YouTube QB gets invite to Bills training camp

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YouTube QB gets invite to Bills training camp

From Comcast SportsNet
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- A five-minute YouTube video was enough to make quarterback Alex Tanney an overnight sensation for displaying his uncanny accuracy. Tanney created a big buzz last year in the self-titled "Trick Shot Quarterback" video by showing he can hit a receiver in a moving vehicle and throw footballs from across the court and swish them into basketball nets. He even banged a pass off the crossbar of an upright from 50 yards out -- from his knees. Now the Division III Monmouth College (Ill.) product will provide the Buffalo Bills a firsthand look to see whether he has a future in the NFL. After being passed up in the draft last weekend, Tanney has accepted an invitation to take part in the Bills' three-day rookie minicamp that opens May 11. "I'm from a small school, and the only thing I've ever really wanted was an opportunity to get into a camp," the 23-year-old said by phone this week. "And now I have that in Buffalo, so I'm anxious to get out there and compete for a spot." Turns out, the Bills weren't the only team interested in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback who set an NCAA record with 157 touchdown passes over a five-year career with the Fighting Scots. Tanney initially agreed to attend the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie camp, but changed his mind after Buffalo extended an invite. He made the switch because he felt Buffalo was a better fit. Noting that Bills were among the first teams to contact him this offseason, Tanney added that he's spoken to Buffalo's new quarterback coach David Lee on several occasions. He's also aware that the team's No. 3 position is unfilled behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and backup Tyler Thigpen. If one thing's for certain, Tanner's accuracy shouldn't be an issue. In the video, Tanney bounces a pass off the floor into a trash barrel. He even threads a pass blind from the floor of the gymnasium up through a hallway and into a trash barrel on the floor of the school's adjacent running track. The video has received more than 1.1 million hits since Tanney and his friends posted it in February 2011, and led to him attracting national attention. Tanney showed off his throwing ability while featured on an episode of "Stan Lee's Superhumans" on the History Channel. It also led to numerous television interviews, including ones in Japan, Israel, Argentina and Chile. Tanney would rather play down his YouTube popularity and instead focus on what he did on the field. "The success and the numbers I put up speak for themselves rather than the YouTube video," he said. "But obviously, that's what people are going to talk about." In 47 games, he completed 68.6 percent of his passes going 1,205 for 1,756 with only 30 interceptions. He threw for 300 yards 32 times and finished with a Division III record 14,249 yards passing. Add it up, by NFL standards, Tanney finished with a 115.8 passer rating. And yet, he accepts his instant celebrity. "We really didn't expect it to take off like it did. It kind of blew up," Tanney said. "We had fun with it. It was a good experience. But I kind of think that's past me. I'm just looking forward to getting my shot in the NFL." The son of a longtime football coach, Tanney has been a quarterback since he started playing. He figures he was overlooked by Division I programs because he played for a tiny high school that had only 170 students. And though he was hoping to be drafted, Tanney understood the possibility was unlikely. That makes him even more driven to succeed. "I've had a chip on my shoulder basically throughout high school, college, coming from small schools and wanting to prove to people what I have," Tanney said. "I'm anxious to get out to Buffalo and see what I can do there."

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers tonight on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Dodgers on Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies from Wrigley Field at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Wednesday's starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (5-3, 2.48 ERA) vs. Mike Bolsinger (1-1, 4.50 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you're ready for the action.

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Watch: Chris Sale loses to fan in rock-paper-scissors, pays up with autograph

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Watch: Chris Sale loses to fan in rock-paper-scissors, pays up with autograph

Chris Sale has a terrific 9-1 record this season.

His rock-paper-scissors record is not nearly as good.

Sale played a high-stakes game of rock-paper-scissors against a fan at Tuesday night's White Sox-Mets tilt at Citi Field, and the South Side ace didn't fare so well.

He was a good sport, though, honoring the challenge and paying up with an autograph.

Take a look:

Fun times at the ballpark. And a cool moment featuring the guy who could wind up starting the All-Star Game.

How Hector Rondon transformed into dominant closer for Cubs

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How Hector Rondon transformed into dominant closer for Cubs

Hector Rondon is still good friends with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, two Cleveland Indians pitchers often linked to the Cubs in trade rumors. To the point where Salazar called Rondon during the offseason wondering if they were about to become teammates at Wrigley Field.

