Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz

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Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz

Thursdays Major League Soccer SuperDraft wont have much suspense for the Fire. The club traded its first-round draft choice on Wednesday in another indication the roster will be built differently for the 2013 season.

Last season the Fires key new acquisitions were three young foreign players Rafael Robayo, Federico Puppo and midway through the season Brazilian midfielder Alex. Robayo and Puppo didnt finish the season with the Fire and Alex was an only moderately successful replacement for attacking midfielder Sebastian Grazzini.

So, this time around the Fire has gone after MLS veterans. Javier Leon, president of soccer operations, took forward Maicon Santos from D.C. United it the first round of the MLS re-entry draft and later added midfielder Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for an international roster spot.

On Wednesday, though, came the biggest new acquisition Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. The Fire got the respected veteran along with the No. 30 pick in Thursdays SuperDraft in Indianapolis but had to give up their first round pick No. 11 overall, along with allocation money and a 2013 international slot.

Sounds like a good deal for the Fire, though. Larentowicz has played in the MLS Cup final three times and came out on the winning side with the Rapids in 2010 his first year with that club.

Larentowicz, 29, was only a fourth-round draft pick by the New England Revolution after playing collegiately at Brown. He played for the Revs (and on two MLS Cup finalists) from 2005-09 before being sent to Colorado in a trade that has Chicago tie-ins. In that deal Larentowicz and Wells Thompson went to the Rapids in exchange for Cory Gibbs.

Gibbs retired in the offseason after his 2012 campaign was limited to three games before he was forced to undergo major knee surgery. Thompson was a late season pickup by the Fire when the club was successfully bidding to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Larentowicz played in 96 matches (95 of them starts) in three seasons with the Rapids. He had 14 goals and two assists and played every minute of four playoff games in 2010 that resulted in Colorado claiming the MLS Cup with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas.

"I had three great seasons in Colorado, Larentowicz said in a statement released by the Rapids. "I leave with no hard feelings and will always reflect fondly on our championship year.

Later Larentowicz said he is "happy for a new challenge ... It feels good to go to a place where you're in their plans. It's something I look forward to being a part of.''

The Rapids were reluctant to give him up.

"Parting ways with Jeff was not an easy decision for us, said Paul Bravo, Colorados technical director." But we gain a lot of roster flexibility with this trade as well as the chance to get another young talent through the SuperDraft.

Leon described Larentowiz as "a hardnosed player who has consistently been one of the best midfielders in MLS."

Colorado wasnt the only MLS club trading for better position in Thursdays draft. New England sent its No. 4 pick to Toronto FC to claim the top overall pick, suggesting one player participating in this weeks Combine in Florida made a huge impression.

The downside of the deal is that the Fire doesnt figure to do as well in the SuperDraft as it did with its first-round picks of the last two years. Defenders Jalil Anibaba (2011) and Austin Berry (2012) became starters almost immediately and Berry was last seasons MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.

Following the draft Fire players will gather in Bridgeview for two days of medical exams, then depart on Sunday for the first phase of preseason training at Ave Maria, FL.

Mark Buehrle 'floored' White Sox will retire his number

Mark Buehrle 'floored' White Sox will retire his number

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He's a little nervous now that he has a speech to make, but Mark Buehrle is enjoying life and has no regrets about retiring from baseball.

Addressing the media for the first time since his final game on Oct. 4, 2015, Buehrle said Friday he's right where he wants to be — at home with his family. Buehrle determined 3-4 years ago he would retire after his contract expired to spend more time with his wife and kids. The pitcher, who will have his number 56 retired by the White Sox on June 24, said he didn't announce his decision to step away because he hoped to do so with much fanfare.

"I knew I was done, that I didn't have the drive any more," Buehrle said on a conference call. "I think a big part of it was missing the family, they weren't up in Toronto the whole season and I think that just kind of drained on me. The reason I didn't say anything — I didn't want all the attention. I've always told people I was a young guy that came into the big leagues unknown. Kind of snuck into the big leagues and I wanted to kind of sneak my way out. That's why I haven't said anything, I haven't talked to anybody, I just kind of let it go. Hopefully one day it was just kind of got forgotten and five years down the road, ‘Where's that Buehrle guy? Is he still around?'"

Buehrle, who won 161 games and completed 200 innings in 11 straight seasons with the White Sox, has spent the past year-plus on his Missouri farm with his wife, Jamie, and two children, "doing what I've been wanting to do for 20 years," he said. 

While he misses teammates and life in the clubhouse, Buehrle is at peace with his decision to retire after 16 seasons. He discovered when watching games last season that he didn't miss playing as much as he expected.

Buehrle joked that he doesn't want many former teammates to attend the ceremony because it means he'd have to speak in front of a larger audience. He promises to keep his speech brief, similar to the way he pitched. The left-hander even joked that he offered to allow his son to make the speech in his stead.

[RELATED: Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox]

Even though he's one of the most popular players in club history, Buehrle was surprised last month when the White Sox informed him of their plans. He'll be the 12th player to have his number retired by the White Sox.

"I was blown away and floored by it," Buehrle said. "It's obviously a great honor. It's something you don't really intend to happen or you don't play for that reason. You just go out there and play. I had a long, successful career there in Chicago. I just tried to do everything right and that's how I was kind of raised and how I went about it. Jerry (Reinsdorf) is kind enough to come with this offer about retiring my jersey. I really don't know.

"I've been joking around with friends saying my jersey is going to be up there next to Frank Thomas. I grew up watching this guy. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem like it belongs up there next to his.

"I'm going to be up there with all those numbers and it doesn't seem right, like that's where I belong. I just did what I was supposed to do, had fun with it and lived every day like it was my last. Now my number is going to be up there. I haven't really soaked everything in. It just doesn't make sense right now."

Cubs invest in bullpen and sign Pedro Strop to contract extension

Cubs invest in bullpen and sign Pedro Strop to contract extension

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs invested in their bullpen and clubhouse on Friday, finalizing an extension with Pedro Strop before the start of Cactus League games.

The Cubs and Strop's camp kept negotiating after avoiding an arbitration hearing with a $5.5 million settlement for 2017 before camp opened in Arizona.

Strop — one of the National League's best setup guys and most popular players in the clubhouse — will earn $5.85 million in 2018 instead of testing the free-agent market. The Cubs now hold a $6.25 million club option for 2019 (or a $500,000 buyout).