that, the major offseason developments included the signing of German defender Arne Friedrich for another season; the acquisition of Brazilian forward Maicon Santos, from D.C. United, and the loss of defender Dan Gargan, to the San Jose Earthquakes, in the re-entry draft; and the departure of two-year club president Julian Posada.

MORE: Posada to step down as Fire president

The Fire made the only selection in the first stage of the re-entry draft in picking up Santos. One other member of last years Fire, goalkeeper Jay Nolly, wasnt re-signed or claimed in the re-entry draft. Hes now a free agent. More substantial developments are in the offing, with a new player acquisition and the winner of Decembers open tryout to be announced early next week.

RELATED: Fire lose Gargan in Phase 2 of draft

On Friday, the club, preparing for its 16th season, became one of the last in MLS to announce its preseason plans. Players will gather at Toyota Park on Jan. 18 for two days of medical exams. Theyll depart for the first phase of preseason training on Jan. 20, with 10 days of workouts to be held again at Ave Maria University, on the outskirts of Naples, FL.

The sessions in Florida include matches against Florida Gulf Coast University at Ave Maria on Jan. 27 and the first battle with an MLS opponent on Jan. 30, when the Columbus Crew shows up at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

RELATED: Fire select Maicon Santos in MLS re-entry draft

After returning to Chicago for a brief break, the players will resume preseason training in Ventura, Calif., from Feb. 2-10. Highlight of the workouts there will be a match against San Jose at Oxnard College, with the date still to be determined.

For the third straight season the Fire will conclude the preseason in the Carolina Challenge Cup Feb. 23-24 in Charleston, S.C. The Fire will be joined in that four-team round robin competition by the Houston Dynamo, an MLS Cup finalist the last two seasons; the host Charleston Battery, champion of the United Soccer League in 2012; and the Vancouver Whitecaps, an MLS rival.

The Fires last match of 2012 was a 2-1 loss to the Dynamo at Toyota Park in the first game the MLS postseason. It was also the Fires first playoff game since 2009.

Before the Fire begins training, forward Chris Rolfe will join about 30 other MLS stars at Soccer Night in Newtown on Jan. 7. Its being held in support of the victims of the tragic shooting in that Connecticut town that devastated the nation days before Christmas.

The first regular season match is Mar. 3 against the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center. Thats a week earlier than the 2012 season openers. The Fires home opener is Mar. 9 against the New England Revolution.

Cubs hope adding Joe Nathan to bullpen can be like making a trade-deadline splash

Cubs hope adding Joe Nathan to bullpen can be like making a trade-deadline splash

MILWAUKEE – As the New York Yankees engaged in the bidding war for Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs welcomed Joe Nathan into their clubhouse, hoping a six-time All-Star closer can become a game changer for their bullpen.

At the age of 41 – and after two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow – Nathan won’t be throwing 105 mph. But even if the Cubs aren’t getting Nathan at the height of his powers, it’s still a potential upgrade before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“We’ll see,” Nathan said before Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “These guys obviously have done something special the first half of the season and put themselves in a great (position) to make the postseason.

“Time will tell who is the right fit. And if they’re going to make more moves, who knows? I’m sure they’re checking to see what’s out there. But for us, we just want to concentrate on today and getting a ‘W.’”

To activate Nathan off the 60-day disabled list – and add a reliever who’s eighth on the all-time list with 377 career saves – the Cubs optioned Adam Warren to Triple-A Iowa to stretch him out as a starter.

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The Cubs believe Nathan is still hungry, even after making more than $85 million in his career, wanting to write a different ending after facing only one hitter with the Detroit Tigers last year, his season ending on Opening Day.

Nathan was willing to take the prorated major-league minimum, sweat through the heat at the team’s Arizona complex and try to find it again at Double-A Tennessee and Iowa.

“Right from Day 1, it really wasn’t a question of if I’m going to try to come back from this,” Nathan said. “Why not? Why wouldn’t I at least put my best foot forward? If I’m going to rehab it, I might as well go 100 percent at it and see where it goes.

“The good test for me was I was living at home, going through it, bringing the kids to school, doing homework, doing normal stuff. At the same time, I still had the itch.

“That kind of told me, too. If I was home, and I was like, ‘You know what, this is kind of nice,’ it would have been easy to just say: ‘No, I’m good.’ But I still had that kick in the butt to get up and come back to this game.”

