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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Cubs are talented enough to win another World Series But have they failed to correct one or two remaining fatal flaws?

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here should be no doubt at all that the Chicago Cubs have the talent offensively, defensively, on the mound and on the bench to win their second World Series in three seasons — but will they? Clearly, good health is a requisite, but that’s mpossible to predict, so for the purposes of this conversation, let’s assume the Cubs stay healthy enough to win it all. By adding Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to the rotation and Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to the bullpen, the Cubs might just have the deepest pitching staff in baseball — assuming Morrow can be as effective closing this year as he was as Kenley Jansen’s setup man last year in Los Angeles. There is no doubt Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo begin the season as serious MVP threats, some might even argue preseason favorites. And, if this is the season they come into their

These Cubs are so loaded there are no new additions this year among position players, with 24-year-old primes, Willson Contreras Victor Caratini beating out and Javier Baez could join 35-year-old journeyman that conversation, too. Chris Gimenez for the No. Much smarter baseball 2 catcher spot. Oh, and by the way, the people than I have sugCubs’ position players will gested Addison Russell be among the youngest in and Kyle Schwarber have HUB ARKUSH baseball again this year. MVP tools, too, but they EXECUTIVE EDITOR And therein may lie the @Hub_Arkush have more to prove before only two problems I can see it is truly objective includthat might keep the Cubs ing them in that conversation. from winning their second World SeAnd it doesn’t stop there. ries in the past 110 years. Jason Heyward, with his five Gold First, by choosing to stand pat on Gloves, is one of the three or four best all their young positional talent, presOF defenders in baseball, and sophoident Theo Epstein and general manmore switch-hitter Ian Happ banged ager Jed Hoyer have elected to enter a out 24 taters last year in just 364 atsecond straight season without a true bats, one in just slightly more than leadoff hitter, the one asset missing every 15 trips to the plate. among the Cubs’ embarrassment of Tommy LaStella is one of the game’s riches. premier left-handed pinch hitters, Yes, the Cubs have the bats to lead and Albert Almora Jr. is a potential baseball in runs scored, and they were Gold Glove centerfielder who hit .298 near the top last year, but their limlast year, which raises the question: itations at the top of the order and reHow is switch-hitting World Series liance on the long ball caused them to undergo several stretches of inability MVP Ben Zobrist even going to get on to score runs last season, most notably the field or to the plate?

in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers. Dexter Fowler was absolutely one of the three or four most important pieces of the 2016 world champion Cubs, but there was no one to replace him after he left last year — and there might not be anyone this year either. Secondly, as much as Joe Maddon likes to use his entire roster, and as good as he is at it, If Bryant and Rizzo are going to continue to be the only Cubs guaranteed 550 at-bats, are any of the other kids – Contreras, Baez, Russell, Schwarber, Happ and Almora – ever going to be able to fully reach their peaks? I love all these kids as much as every other Cubs fan and don’t want to part with any of them. But was this past offseason the time to deal one or two of them? Not only to acquire a true leadoff man and more closely resemble the best team in baseball two seasons ago, but to lock in the playing time for the others to allow them to come into their primes this season? These Cubs are good enough right now to win it all again this year, and from where I sit, those are the only two reasons to doubt whether the Cubs will be flying the W again at the end of October.

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Joe Maddon

Kris Bryant finished seventh in the MVP voting last year after winning the award in 2016 AP PHOTO / MATT YORK


Bruce Miles DAILY HERALD

@BruceMiles2112

Chili Davis

Jim Hickey

Brian Butterfield

Brandon Hyde

Players say that the hungry feeling has returned, and Maddon likes their energy, enthusiasm and focus

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very year he has been manager of the Cubs, Joe Maddon has preached the importance of getting off to a good start. Maddon’s reasoning, in part, is that if a team can cruise early, it won’t have to floor the gas pedal in September and be worn out by October. It’s a balancing act, and Maddon hopes he has struck the right balance this spring. During the Cubs’ run to a world championship in 2016, they got off to a 17-5 start in April. Last year, with the now-infamous “World Series hangover” in full effect, the Cubs went 13-11 in April and 12-16 in May. The team lost in five games to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, and Maddon spent the offseason trying to come up with something new for this year. There was more than just words behind his spring slogan of “energy and enthusiasm.” “I want them on a daily basis to be concerned with their enthusiasm and their energy — energy and enthusiasm,” Maddon said. “I really believe if we can understand just showing up, really

showing up mentally every day with a lot of energy and life, combine that with what we do naturally well anyway, I think that will permit us to get off to a good start. “Energy, enthusiasm, execution, fundamentally, but I try to present it in a different way. Listen, it’s my fourth year of doing it here, and you never want the message to grow old. So I think it’s important to say the same thing in other words. I think that’s the essence of a good instructor.” The Cubs certainly have the talent, enough to make them the easy preseason favorites in the National League Central and the World Series pick of many around the country. And this year, there is no headache — happily suffered as it was — of a “World Series hangover.” “If you look at my notes from last year compared to this year — last year it was ‘uncomfortable,’ ‘growth’ and all this other stuff — I don’t think I emphasized quick start enough,” Maddon said. “But I was concerned. I was concerned about fatigue. I thought if I pushed too quickly, any chance that we had to play in the latter part of the season would go away because we would just burn it out too soon. Regardless if you

liked the start or not last year, it just had to be that way, I think. “But to our guys’ credit, they put it together in the middle and rebounded. If maybe we had gotten off to a blazing hot April and May and that would have meant we would have gone home in September-October, who knows? So you’ve just got to try to play your hand as well as you possibly can. The best way I can describe it to you is the message is kind of the same, but in other words.” This year’s spring-training camp, energized early by the signing of free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish and by a largely new coaching staff, was businesslike, efficient and largely uneventful. In other words, there’s no good reason for the Cubs not to get off to a good start. “It’s been a great camp, run very smoothly, very crisp,” Opening-Day starting pitcher Jon Lester told the media late in spring training. “I like where we’re at. These guys, knowing these young guys and how they operate, they’ll be amped up and ready for Opening Day.” In the offseason, the Cubs made as many changes off the field as they did on the field. Chili Davis replaced Chicagoan John Mallee as hitting coach. His immediate charge was to get right fielder Jason Heyward and left fielder Kyle Schwarber back on track. Heyward, a two-time

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

By


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TRAVEL

AP PHOTOS / JOHN MINCHILLO

Javier Baez

with the emergence of Baez. Zobrist, the MVP of the 2016 World Series, has the advantage of playing multiple positions, and with the way Maddon juggles lineups, he may get more playing time than one might expect. The addition of Darvish gives the Cubs the best rotation in the NL Central, if not the league. There was a gaping hole left after former ace Jake Arrieta opted for free agency. Darvish fills that nicely, and he’ll fit in behind Lester and Kyle Hendricks

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

(Continued from Page 5) Gold Glover with the Cubs and a team leader, was only marginally better at the plate last year than he was in 2016. Schwarber, miscast as a leadoff man to start the 2017 season, wound up in the minor leagues before coming back and rebounding. Another Chicago native, Jim Hickey, replaced longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio. One of Hickey’s main jobs is to help the relievers throw more strikes. Brian Butterfield replaced Gary Jones as thirdbase coach. Butterfield made his presence felt early in spring with demonstrative baserunning instruction. Dave Martinez, a longtime Maddon confidant, left his job as Cubs bench coach to manage the Washington Nationals, with Brandon Hyde moving from the first-base coaching box to sit next to Maddon on the bench. Will Venable takes over at first base, and he adds a dose of youth to the staff at age 35. He also has big-league playing experience. The team on the field looks much the same as last season, which is to say it’s loaded. Third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo combined for 61 home runs last year, and for all the talk of his “bad year,” Schwarber wound up with 30. This figures to be the year second baseman Javier Baez gets everyday playing time after compiling 469 at-bats last year and hitting 23 homers. Maddon will have to work his mind magic with veteran Ben Zobrist, who may get aced out of playing time

TRAVEL

and ahead of Jose Quintana and newcomer Tyler Chatwood, whom the Cubs feel is a sleeper after spending much of his career at hitter-friendly Coors Field with the Colorado Rockies. Any one of the Cubs’ first four starters could be an Opening-Day starter on many big-league clubs. “Without being too specific, I think this group right here is just a little bit more talented in certain areas, whether it’s strike-throwing, pitch-making, experience level,” Maddon said. “As a rounded-out group, they complement each other very well.” The bullpen will have a new man in the ninth inning: Brandon Morrow. The Cubs got an eyeful of Morrow last fall in the NLCS against the Dodgers. So did everybody else, as Morrow appeared in all seven games of the World Series. Unlike the Cubs’ previous two closers, Wade Davis and Aroldis Chapman, Morrow is not a closer by trade, but he has pitched in plenty of high-leverage situations. With everything seemingly in place and the team well rested, Rizzo sees no reason the Cubs can’t get off to the fast start their manager wants. “I think it feels like, yeah, it’s definitely different,” Rizzo said. “It’s a good feeling. It’s a good, hungry feeling. Obviously last year was a little more coming off a major high. This is more like everyone is focused early and shifting our energy to getting off to a really good start and how important that is.”

