Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

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Ready or not, Cubs kids coming back to Wrigley

SAN DIEGO Jeff Samardzija snapped the bat over his knee after striking out in the seventh inning and tossed the two pieces to the ground in disgust.

Samardzija channeled his inner Big Z for a moment, but you saw a Cubs team that wasnt just going through the motions in a 2-0 loss to the San Diego Padres at sleepy Petco Park.

There was Darwin Barney ready to chuck his bat after lining into a double play in the eighth inning, and James Russell screaming and flexing by the dugout minutes later after giving up an unearned run.

As much as Theo Epsteins front office and Dale Sveums coaching staff talk about patience and development, the losing is getting old and the frustration is beginning to show.

Samardzija had a message for Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters and all the kids heading back to Wrigley Field on an eight-game losing streak that started a few hours after the trade deadline.

They better be ready to play, Samardzija said. Dont expect any freebies from any of the fans or from anybody. You got to show up and play the game, regardless of your record, regardless of how you feel. Youre still representing your team. Youre still wearing the jersey. You got to show up and play all-out every day.

I dont think thats going to be a problem here. I dont think quote-unquote veteran guys are going to let that happen. Were going to play hard. Were going to try and win every game we can.

Samardzija is one of only six remaining players from the 2011 Opening Day roster. The Cubs (43-66) have already used 15 rookies and 46 different players this season.

It was hard for Andrew Cashner the 2008 first-round pick flipped to the Padres in the Anthony Rizzo deal to imagine this team without Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, his idol growing up in Texas.

Those were the two guys that I really looked up to while I was over there, Cashner said. Its definitely going to be different with a lot more young guys. Theres going to be a lot more feeling out on their own, versus guys pointing them in the direction.

Cashner didnt ask to be part of the Three Cs marketing campaign leading into the 2011 season, and only Starlin Castro remains after Tyler Colvin was traded to the Colorado Rockies last winter. So it will be interesting to see how long the shelf life will be for Jackson and Vitters.

Thats just kind of the way things work, Cashner said. I wasnt one of their guys. I was one of Jim (Hendrys) guys. Its just kind of the way they do things as far as wanting their (own) guys.

Cashner, whos on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, spoke with Rizzo during this series and they agreed this was probably a good trade for both sides. Cashner gets to pitch at Petco Park, while Rizzo gets to hit at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, which seems like old news given everything thats happened to this team since then. Now Jackson and Vitters have to get ready for their close-up.

The fans are probably curious to look at all the guys that all the hype is about, Sveum said. Theres no mystery now going on with the team.

In terms of direction, yes, but eight games in 12 days against Dusty Baker and the first-place Cincinnati Reds will be revealing. Jackson will try to avoid chasing bad pitches, Vitters will be working on his defense and there are jobs that could be won in the rotation and the bullpen. See how they handle the big moments.

Were going to learn a lot here in this next month-and-a-half, Samardzija said. Were really going to see what were made of as a team. A lot of guys are going to be cutting their teeth against some good teams.

Samardzija (7-10, 4.21 ERA) again looked like a frontline starter, allowing only one run across seven strong innings. He rolls with everything, ignoring the people who thought he was a bust and not buying into the hype that hes one of the untouchables on this team.

The kids could learn from someone whos almost seen it all in Chicago and remains the same guy. He was certainly paying attention when Carlos Zambrano was breaking bats.

Just felt good to snap it like a toothpick, Samardzija said. I lost the bunting tournament in Round Sweet 16 and I snapped that thing like a twig, too. What are you gonna do? It happens.

White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

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White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

CLEVELAND -- Whether they knew him or not, the overwhelming sentiment throughout the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday is that baseball was robbed of one of its most likeable players when Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.

Known for his vivid celebrations on the field and his wide, endless smile, Fernandez made a strong impression, whether with his skillset or infinite love of the game. White Sox players had their eyes fixed on several televisions littered throughout the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Sunday during a morning press conference confirming the death of Fernandez, 24, and two others.

White Sox reliever Dan Jennings played with Fernandez for two seasons. Though he enjoyed a 3-0 White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Jennings said his happiness was muted as he mulled the death of Fernandez, who was killed when the boat he was on slammed into a jetty in Miami Beach, Fla.

“He seemed invincible is what it was,” Jennings said. “A lot of guys know what I mean when I say he was invincible on the mound. There were days he was unstoppable, and that’s how you viewed him is invincible. It’s too hard to really put into words what he meant to the game and what he meant to Miami.”

“I just hope to love the game as much as he does some day. It’s tough to do, but he did. He had fun, and he loved the game more than anything.”

Todd Frazier remembers how approachable he found Fernandez in their limited interactions. The two met in the outfield one day after they faced each other for the first time and joked around.

“I was like, ‘Dog, you don’t throw me any fastballs,’ ” Frazier said. “He was like, “Why would I throw you fastballs?’ And we just started laughing.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You could come up and talk to him. He had an infectious smile and just had a love for the game that I hope every ballplayer could have. It’s a terrible, terrible day.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Fernandez’s death reminded him of the March 22, 1993 accident that took the lives of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Only pitcher Bob Ojeda survived that crash and Ventura remembers the shockwaves it sent through clubhouses throughout baseball.

“I can still remember … just how sad that was,” Ventura said. “You don’t have to know them personally. But they’re within their group, and it breaks everybody up. It really does.”

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t have a chance to meet Fernandez, a pitcher he admired for his competitive style and bulldog mentality. But another reason Rodon looked up to Fernandez is for the way he seemed to play the game with such joy. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a press conference Sunday that Fernandez enjoyed the game like a Little Leaguer does.

Rodon recently spoke about rediscovering his own joy of baseball. Naturally, Rodon’s thoughts drifted toward Fernandez when he took the mound on Sunday.

“You could tell,” Rodon said. “We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.”

Former Illini coach Ron Turner out as head coach at Florida International

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Former Illini coach Ron Turner out as head coach at Florida International

Former Illinois head coach Ron Turner is done as the head coach at Florida International, the school relieving him of his duties on Sunday.

Turner, who was the head man in Champaign from 1997 to 2004, posted a 10-30 record in three seasons plus the first four games of this season at Florida International, going 7-17 in Conference USA play and making zero postseason appearances.

This year's 0-4 start was made possible in part by a pair of home losses to Big Ten teams, Indiana and Maryland.

Turner went 35-57 in eight seasons leading the Illini. He oversaw the team that won a Big Ten championship in 2001, finishing the regular season with a 10-1 record before losing in the Sugar Bowl to LSU.

Since leaving Champaign, Turner worked as an NFL assistant with the Bears under current Illinois head coach Lovie Smith from 2005 to 2009 and then with the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.