Carlos Rodon set to make rehab start at Triple-A Charlotte

Carlos Rodon set to make rehab start at Triple-A Charlotte

Carlos Rodon is closer to returning to the White Sox and Anthony Ranaudo is here.

The White Sox announced that Rodon is set to make a rehab start at Triple-A Charlotte on Monday.

Rodon — who is 2-7 with a 4.50 ERA this season — was placed on the disabled list with a sprained left wrist retroactive to July 6. He sustained the injury while running up the dugout steps in the final week of the first half.

The White Sox promoted Ranaudo on Sunday after they placed Chris Sale on the suspended list. Sale’s five-game suspension is retroactive to Saturday, when his start was skipped and he was sent home early after destroying the promotional 1976 throwback jerseys the team was scheduled to wear.

A former supplemental first-round draft pick, Ranaudo was acquired from the Texas Rangers on May 12. He was 5-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A Charlotte. Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2010, Ranaudo has a 6.33 ERA in 13 career games in the majors.

The White Sox also added Carlos Sanchez as their 26th man before the start of Sunday’s originally scheduled game. The teams completed Saturday’s rain-suspended contest earlier Sunday with the White Sox winning 4-3.

Chris Sale's suspension 'does not move the needle' regarding his value to White Sox

Chris Sale's suspension 'does not move the needle' regarding his value to White Sox

The White Sox cut Chris Sale’s season short by five games on Sunday morning.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn formally announced that Sale was suspended five games retroactive to Saturday for insubordination and destroying team equipment.

Hahn didn’t disclose many details about the "clubhouse incident" or an evening meeting with Sale, who also played a leading role in a March clubhouse protest when Adam LaRoche abruptly retired after a dispute with management over the presence of his son in the clubhouse.

But according to a baseball source and multiple reports, Sale had his Saturday start scratched and was sent home early after he objected to wearing and then destroyed the promotional 1976 throwback jerseys the team was scheduled to don. Hahn declined to comment when asked if Sale used scissors to destroy the jerseys. But the actions of Sale — whose suspension concludes Wednesday and could pitch Thursday against the Cubs — merited discipline, Hahn said.

“Obviously, we’re all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the the standpoint of the club as well as Chris’ perspective,” Hahn said. “It’s unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we’re trying to accomplish on the field. …

“We had perhaps the opportunity to discipline him back in spring and as an organization we decided to not do that. Yesterday crossed a different line.”

White Sox players and manager Robin Ventura left most of the discussion surrounding the event to Hahn, who said Sale could offer more details if he chooses when he returns.

Sale was not expected to be at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday. Ventura said he hadn’t spoken since Sale left the ballpark. Ventura called it a “tough day” and praised players who filled in. Though Sale may have to apologize to teammates, Ventura said the damage was far from irreparable.

“It’s nothing that can’t be smoothed over,” Ventura said. “This is not the first one. I think for him, he has the ability to come back here and pitch and carry on.”

Third baseman Todd Frazier declined to discuss whether the jerseys, which the team wore last season and have since been altered to improve comfort, were an issue. He also wouldn’t say whether or not he talked to Sale, only offering a brief summation of the events.

“It’s crazy,” Frazier said. “You talk to umpires during games and stuff and it’s like you think you’ve seen it all baseball-wise. It’s tough to talk about. It’s just something different.”

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White Sox pitcher James Shields said Sale has his teammates’ backing and that “sometimes emotions get the best of us.” He also said Sale continues to be a leader in the White Sox clubhouse — perhaps even more effective than Shields expected when he joined the club in early June.

“I’ve known Chris for years,” Shields said. “Now that I’ve gotten to be his teammate, he’s one of the better teammates I’ve been around. He’s definitely a team player. He’s a winner. He wants to take the ball every five days and win ballgames.”

With the Aug. 1 nonwaiver deadline eight days away, Hahn also dispelled the notion that Sale’s actions have left the relationship between himself and the club in disrepair. While Sale may have crossed a marker, Hahn said the five-time All-Star hasn’t passed the point of no return with the organization.

Much of the initial intrigue around the event surrounded trade speculation when Sale was scratched from his start. On Thursday, Hahn said the White Sox wouldn’t make any short-term additions before the deadline and that the club is “open-minded” to any and all competitors’ offers. Sale has reportedly drawn interest from several teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. But Hahn was adamant that as upsetting as Saturday’s events are, it wouldn’t have an impact on whether or not Sale is traded.

“The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships,” Hahn said. “It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events.”