Follow Bruce’s Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Darvish, Morrow headline Cubs’ staff changes

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hat’s new with the Cubs? More than you would think for a team that won the World Series in 2016, advanced to the NLCS in 2015 and 2017 and has won 292 games over the past three seasons. Only 14 players from the World Series roster remain with the Cubs. For starters: Forty percent of the starting rotation is new, and the group is younger as a result. Jake Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, priced him out of the market in Chicago, so the 32-yearold signed with the Phillies, while 39-year-old John Lackey retired. They’ve been replaced by Yu Darvish, 31, and Tyler Chatwood, 28. At his best, Darvish could wind up as the ace of one of the top five rotations in the game, which still includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. Now that he doesn’t have to make half his starts at hitter-friendly Coors Field, Chatwood is expected to put up full-season numbers on par with what he posted on the road last year, when he had a 3.49 ERA and a

But the leadoff spot remains in flux

in the role last year, and 1.23 WHIP and when oppoit was clear they didn’t nents hit only .200 against have a true leadoff man. him. At Coors, he had a Best guess is that the top 6.01 ERA, a 1.68 WHIP and spot will continue to be opponents lit Chatwood handled by committee, up for a .302 average. although switch-hitting At the top of the order: Ian Happ and tough-onWhen it comes to the By Cubs, no discussion of Bob LeGere lefties Albert Almora are the best options — or change is complete withCHICAGO BASEBALL @BobLeGere the least bad, as the case out a look at the leadoff might be. spot, which has been in Both players are young and can be flux since Dexter Fowler left for the groomed for the role, although the Cardinals after the 2016 season. It 23-year-old Happ’s power from both was a sore spot last season, but that sides of the plate seems to make didn’t prevent the club from finishhim a better fit in an RBI-producing ing second in the NL with 882 runs. spot. He dropped 24 bombs last year The Cubs were 24th last year with in just 414 plate appearances with a a .246 batting average from the lead.328 on-base percentage. off spot and 18th in on-base percentAlmora’s on-base percentage of age at .324. .338 was 30 points higher than in his The Kyle Schwarber experiment rookie season in 2016, and he showed last year was a flop, as he had a .312 improved patience at the plate as the on-base percentage hitting at the top season progressed. Almora, who of the order. It’s as bad of an idea turns 24 in April, batted .342 against now as it was then, despite the sluglefties in 2017 with a .411 on-base perger’s new, streamlined physique. But that doesn’t mean manager Joe Madcentage. In closing: don won’t continue to force a square Brandon Morrow is the new peg into a round hole rather than adheadliner in a Cubs’ bullpen that mit it’s an ill-conceived plan. has moved on from near-flawless The Cubs tried 11 different players

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2017 closer Wade Davis and Hector Rondon, who was the closer for the first half of the previous season and saved 77 games in six seasons with the Cubs. Although he has just 18 career saves in 11 seasons (and only two in the past nine years), Morrow will be asked to assume a role that is foreign to him. However, Morrow has plenty of experience pitching in pressure situations. He was brilliant last postseason in a setup role, except for one game. He appeared in 14 games, including all seven in the World Series. Morrow was hammered in Game Five of the Series, but in his 13 other postseason appearances, he pitched 13 2/3 innings and allowed only seven hits and two runs while striking out 12. Reliever Steve Cishek is a sidearming, righthanded setup man who has held opposing righthanded hitters to batting averages of .148 and .169 the past two seasons. He also has experience as a closer, having handled that role in 2013 and 2014 with the Marlins, racking up 73 total saves. He saved 25 games for the Seattle Mariners as recently as 2016.

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2

Willson Contreras #40

Javier Baez #9

Tommy La Stella #2

Addison Russell #27

CATCHER AGE: 25 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 210 | THW: R | BAT: R

SECOND BASE AGE: 25 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 190 | THW: R | BAT: R

INFIELDER AGE: 29 | HT: 5-11 | WT: 180 | THW: R | BAT: L

SHORTSTOP AGE: 24 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 200 | THW: R | BAT: R

Fresh off his first full season in the bigs, Contreras might be the most exciting young catcher in baseball and the heir apparent to Yadier Molina as the best defensive backstop. If he can stay healthy enough to play another 30 games this year – some in the outfield and at first base - and add 150 at-bats, he could be an MVP candidate.

Their first left-handed bat off the bench, La Stella had another stellar season last year as the Cubs’ top pinch hitter and occasional fill-in. Few players work counts and frustrate late-inning relievers more than LaStella, one of the Cubs’ top OBP guys, significantly endearing him to manager Joe Maddon.

Russell had a frustrating 2017 season, tallying 41 fewer games and 173 less atbats than in his breakout ‘16 because of a foot problem that cost him more than a month-and-a-half on the DL. Russell heated up in September, so Joe Maddon is committed to Russell at shortstop, believing his power and RBI upside could have a big impact this year.

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 117 377 | 50 21 74 | 5 | .276 .356 .499

Cubs’ second baseman Javier Baez is one of the game’s best defensive infielders at second base or shortstop. With thunder in his bat, Baez has improved his walks-to-at-bats ratio from 28.1 back in 2016 to 15.6 last season, but he also struck out once every 3.3 at-bats last year, compared to 3.9 in 2016. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 145 469 | 75 23 75 | 10 | .273 .317 .480

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 73 125 | 18 5 22 | 0 | .288 .389 .472

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 110 352 | 52 12 43 | 2 | .239 .304 .418

Victor Caratini #24

Kris Bryant #17

Anthony Rizzo #44

Ben Zobrist #18

CATCHER AGE: 24 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: S

Caratini won the backup catcher role over Chris Gimenez basically because he’s too good to go back to Triple A and he is a switch hitter giving Joe Maddon a left-handed hitting option behind the righty Contreras that Gimenez doesn’t offer. Caratini wore out Triple A pitching last year; now Maddon has to find him at-bats.

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 31 59 | 6 1 2 | 0 | .254 .333 .356

Willson Contreras

THIRD BASE AGE: 26 | HT: 6-5 | WT: 215 | THW: R | BAT: R

FIRST BASE AGE: 28 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 240 | THW: L | BAT: L

INFIELD / OUTFIELD AGE: 36 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 210 | THW: R | BAT: SH

Bryant fell off his 2016 MVP season last year, hitting 29 home runs vs. 39 in ’16 and driving in only 73 runs after 102 in ’16. But his average and OPS were up from .292 to .295 and.939 to .946, respectively. Doubles and triples were also up last year, suggesting a little swing adjustment might be all he needs. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 151 549 | 111 29 73 | 7 | .295 .409 .537

The model of leadership and consistency, Rizzo totaled 31, 32 and 32 home runs and 101, 109 and 109 RBIs from 2015 through 2017. Rizzo’s batting average did drop 19 points last season to .273, but the 2016 Gold Glove first baseman could be poised for a serious run at his first MVP Award this season.

Zobrist came to the Cubs after injury-shortened 2014 and 2015 seasons and put together a huge 147-game 2016 in Chicago. But last year, at 36, he saw his games drop to 128, average plummet 40 points to .232 and power and run production numbers fall off as well. Look for his role to be redefined this season.