Rondon worked out separately with Salazar and Carrasco at the Indians’ complex in Arizona during different points in their recoveries from Tommy John procedures on their right elbows. Rondon mentions differences in their personalities and pitching styles and also marks that time in Goodyear by associating Salazar and Carrasco with his own different surgeries.

Instead of developing into a Salazar or a Carrasco — the kind of frontline starter the Indians envisioned when they named him their minor league pitcher of the year in 2009 — Rondon has transformed into a game-over closer for a Cubs team with the best record in baseball.

After missing almost three full seasons — and pitching 10 innings combined between 2011 and 2012 — Rondon now understands he doesn’t have the luxury of time or the ability to work through situations like a starter. He accepts the pressure and uses the adrenaline that comes from working the ninth inning in front of 40,000 fans. He is a survivor.

“Be aggressive,” Rondon said. “You have to kill the guy — or they kill you. That’s what I tell (myself). That’s why I always try to attack. I try to keep that in my mind to (always) be aggressive with the hitters.”

The “holy s---” moment for pitching coach Chris Bosio came during a bullpen session with Rondon in the second half of a 2013 season where the Cubs would lose 96 games, hours before a meaningless game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

The Cubs finished with 101 losses the year before, which put them in position to select Kris Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the June amateur draft. Completing that race toward the bottom also created another opportunity for Theo Epstein’s front office — the second pick in the Rule 5 draft at the 2012 winter meetings.

Around that time, major-league coaching staff assistant Franklin Font worked winter ball for Leones del Caracas — the same team Rondon was pitching for in Venezuela — and filed good reports. The Cubs would carry Rondon and allow him to develop a routine and slowly realize he could compete at this level.

As Rondon kept firing pitches to bullpen catcher Chad Noble that day in Pittsburgh, Bosio could see the potential that made him such a well-regarded prospect for the Indians — and the ability to think on his feet and make adjustments.

The Cubs suggested adding a hesitation mechanism to Rondon’s windup, a gathering point at the top of his delivery to improve his fastball command and tighten his slider as a put-away pitch. The idea was to create better alignment toward home plate and help stop him from spinning off the rubber. The sense of timing and motion would also help bump up his velocity toward triple-digit territory.

“It’s like when you plant that seed, and you wait to see that plant come up out of the ground,” bullpen coach Lester Strode said. “That’s what he’s done. He’s just continued to grow, and every year he’s gotten better.”

Rondon got the last three outs in a 2-0 Memorial Day victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers as the Cubs bullpen combined for seven perfect innings, something a team hadn’t done in 99 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

That made Rondon 9-for-9 in save chances — with a 1.04 ERA and 27 strikeouts and only two walks against the 63 batters he’s faced so far this season.

Both Rondon and Joe Maddon identified a turning point last year, when the manager took closing responsibilities away from him and gave him a mental break and the chance to reset. Rondon responded with a 30-save season, putting up a 1.10 ERA after the All-Star break and converting his final 11 save chances for a 97-win team.

“He’s just been more assertive,” Maddon said. “The biggest thing I think that happened from that episode when he was not closing, per se, was he started using his other pitches and he found his other pitches. He’s more of a pitcher (now) when it comes to closing games as opposed to just being this primal, one-pitch kind of a guy.

“So now when you see him, it’s not just about trying to pump fastballs the whole time he’s out there. He’s throwing slider, split, changeup, dotting his fastball. I just think that he got more into pitcher mode from that particular episode.”

Rondon’s story is the story of the Cubs during the rebuilding years, how they became the biggest story in baseball. It’s calculated risk, good scouting, effective coaching and a relentless attitude. From the rubble of fifth-place finishes in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Cubs found a lights-out closer.

“He worked tirelessly,” said Strode, who’s now in his 28th season in the organization. “Even the days he got out there and didn’t have success, he didn’t come back with his head down the next day. It’s like he learned something from every outing.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys with his ability who think things are just going to happen — and they don’t have to work. He was totally the opposite. He worked hard. He grinded every day, day in and day out. And finally it clicked.”