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 157 572 | 99 32 109 | 10 | .273 .392 .507

2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 128 435 | 58 12 50 | 2 | .232 .318 .375

AP PHOTOS / GENE J. PUSKAR

Anthony Rizzo

AP PHOTOS / MATT YORK

Addison Russell

AP PHOTOS / CHARLES REX ARBOGAST


Jason Heyward #22

Tyler Chatwood #21

Kyle Hendricks #28

OUTFIELD AGE: 23 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 190 | THW: R | BAT: R

OUTFIELD AGE: 28 | HT: 6-5 | WT: 240 | THW: L | BAT: L

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 28 | HT: 5-11 | WT: 200 | THW: R | BAT: R

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 28 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 190 | THW: R | BAT: R

Almora has Gold Glove ability in centerfield and surprised a lot of people with his .298 average and 46 RBIs in a platoon role with John Jay last year. The Cubs were comfortable enough in Almora’s ascension to choose not to bring Jay back this year, but now Almora has to hold off Ian Happ, a rookie last year, for more than the 299 ABs he received last year. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 132 299 | 39 8 46 | 1 | .298 .338 .445

Since coming to the North Side in 2016, Heyward has fallen short of expectations at the plate, but in winning his fifth Gold Glove — and second as a Cub — last season, he remains a mainstay in the lineup. And he did bring his batting average up 29 points last year while improving from 7 homers and 49 RBIs in ’16 to 11 and 59. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 126 432 | 59 11 59 | 4 | .259 .326 .389

Chatwood comes over from the Colorado Rockies to take Jason Hammel’s No. 5 spot in the rotation. The Cubs think they might have a steal because of Chatwood’s 3.49 ERA and opponents’ batting average of .200 when he pitched away from Denver’s Coors Field last year. He started 52 combined games over the past two seasons. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 33 25 | 8 15 1 | 147.2 | 120 4.69 1.44

The Cubs’ most consistent starter over the past two seasons, Hendricks spent over a month-and- a-half on the DL in 2016 and lost at least eight starts to a tendon problem in his pitching hand. A legitimate Cy Young candidate in 2016, he could be again this year, and he makes the Cubs’ rotation the deepest in the National League. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 24 24 | 7 5 0 | 139.2 | 123 3.03 1.19

Ian Happ #8

Kyle Schwarber #12

Yu Darvish #11

Jon Lester #34

OUTFIELD AGE: 23 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: SH

OUTFIELD AGE: 25 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 220 | THW: R | BAT: L

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 31 | HT: 6-5 | WT: 216 | THW: R | BAT: SH

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 34 | HT: 6-4 | WT: 240 | THW: L | BAT: L

The Cubs’ 2015 first-round draft choice (ninth overall), Happ arrived with the big club in mid-May last season for a short-term look and refused to leave. His 24 home runs in 364 at-bats guaranteed him a roster spot this year, and he has threatened to claim the leadoff spot and Almora’s CF position in spring training. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 15 364 | 62 24 68 | 8 | .253 .328 .514

Get ready for the new Kyle Schwarber, 20 pounds lighter than you’ve seen him as a Cub. Schwarber has to improve on last year’s .211 average to stay in left field every day, but his 30 homers last year — one every 14 ABs — are why the Cubs refuse to deal him. His dip from his rookie .355 OBP to .315 also needs to bounce back. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 129 422 | 67 30 59 | 1 | .211 .315 .467

Darvish was thought by many to be the best starter available in free agency this past offseason. He is on pace to become MLB’s greatest strikeout artist of all time with 11.04 per nine innings in 832.1 innings pitched, all but 49.2 in the American League. Randy Johnson is currently the best among pitchers with 1,000 innings, at 10.61. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 31 31 | 10 12 0 | 186.2 | 209 3.86 1.16

Coming off arguably his best season in 2016, Lester suffered a noticeable dip last year, as his ERA rose from 2.44 to 4.33, while his WHIP ballooned from 1.02 to 1.32, its highest in seven seasons. But he was a beast in the NLDS and will again be the Cubs’ starter against the Marlins on Opening-Day. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 32 32 | 13 8 0 | 180.2 | 180 4.33 1.32

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Albert Almora Jr. #5


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

José Quintana #62

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 29 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 220 | THW: L | BAT: R

Brian Duensing #32

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 35 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 200 | THW: L | BAT: L

Mike Montgomery #38 RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 28 | HT: 6-5 | WT: 215 | THW: L | BAT: L

Pedro Strop #46

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 32 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 220 | THW: R | BAT: R

Like Kyle Hendricks, Quintana is one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, with a career 3.53 ERA that has only been over 4.00 one time. He averaged nearly 200 innings over the past six seasons, only failing to reach the milestone last season, when the Cubs went to a six-man rotation in September. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 32 32 | 11 11 0 | 188.2 | 207 4.15 1.22

Duensing struggled early last season but by mid-May he found his groove and was nearly unhittable the rest of the way as the top lefty out of the bullpen vs. left-handed hitters. His 2.74 ERA was the second best of his nine MLB seasons, and Duensing’s 3.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio was a career best. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 68 0 | 1 1 0 | 62.1 | 61 2.74 1.22

Montgomery is one of the most valuable Cubs because of his ability to start and pitch either long or short relief. Although he had hoped for a crack at a spot in the rotation this season, he will again begin the year in the bullpen and serve as Joe Maddon’s jack of all trades on the mound. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 44 14 | 7 8 3 | 130.2 | 100 3.38 1.21

“Stropie” is a leader in the clubhouse, the bullpen and on the mound, where he has as much movement on his pitches as almost any hurler in baseball and is known for wearing his cap cocked to one side. The other piece in the trade with Baltimore that netted Jake Arrieta, Strop has a 3.13 career ERA and 2.72 in his five seasons as a Cub. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 69 0 | 5 4 0 | 60.1 | 65 2.83 1.18

Steve Cishek #41

Carl Edwards #6

Brandon Morrow #15

Justin Wilson #37

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 31 | HT: 6-6 | WT: 217 | THW: R | BAT: R

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 26 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 170 | THW: R | BAT: R

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 33 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: R

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 30 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 205 | THW: L | BAT: L

Cishek has had past success as a closer – 88 saves from 2012-14 in Miami — and as a setup man in separate stints with the Marlins, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Mariners. He comes to Chicago with a funky delivery, making the ball nearly impossible to pick up, and he has a career 2.73 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 49 0 | 3 2 1 | 44.2 | 41 2.01 0.90

Edwards nearly doubled his workload last season, going from 36.0 innings in 2016 to 66.1 in 73 games, while lowering his ERA from 3.75 to 2.98 and becoming one of MLB’s best setup men with his electric stuff. If he can overcome his occasional loss of control, he might compete for the closer’s job. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 73 0 | 5 4 0 | 66.1 | 94 2.98 1.01

Morrow was the most unhittable pitcher in the National League the second half of 2017 working out of the Dodgers’ bullpen and brings his 98-to100 mile-per-hour fastball to Wrigley Field to replace Wade Davis. He was a starter early in his career in Toronto and closed part of one season as a 23-year-old for the Mariners. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 45 0 | 6 0 2 | 43.2 | 50 2.06 0.92

This flame-thrower was a tradedeadline acquisition by the Cubs last year. He had the best first half of his career in 2017 closing in Detroit and notching 13 saves, but he struggled when he got to the Cubs. Wilson is most likely new pitching coach Jim Hickey’s top project and could be a key lefty arm out of the bullpen. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 65 0 | 4 4 13 | 58.0 | 80 3.41 1.29

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Tim Anderson #7

Yoan Moncada #10

Yolmer Sanchez #5

CATCHER AGE: 30 | HT: 5-10 | WT: 220 | THW: R | BAT: R

SHORTSTOP AGE: 24 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 185 | THW: R | BAT: R

SECOND BASE AGE: 22 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: S

SECOND BASE AGE: 25 | HT: 5-11 | WT: 185 | THW: R | BAT: S

The Sox didn’t get much offensive production from the catcher position last year, so they signed Castillo to a two-year deal this past winter. Castillo has been a mixed bag defensively, but it’s hard to ignore his offense. The veteran has averaged 18 homers over the past three seasons and hit 20 in just 341 at-bats last season in Baltimore. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 96 341 | 44 20 53 | 0 | .282 .323 .490

A personal tragedy caused Anderson to struggle through the first half of his first full MLB season, but the former first-round pick bounced back to finish with 17 homers and 56 RBIs. He was also more active on the base paths – a trend he expects to continue this season. Strikeouts remain a problem, and he has drawn just 26 walks in 1,037 ABs. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 146 587 | 72 17 56 | 15 | .257 .276 .402

Moncada entered 2017 as the No. 2 prospect in baseball, and he proceeded to dominate at AAA Charlotte before finally getting called up in July. He got off to a slow start but took off in September with five HRs. Moncada could open the season in the leadoff spot, and the Sox are expected to give him the green light on the base paths. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 54 199 | 31 8 22 | 3 | .231 .338 .412

A solid season at the plate and some terrific defense led Sanchez to a surprising 3.5 WAR, which finished behind only Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, in 2017. Capable of playing three infield positions, the 25-year-old is looking to carve out a full-time role at third base after hitting .267 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs last season. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 141 484 | 63 12 59 | 8 | .267 .319 .413

Jose Abreu #79

Matt Davidson #24

Tyler Saladino #20

Nicky Delmonico #30

FIRST BASE AGE: 31 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 255 | THW: R | BAT: R

THIRD BASE AGE: 26 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 230 | THW: R | BAT: R

SECOND BASE AGE: 28 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 200 | THW: R | BAT: R

OUTFIELD AGE: 25 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 230 | THW: R | BAT: L

Rumors have swirled since last summer that Abreu could be on the trading block, but the White Sox have said they value his presence in a locker room filled with young faces. They certainly don’t mind having him in the middle of the lineup either. In four MLB seasons, Abreu owns a .301 batting average and has averaged 36 doubles, 31 homers and 102 RBIs. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 1 56 621 | 95 33 102 | 3 | .304 .354 .552

It’s difficult to hit 26 home runs and still end up with a negative WAR, but Davidson managed to achieve the feat last season as a .220 average and .260 on-base percentage weighed down his value. The former top prospect flashed his power again this spring. The question is if he can make enough progress in other areas to make it worth it. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 118 414 | 43 26 68 | 0 | .224 .273 .449

Saladino hit just .178 in 253 at-bats last season, a far cry from the .282 batting average he posted in 298 atbats the season before. The regression is definitely cause for concern, yet he will likely open the season in the big leagues because of his ability to play multiple positions effectively. The veteran utility man could find playing time early at third base. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 79 253 | 23 0 10 | 5 | .178 .254 .229

In a lineup that struggled to make much contact last season, Delmonico provided a fresh approach with 23 walks and 31 strikeouts in 166 plate appearances. He also slugged nine homers to finish with an .856 OPS. That performance earned Delmonico the starting role in left field and a spot in the middle of the White Sox lineup to start 2018. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 43 141 | 25 9 23 | 2 | .262 .373 .482

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Welington Castillo #53


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Adam Engel #15

Leury Garcia #28

Carson Fulmer #51

OUTFIELD AGE: 26 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 210 | THW: R | BAT: R

OUTFIELD AGE: 27 | HT: 5-8 | WT: 170 | THW: R | BAT: S

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 24 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 195 | THW: R | BAT: R

A .166/.235/.282 slash line across 301 at-bats in 2017 doesn’t provide a ton of hope, but Engel’s terrific outfield defense and speed will earn him another shot this season. The 26-yearold also swung the bat extremely well this spring, hitting .364, as the White Sox headed into the final weekend of camp. If able to create more contact, Engel should be a handful on the bases. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 97 301 | 34 6 21 | 8 | .166 .235 .282

The 27-year-old Garcia hasn’t shown much in parts of five seasons with the White Sox, but he will open the season as the team’s fourth outfielder. He might not hold down a roster position long, however, with Eloy Jimenez closing in on the majors and prospect Ryan Cordell also looking to make his debut soon. The ability to play both middle infield positions also helps. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 87 300 | 41 9 33 | 8 | .270 .316 .423

The Sox expect Fulmer to open the season in the rotation, and it could be a make-or-break season for the team’s 2015 first-round pick. Fulmer held his own in five starts with the White Sox last year, but his 6.36 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 25 starts for Triple-A Charlotte were a major concern. A move to the bullpen could be in store if the 24-yearold can’t develop better control. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 7 5 | 3 1 0 | 23.1 | 19 3.86 1.24

Avisail Garcia #26

Eloy Jimenez #74

Lucas Giolito #27

Carson Fulmer

AP PHOTOS / CHARLIE RIEDEL

Miguel Gonzalez #58

OUTFIELD AGE: 26 | HT: 6-4 | WT: 240 | THW: R | BAT: R

OUTFIELD AGE: 21 | HT: 6-4 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: R

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 23 | HT: 6-6 | WT: 255 | THW: R | BAT: R

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 33 | HT: 6-1 | WT: 170 | THW: R | BAT: R

Garcia struggled to reach replace­ ment value in each season from 2013 through 2016 and then broke out with an all-star campaign in 2017. His .330 batting average trailed only Jose Altuve in the American League, and Garcia showcased improved power with 27 doubles and 18 homers while driving in 80. He will likely open the season batting second behind Yoan Moncada. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 136 518 | 75 18 80 | 5 | .330 .380 .506

How much longer will Sox fans have to wait to see baseball’s No. 4 prospect in Chicago? By all indications, probably not long. The key piece in last summer’s Jose Quintana trade, Jimenez has mashed at each stop in the minors. Scouts said the 20-year-old outfielder was near major-league ready this spring, and Jimenez could force an early call-up with another hot start. 2017 MINOR LEAGUE STATS GP AB | R HR RBI | SB | BA OBP SLG 89 333 | 54 19 65 | 1 | .312 .379 .568

Giolito entered 2017 as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and didn’t disappoint once he arrived in Chicago. The youngster turned in a 2.38 ERA across seven starts, and his off-speed pitches earned high marks from scouts. Giolito has continued to pitch well in spring training and is locked at the top of the team’s rotation. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 7 7 | 3 3 0 | 45.1 | 34 2.38 0.95

González did an admirable job chewing up innings in 2017, until the White Sox sent him to the Rangers on Aug. 31. The 33-year-old right-hander turned in a respectable 4.31 ERA in 133 2/3 innings. The White Sox re-signed Gonzalez this winter with hopes of similar results. His role should be safe until Carlos Rodon is healthy, and the Sox decide to promote Michael Kopech. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 27 27 | 8 13 0 | 156.0 | 100 4.62 1.42


Carlos Rodon #55

Luis Avilán #70

Juan Minaya #37

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 21 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 205 | THW: R | BAT: R

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 25 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 235 | THW: L | BAT: L

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 28 | HT: 6-2 | WT: 225 | THW: L | BAT: L

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 27 | HT: 6-4 | WT: 210 | THW: R | BAT: R

The No. 10 prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, Kopech is close to major-league ready but will begin the 2018 season in the minors. He likely won’t be there for long. Kopech struck out 172 batters in 134 2/3 innings across Double-A and Triple-A last season. He continued to garner high praise from scouts this spring and could reach Chicago as early as May. 2017 MINOR LEAGUE STATS G P GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 25 25 | 9 8 0 | 134.1 | 172 2.88 1.17

Arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder will sideline Rodon until at least early June, and the White Sox will be in no rush to bring the young lefty back in a rebuilding season. Still, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft has flashed tremendous upside when healthy, with 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings across parts of three seasons in the majors. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 12 12 | 2 5 0 | 69.1 | 76 4.15 1.37

Avilán arrived in Chicago during the offseason as part of a three-team trade with the Dodgers and Royals. The left-hander had a breakout year in Los Angeles, striking out 52 in 46 innings on his way to a 2.93 ERA. Avilán has an outside chance of seizing the White Sox closer’s role early and will definitely be counted on in high-leverage situations. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 61 0 | 2 3 0 | 46.0 | 52 2.93 1.39

Minaya finished 2017 as the team’s closer with nine saves down the season’s stretch; though, that had more to do with a lack of other viable options. While he didn’t do enough to lock down the role, he did show enough to claim a spot in this season’s bullpen. The 27-year-old has displayed strikeout upside at multiple levels, but a high walk rate remains a concern. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 40 0 | 3 2 9 | 43.2 | 51 4.53 1.33

Reynaldo Lopez #40

James Shields #33

Nate Jones #65

Joakim Soria #48

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 24 | HT: 6-0 | WT: 185 | THW: R | BAT: R

STARTING PITCHER AGE: 36 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 215 | THW: R | BAT: R

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 32 | HT: 6-5 | WT: 220 | THW: R | BAT: R

RELIEF PITCHER AGE: 33 | HT: 6-3 | WT: 200 | THW: R | BAT: R

The strikeout numbers have been impressive during his development time in the minors, but Lopez failed to achieve the same results in a limited sample size at the big-league level in 2017. In eight starts, he struck out 30 in 47 2/3 innings, but there’s still plenty of upside in the 24-year-old. The White Sox will remain patient and hope the former top-100 prospect can develop at the major-league level. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS G P GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 8 8 | 3 3 0 | 47.2 | 30 4.72 1.32

Shields will start on Opening Day, but that won’t cause much excitement after the veteran right-hander posted a 5.23 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 117 innings last season. Shields did pitch better late in the season after an arm slot adjustment. The White Sox will count on the 36-year-old to eat up innings until Carlos Rodon gets healthy and Michael Kopech arrives, even if Shields doesn’t have much left in the tank. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 21 21 | 5 7 0 | 117.0 | 103 5.23 1.44

Injuries have limited Jones to just 101 innings since the start of the 2014 season, but the hard-throwing right-hander enters 2018 healthy after undergoing elbow surgery in July. The owner of a 9.9 strikeout rate per nine innings, Jones could find himself in the closer’s role. At the very least, expect White Sox manager Rick Renteria to use Jones in highleverage situations. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 11 0 | 1 0 0 | 11.2 | 15 2.31 1.29

While not as dominant as in his younger days, Soria remains an effective late-inning option. The 33-year-old righty is coming off a season in Kansas City where he struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and finished with a 3.70 ERA. He’s also pitched in 249 games since 2014, giving Rick Renteria a reliable arm in a young bullpen that lacks much experience in high-leverage situations. 2017 REGULAR-SEASON STATS GP GS | W L SV | IP | K ERA WHIP 59 0 | 4 3 1 | 56.0 | 64 3.70 1.23

Jose Abreu

AP PHOTOS / MATT MARTON

Carlos Rodon

AP PHOTOS / AARON JOSEFCZYK

Avisail Garcia

AP PHOTOS / MATT MARTON

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Michael Kopech #78


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Slimmer Schwarber among 5 Cubs storylines to watch By

Bruce Miles

DAILY HERALD

T

@BruceMiles2112

he Chicago Cubs have concluded an uneventful Cactus League season, and that’s the way they wanted it. No drama. But that does not mean we’re lacking for storylines heading into the 2018 season. The Cubs are loaded with talent, so most of the “problems” they have heading into the season are good ones, such as how to find playing time for everybody. Here are five things to watch:

start the season, that will open a spot. As the Cubs broke camp in Arizona, Carl Edwards Jr. and newcomer Steve Cishek were set from the right side. Lefty Mike Montgomery is a swingman who can spot start and work in long relief. He’s joined by fellow lefties Brian Duensing and Justin Wilson, who is looking to rebound after a rough final two months following his trade from the Tigers last July. If Strop can’t be-

1. Has Ian Happ won

the Cubs’ leadoff job?

It appears so. Second-year man Ian Happ, who didn’t make his major-league debut until midMay last year, tore it up in the Cactus League, and it looks like he will get most of the reps from the leadoff spot. “He made it known to us from the beginning that he wants to do it,” manager Joe Maddon told re- Ian Happ porters Sunday on the team’s final day in Arizona. “He came in with a purpose.” The 23-year-old Happ put together an Arizona line of .333/.418/.875 with 7 homers. He hit 24 home runs last season. At the beginning of camp, Maddon said it was likely the Cubs would audition four players as leadoff men. It’s still possible Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist will see time batting first.

2. A new closer

The Cubs enter the season with a veteran as their closer, but Brandon Morrow has been a setup man most of his career. Morrow, who pitched in all seven World Series games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last fall, signed with the Cubs in the offseason, and with the departure of Wade Davis to Colorado, the ninth inning belongs to Morrow today. Morrow worked in five Cactus League games before the Cubs headed to Florida to finish preseason play. He put up a 6.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.50. The Cubs aren’t worried about spring stats, and they’ll point to his postseason work as being ready to handle “high-leverage” situations.

3. The rest of the pen

Maddon and the Cubs have decided on an eightman bullpen to support their five starting pitchers. Right-handed setup man Pedro Strop was slowed during the spring by illness and a leftcalf injury. If Strop goes on the disabled list to

AP PHOTO / TIM SPYERS

gin the season on the active list, Eddie Butler may make the team. He worked as a starter in 11 games last year and is out of minor-league options.

4. The Heyward situation

It was another spring of swing adjustments for RF Jason Heyward, a high-priced player who improved only incrementally in 2017 from his disappointing 2016 season at the plate. In 17 Cactus League games, Heyward was 8-for43 with 1 homer, putting up an overall line of .186/.250/.326. The Cubs love Heyward’s leadership and his Gold Glove in right field. If his offensive struggles continue, however, will Maddon reduce his playing time and use Almora or Ben Zobrist in right field? This is Season Three of Heyward’s eight-year, $184-million contract. Maddon may have to do a delicate balancing act here.

5. The ‘new’ Schwarber

Left fielder Kyle Schwarber came to camp slim and trim, the result of earnest conditioning work in the offseason. Even though Schwarber batted only .211 and spent time in the minor leagues last year, he did hit 30 home runs, second most on the team. The Cubs have always loved the offensive potential of their former first-round pick. Through Sunday’s finale of the Cactus League season, Schwarber had a line of .333/.421/.688 on 16-for-

Kyle Schwarber has trimmed down in the offseason and is looking to rebound in 2018 AP PHOTO / MATT YORK

48 hitting. He has held his own in left field. Schwarber’s goal has been to be on the field for all nine innings and not be replaced for defense. If that happens, and Schwarber rebounds offensively across the board, consider it mission accomplished.

Follow Bruce’s Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112


By

Scot Gregor

from Milwaukee last July in a trade for reliever Anthony Swarzak. A 25-year-old outfielder, Cordell will open the season at Class AAA Charlotte after batting .317 and driving in 8 runs in 17 Cactus League games. If White Sox center fielder Adam Engel struggles with the bat again, Cordell is a viable replacement candidate.

@scotgregor

3. Pitcher to watch

T DAILY HERALD

he current book on the Chicago White Sox is a familiar story. For the sixth straight season, the Sox are expected to finish with a losing record. Like Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 retirement ceremony last year and a similar gathering for No. 14, Paul Konerko, in 2015, the highlight game at Guaranteed Rate Field this season looks like Sept. 2. That’s the day the White Sox will honor broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, who is entering his 33rd — and final — year in the booth. With so much young talent coming through the system, the Sox are set up to be a much happier story in 2019 and beyond. For now, here are five storylines to watch this season:

1. Competitive edge At SoxFest in January and in the early days of spring training in February, there was plenty of bold talk coming from the playing ranks. Top outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez said multiple World Series championships are in the team’s future. Veteran Sox relief pitcher Joakim Soria said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up winning the division this year.” The confidence is expected, but it’s not realistic for this season. Jimenez might indeed lead the Sox to glory in the future, but this year’s team is still in transition and not ready to compete. If Jimenez, Michael Kopech and another prospect or two can come up from the minor leagues and contribute this year as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez did in 2017, the White Sox could be a .500 team.

2. Player to watch Last season, it was Nicky Delmonico. Buried on the Sox’s top prospects list, the left fielder joined the 25-man roster on Aug. 1 and reached base safely in his first 13 games, a franchise record. Delmonico finished hitting .262/.373/.482 with 9 home runs and 23 RBI in 43 games with the White Sox, and he could emerge as the designated hitter of the future. This season, keep an eye on Ryan Cordell, who was acquired

Eloy Jimenez AP PHOTO / C.R. ARBOGAST

Eloy Jimenez was the big name joining the Sox last July in the huge trade that sent veteran starter Jose Quintana to the Cubs. Dylan Cease was included in that deal, and the 22-year-old righty had a great spring for the White Sox, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings with 9 strikeouts. Cease is ticketed to open the season at high Class A Winston-Salem, but he has the stuff to climb all the way to AAA Charlotte and compete for a rotation spot with the Sox next spring.

4. Trade watch General manager Rick Hahn has made 11 trades since December of 2016, subtracting most veterans off the White Sox roster. First baseman Jose Abreu and right fielder Avisail Garcia are the last vets with value. If Hahn is offered the right package of prospects, Abreu and Garcia could both be gone by the July 31 trade deadline.

5. Last chance? Carson Fulmer had a rough spring, giving up 14 earned runs on 18 hits (7 home runs) and 13 walks in just 10.2 innings. Fulmer is going to open the season as the team’s fifth starter, and that decision makes sense. Drafted No. 8 overall in 2015 after a prolific collegiate career at VanderOutfielder Ryan Cordell came bilt, Fulmer should to the White get every chance to Sox last season make an impact. in a trade with With Giolito and the Milwaukee Lopez already seBrewers AP PHOTO / CARLOS OSORIO cure in the White Sox’s rotation and Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Cease and Dane Dunning making their way toward the major leagues, Fulmer still has some time to get himself turned around. The 24-year-old righty showed some promise last September, going 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 6 appearances (3 starts) with the Sox. If he flops as a starter this season, Fulmer likely moves to the bullpen on a permanent basis.

You can follow Scott Gregor on Twitter: @scotgregor

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Contributions of youngsters Jimenez, Kopech among 5 Sox storylines to watch


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

Timing is everything For White Sox GM Rick Hahn, patience remains key to the rebuild By

Scot Gregor

DAILY HERALD

@scotgregor

The White Sox have not made the postseason since Rick Hahn replaced Kenny Williams as GM

E

ntering his sixth season as general manager, Rick Hahn is doing everything he can to change his bio in the Chicago White Sox’s media guide. Once again, the introductory sentence lauds Hahn for helping build the 2005 World Series champions and the 2008 postseason team. Those are both notable accomplishments, but they came when Hahn was assistant general manager under Kenny Williams. Since Hahn took over as GM before the 2013 season, the White Sox are a combined 357-453. They’ve finished last in the AL Central once and fourth four times. Professional sports is a savage industry. Although most general managers with Hahn’s performance sheet would have been long gone, it doesn’t work that way on the South Side. Under chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, the Sox have had only two GMs — Williams and Hahn — over the past 18 seasons. Williams, now the club’s executive vice president, is in his 37th season with

AP PHOTOS / CHARLES REX ARBOGAST

Lucas Giolito AP PHOTO / CHARLIE RIEDEL

the organization. It is rare to find loyalty like Reinsdorf ’s in today’s business culture, but Hahn hasn’t been feeling much heat during five straight losing seasons. Instead, Hahn has been given a pass for the way the White Sox used to slap rosters together with ineffective veterans. And he actually scored big points with a disheartened fan base midway through the 2016 season, declaring the Sox were “mired in mediocrity.” Instead of leaving it at that, Hahn started doing something about it. Two weeks after his uncharacteristic outburst, he traded veteran relief pitcher Zach Duke to St. Louis for outfield prospect Charlie Tilson, and a long overdue rebuild was finally in motion. Hahn then showed he really meant business at the 2016 winter meetings, trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton on consecutive days. “This path doesn’t fit with how we have acted over the last several years,” Hahn said after dealing Sale (Continued on Page 20)


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

(Continued from Page 18) to Boston. “We’ve been in a more of a ‘win now’ and ‘patch and play’ type of situation. We feel the same frustration that the White Sox’ fans have felt over the last few years, where those plans may look good on paper or entering spring training and make everybody feel optimistic. But they haven’t played out the way everybody inside and outside of the organization anticipated.” On paper, Hahn got a great haul of young talent for Sale and Eaton, with current second baseman Yoan Moncada and top pitching prospect Michael Kopech joining the White Sox from the Red Sox; and current starters Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, and pitching prospect Dane Dunning joining the Sox from the Nationals in the Eaton deal. Hahn has made 11 trades since the 2016 winter meetings, acquiring 23 minor-league prospects. Barren for years, the White Sox’s farm system is now rated one of baseball’s best with Kopech, Dunning, former Cubs prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, international acquisitions Luis Robert and Micker Adolfo, and draft picks Zack Collins, Alec Hansen, Jake Burger, Zack Burdi and Gavin Sheets. Wisely, the Sox are not in a rush to harvest this impressive crop of talent. Moncada joined the 25-man roster in July of 2017, followed by Lopez and Giolito. If the White Sox can add three or four more impact prospects to the big-league roster this year and again in 2019, they will be in good shape. Patience is key in a rebuild, and Hahn said it’s

2020 vision This could be the Chicago White Sox ineup in 2020: BATTING ORDER

1 Yoan Moncada 2B 2 Tim Anderson SS 3 Eloy Jimenez RF 4 Matt Davidson 3B 5 Micker Adolfo DH 6 Nicky Delmonico LF 7 Gavin Sheets 1B 8 Zack Collins C 9 Luis Robert CF ROTATION

1 Lucas Giolito 2 Michael Kopech 3 Carlos Rodon 4 Reynaldo Lopez 5 Dylan Cease

AP PHOTOS / BEN MARGOT

Eloy Jimenez

— Scot Gregor

not easy, but he’s willing to wait. “I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we’re saying it to ourselves,” Hahn said. “There’s going to be a temptation … seeing players that are going to get you excited, and people are going to want to see them at the big-league level. “We have to be patient with their development. There’s still some finishing elements that have to

happen at the minor-league level, and then we’ll bring them on when the time is right.” While he waits on the next wave of prospects to get finishing at-bats and innings in the minors, Hahn still has some work to do. There is the June draft and, thanks to their 67-95 record last season, the Sox have the No. 4 overall pick. Having already traded most veterans of value before or during last season, Hahn has to decide if it makes sense to move Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia for more young talent before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Contractually, both players are under club control through 2019, so Hahn can wait even longer if he’s still deciding on whether the 31-yearold Abreu and 26-year-old Garcia fit for the future. “They’re both special cases, and there are very strong arguments for them playing roles in 2020 and beyond,” Hahn said. If the rebuild continues tracking in the right direction — and the injury bug stops biting like it did this spring with Burger, Jimenez, Adolfo and Hansen — the White Sox should be in a position to add instead of subtract next offseason. “When you start seeing us be aggressive to add more veteran talent to round out our roster, you’ll know we’ve entered that next phase,” Hahn said. “Over the next couple of winters, there’s been a lot discussed already about how robust those freeagent classes may well be, and you may well see us be a little more active than we were this past offseason.”

You can follow Scott’s Sox and baseball reports on Twitter: @scotgregor

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

MLB homers for last 20 years Total Year HR

American League

1998 5,064

2,496

1999 5,528

2,635

2000 5,693

Last season, hitters shattered the all-time home run record for a Major League Baseball season with 6,105 homers. In 1998, when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa both broke the single-season record by Roger Maris, MLB hitters topped 5,000 home runs for the first time. AL leader

HR

White Sox leader

HR

K. Griffey Jr.

56

A. Belle

49

K. Griffey Jr.

48

M. Ordonez

30

National League 2,568 2,893

NL leader

HR

Cubs leader

HR

M. McGuire

70

S. Sosa

66

M. McGuire

65

S. Sosa

63

T. Glaus

47

F. Thomas

43

3,005 S. Sosa

2001 5,458

2,506

A. Rodriguez

52

P. Konerko

32

2,952

2002 5,059

2,464

A. Rodriguez

57

M. Ordonez

38

2003 5,207

2,499

A. Rodriguez

47

F. Thomas

42

M. Ramirez

43

P. Konerko

41

A. Rodriguez

48

P. Konerko

40

D. Ortiz

54

J. Dye

44

J. Thome

35

2,688

2004 5,451

2,605

2005 5,017

2,437

2006 5,386

2,546

2007 4,957

2,252

A. Rodriguez

54

2008 4,878

2,270

M. Cabrera

37

C. Quentin

36

C. Pena, M. Teixeira 39

P. Konerko

28

2009 5,042

2,560

2,595 2,708 2,846 2,580 2,840 2,705 2,608 2,482

50

S. Sosa

50

B. Bonds

73

S. Sosa

64

S. Sosa

49

S. Sosa

49

Jim Thome

47

S. Sosa

40

A. Beltre

48

M. Alou

39

A. Jones

51

D. Lee

46

R. Howard

58

A. Ramirez

38

P. Fielder

50

A. Soriano

33

R. Howard

48

A. Soriano

29

A. Pujols

47

D. Lee

35

2010 4,613

2,209

J. Bautista

54

P. Konerko

39

2011 4,552

2,271

J. Bautista

43

P. Konerko

31

2,500

M. Cabrera

44

P. Konerko

41

2,504

C. Davis

53

A. Dunn

34

2,157

P. Alvarez, P. Goldschmidt 36

A. Rizzo

23

N. Cruz

40

J. Abreu

36

2,161

G. Stanton

37

A. Rizzo

32

C. Davis

47

J. Abreu

30

N. Arenado, B. Harper

42

A. Rizzo

31

2012 4,934 2013 4,661 2014 4,186

2,025

2015 4,909

2,275

2016 5,610

2,657

2017 6,105

3,170 0

1,000

2,000

3,000

2,404 2,281 2,434

2,634

A. Pujols

42

A. Ramirez

25

M. Kemp

39

C. Pena

29

R. Braun

41

A. Soriano

32

M. Trumbo

47

T. Frazier

40

2,953

No Arenado, C. Carter

41

K. Bryant

39

A. Judge

52

J. Abreu

33

2,935

G. Stanton

59

A. Rizzo

32

Source: Baseball-almanac.com

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1,000

2,000

3,000

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There appears to be light at the end of Sox’s rebuilding tunnel

By

Kyle Nabors

NORTHWEST HERALD

D @KyleNabors

on’t feel bad if you’re having trouble recalling who was on the roster the last time the White Sox played October baseball, which was way back in 2008. Only two players, Boone Logan and Clayton Richard, are still floating around Major League Baseball from that playoff roster. In fact, as the White Sox near the 10th anniversary of their last playoff appearance, only the Mariners (16 years), Marlins (14) and Padres (11) own longer playoff droughts. Yet, despite the futility, there’s a sense of hope on the South Side entering the 2018 season. Maybe not enough to prevent the October drought from reaching double digits, but a promising and speedy rebuild orchestrated by general manager Rick Hahn has caused optimism to take root at 35th and Shields. Top prospects Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez arrived last season to join a talented core of Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Tim Anderson. Heading into 2018, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Michael Kopech – two of the top prospects in baseball – aren’t far behind. What does it all mean for 2018? It’s hard to tell, honestly, but that shouldn’t stop us from making 10 predictions for the 2018 White Sox.

1. Moncada will be an American League all-star. It took Moncada a while to find his footing after getting called up in July, but last season’s No. 2 overall prospect showcased his immense talents with a big September. He apparently carried the momentum over to spring training, where his gap-to-gap power and speed on the basepaths earned high marks from scouts. Strikeouts are going to remain an issue for Moncada, but there’s a reason people aren’t scoffing when the 22-year-old recently suggested he could hit 30 homers and steal 30

Jose Abreu

Yoan Moncada

bases this year.

2. Abreu will once again lead the White Sox in wins above replacement. Moncada definitely could take this title if his 30-30 ambitions come to fruition, but it’s going to be tough to catch Abreu otherwise. Through four seasons, Abreu owns a career .301 average and has driven in at least 100 runs in each season. He posted a 4.7 WAR to lead the White Sox last year, as he hit .304 with 43 doubles, six triples, 33 homers and 102 RBIs.

3. Cleanup hitter will be a constant issue. Well, at least early on. Abreu’s biggest obstacle for production might be the lack of protec-

AP PHOTOS / ROSS D. FRANKLIN

Matt Davidson

tion behind him. It appears the White Sox will open the season with Moncada and Garcia hitting in front of Abreu, but that leaves manager Rick Renteria without a clear choice at cleanup. Nicky Delmonico won’t strike fear into opposing pitchers, and Matt Davidson is more likely to strike out than do any damage.

4. Jimenez will make an immediate impact. Baseball’s No. 4 prospect is the clear choice to eventually hit behind Abreu. Jimenez will start the season in the minors, but it’s clear he won’t be there long. The 21-year-old outfielder destroyed Double-A Birmingham

AP PHOTOS / ORLIN WAGNER

AP PHOTOS / PHIL LONG

after being acquired last summer in the Jose Quintana trade. Scouts called Jimenez close to major-league ready this spring, and it’s only a matter of time until the White Sox unleash him.

5. Matt Davidson will be sent packing. The 26 homers from Davidson were nice last season; however, a staggering 165 strikeouts in 414 atbats likely means Davidson won’t remain in the lineup once the kids arrive. Jimenez and Ryan Cordell will likely reach Chicago before the end of June, and with Yolmer Sanchez, Tyler Saladino and Leury Garcia capable of playing multiple posi(Continued on Page 24)

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

10 predictions for the 2018 White Sox


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

(Continued from Page 23) tions, Davidson could be the odd man out.

Carson Fulmer all in the rotation, it won’t be long until they go looking for reinforcements.

6. Kopech will be the first big-name prospect to get the call-up.

7. Lopez, not Kopech or Giolito, will mark the biggest improvement in the rotation.

If the White Sox were simply opening the season with their five best starting pitchers, Kopech would already be on his way to Chicago. Instead, he’ll start the season in the minors, where he struck out 172 in 134 innings across Double-A and Triple-A last season. But with James Shields, Miguel Gonzalez and

Kopech comes with the buzz of being one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and Giolito impressed after being called up last season. Both should have success in 2018, but it will be Lopez that makes the biggest strides. Walks will once again be a concern, but a plus fastball and changeup, along with an improving curveball, will make Lopez extremely tough on opposing hitters.

8. Hahn will once again find trade chips in the bullpen. If this offseason’s market wasn’t proof enough, the value of relief pitchers is at an all-time high. Hahn managed to turn Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings into valuable assets at last season’s trade deadline, and Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan and Nate Jones could be on the block come July.

9. Things could get weird at the trade deadline.

Michael Kopech

AP PHOTOS / BEN MARGOT

Make no mistake about it, the White Sox believe they’re ready to emerge from this rebuild. There’s a reason Hahn held on to Abreu and Garcia this winter, while also being tied to Manny Machado in trade rumors. The most likely scenario is that Hahn stands pat in July, minus moving a few bullpen pieces, but don’t be surprised if the Sox look to add young

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talent at the major-league level.

10. The White Sox will push to reach the .500 mark by season’s end. Playing in the AL Central with the hapless Royals and Tigers will certainly help achieve this goal, but the White Sox also possess more talent than meets the eye. A solid offensive core should be strengthened by Jimenez’s arrival, and a pitching rotation anchored by Lopez and Giolito will get much tougher with Kopech’s debut and Carlos Rodon’s return in June. The White Sox might not yet be ready to end that playoff drought, but the good days are just over the horizon.

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

The ultimate Cubs conundrum

The doubt is natural, but these Cubs could make us believe again

I

can feel it creeping up on me: Cubbie pessimism. I’ve been trying to ignore it, push it to the corner of my brain where I keep the combination to my gym lock (26 …. 18 … uhhh). but it nags at me even from back there. Last year I was one of the few people in this publication who did not pick the Cubs to return to the World Series. I didn’t enjoy being correct, but I also thought last season was successful, all things considered. The Cubs have reached the league championship series three years running, which is tremendous, really. A longtime Cubs fan has to ask, though – how long can this last? We waited so many years for this team to finally win a World Series – can they possibly win another? That pessimism aside, there are plenty of reasons the Cubs could do it, starting with corner infielders Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. Rizzo’s 28 and Bryant’s 26. They’re both en-

to 4.33 last season). Maybe Kyle Hendricks bounces back after an injury-hampered effort last year. tering their prime togethMaybe all the bullpen er, and they’ve both conmoves the team has made sistently produced about in the offseason work out 30 home runs or more a just fine. year. Last year they comThat’s plausible. bined for more than 10 Maybe a Cubs dynasty wins above replacement will be the latest chapter ERIC OLSON players; this year could be in the Chicago pro sports THE DAILY CHRONICLE even better. mythology, with “Bryzzo” @DC_Editor Maybe it will be. joining Michael and ScotThe Cubs have drastitie and Kane and Toews, cally remade their starting rotation players who brought multiple titles since the start of last season. Cantanto Chicago. If the Cubs are going to kerous John Lackey is gone, and Jake breathe that rarefied air, this is the Arrieta rebuffed them for the Phillies. year for them to add another title. Instead, they’ve got Yu Darvish and It could be there for the taking this Tyler Chatwood to go along with midseason. season acquisition Jose Quintana. So many young players will be enThose newcomers could get the tering what should be some of their Cubs off to a much better start and most productive years in their midhelp them run away with the NL Cen20s, including infielders Javier Baez tral, just like they did in 2016, when and Addison Russell and catcher they won it by 17½ games. Willson Contreras. Kyle Schwarber Could happen. is another in that group, although his Maybe No. 1 starter Jon Lester clumsy defense makes him a liability won’t start to show his age (he’s 34, too often. and his ERA jumped from 2.44 in 2016 Put me down in the doubting-but-

ready-to-believe camp as we start 2018. Cubs fans who have watched the team long enough are familiar with the many ways a season can go awry. The season can almost before it starts, as it did for the 1997 Cubs, who went 0–14. Injuries can derail the season, as they did for the 1985 Cubs, who had four of their five starting pitchers on the DL at the same time. Still, if this team doesn’t win the NL Central, then it will be a collapse as bad as the one the announcer-berating, boom-box-smashing Cubs pulled in 2004 under Dusty Baker. Can they weather the storm of the National League playoffs and return to the World Series? It’s possible. You either run into the hot team, as the Cubs did last year against the Dodgers, or you are the hot team, as the Cubs were in 2016. Can lightning strike twice? I’m skeptical, but if I see it starting to happen, I’ll believe it.

Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle. You can reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2257, or email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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BRUCE MILES

SCOT GREGOR

CUBS RECORD 94-68, first place in NL Central WHITE SOX RECORD 68-94, 4th place in AL Central NL CENTRAL CUBS Brewers Cardinals Pirates Reds WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Mets over Brewers DIVISION SERIES Cubs over Mets Nationals over Dodgers NLCS Cubs over Nationals AL CENTRAL Indians Twins Royals WHITE SOX Tigers WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Red Sox over Angels DIVISION SERIES Astros over Red Sox Yankees over Indians ALCS Yankees over Astros WORLD SERIES Cubs over Yankees

CUBS RECORD 93-69, first place in NL Central WHITE SOX RECORD 75-87, third place in AL Central NL CENTRAL CUBS Brewers Cardinals Pirates Reds WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Brewers over Diamondbacks DIVISION SERIES Cubs over Nationals Dodgers over Brewers NLCS Cubs over Dodgers AL CENTRAL Indians Twins WHITE SOX Tigers Royals WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Red Sox over Twins DIVISION SERIES Astros over Red Sox Yankees over Indians ALCS Yankees over Astros WORLD SERIES Cubs over Yankees

CUBS RECORD 90-72, first place in NL Central WHITE SOX RECORD 70-92, 4th place in NL Central NL CENTRAL CUBS Brewers Cardinals Pirates Reds WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Brewers over Diamondbacks DIVISION SERIES Nationals over Cubs Dodgers over Brewers NLCS Nationals over Dodgers AL CENTRAL Indians Twins Royals WHITE SOX Tigers WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Red Sox over Angels DIVISION SERIES Astros over Red Sox Yankees over Indians ALCS Astros over Yankees WORLD SERIES Nationals over Astros

KYLE NABORS

CUBS RECORD CUBS RECORD CUBS RECORD 95-67, 1st place in NL Central 98-64, 1st place in NL Central 93-69, 1st place in NL Central WHITE SOX RECORD WHITE SOX RECORD WHITE SOX RECORD 79-83, 3rd place in AL Central 75-87, 4th place in AL Central 86-76, 2nd place in AL Central NL CENTRAL NL CENTRAL NL CENTRAL CUBS CUBS CUBS Cardinals Cardinals Brewers Brewers Brewers Cardinals Reds Reds Pirates Pirates Pirates Reds WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Diamondbacks over Cardinals Giants over Cardinals Mets over Brewers DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES Dodgers over Diamondbacks Cubs over Giants Dodgers over Mets Cubs over Nationals Nationals over Dodgers Nationals over Cubs NLCS NLCS NLCS Dodgers over Cubs Cubs over Nationals Nationals over Dodgers AL CENTRAL AL CENTRAL AL CENTRAL Indians Indians Indians WHITE SOX Twins Royals WHITE SOX Twins Twins Royals WHITE SOX Royals Tigers Tigers Tigers WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Yankees over Angels Red Sox over Mariners Angels over Red Sox DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES Astros over Yankees Astros over Red Sox Yankees over Indians Indians over Red Sox Yankees over Indians Astros over Angels ALCS ALCS ALCS Astros over Indians Yankees over Astros Yankees over Astros WORLD SERIES WORLD SERIES WORLD SERIES Astros over Dodgers Cubs over Yankees Yankees over Nationals

HUB ARKUSH

CUBS RECORD CUBS RECORD 98-64, 1st place in NL Central 99-63, 1st place in NL Central WHITE SOX RECORD WHITE SOX RECORD 70-92, 4th place in AL Central 81-81, 3rd place in AL Central NL CENTRAL NL CENTRAL CUBS CUBS Cardinals Brewers Brewers Cardinals Pirates Pirates Reds Reds WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Brewers over Cardinals Mets over Brewers DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES Nationals over Brewers Cubs over Nationals Cubs over Dodgers Dodgers over Mets NLCS NLCS Nationals over Cubs Cubs over Dodgers AL CENTRAL AL CENTRAL Indians Indians Twins Twins WHITE SOX Royals WHITE SOX Royals Tigers Tigers WILD-CARD PLAYOFF WILD-CARD PLAYOFF Red Sox over Orioles Red Sox over Twins DIVISION SERIES DIVISION SERIES Astros over Red Sox Astros over Red Sox Yankees over Indians Yankees over Indians ALCS ALCS Astros over Yankees Astros over Yankees WORLD SERIES WORLD SERIES Astros over Nationals Cubs over Astros

Rozner: There’s no reason to pick against the Astros, who look unbeatable on paper. Said the same about Cubs a year ago. This year, Cubs return and win it again.

Miles: The Cubs are on another mission, as they were in 2016. Imagine the ratings bonanza when they slug it out with the Yankees at Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. Summon the ghosts of Series past.

Gregor: Dave Martinez is an upgrade over Dusty Baker as manager, and former White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton is healthy after missing most of 2017 with a knee injury. The duo help Washington get over the hump.

Nabors: The Cubs have the offense and pitching to win it all, but much like last year, the Dodgers’ deep bullpen will prove to be the difference.

LeGere: The Nationals rate a slight edge in starting pitching, but the Astros are deeper overall and, while their lineup isn’t as powerful, it’s more dangerous top to bottom.

Arkush: Cubs and Yankees youngsters all come into their primes, and Cubs deeper rotation is the diference in a magical World Series for the ages.

ERIC OLSON

Olson: Two new skippers will lead teams to the Fall Classic this year. The Yankees have the bats, they’ve got the bullpen, and they’re primed to win their 28th World Series title.

BOB LeGERE

ARTHUR ARKUSH

Arkush: Forget one team’s World Series hangover curing as the other’s sets in; the Cubs’ bolstered staff is deeper than Houston’s, and their MVP-caliber-laden lineup is a hair better, too.

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

BARRY ROZNER


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

(ALL TIMES CENTRAL)

MARCH DATE

APRIL 24-25

| at Cleveland Indians |

OPPONENT TIME TV

Thur., Mar. 29 at Marlins Fri., Mar. 30 at Marlins Sat., Mar. 31 at Marlins

The Cubs return to Cleveland for the first time since breaking the hearts of Indians fans in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The lineups will look different – there’s no Rajai Davis to nearly give Cubs fans a heart attack this time around – but both teams have high expectations heading into the 2018 season as favorites in their respective divisions. Could this be a preview to an October rematch?

11:40 am WGN 6:10 pm WGN 6:10 pm NBCSC

APRIL DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sun., April 1 Mon., April 2 Tue., April 3 Thur., April 5 Fri., April 6 Sat., April 7 Sun., April 8 Mon., April 9 Wed., April 11 Thur., April 12 Fri., April 13 Sat., April 14 Sun., April 15 Mon., April 16 Tue., April 17 Wed., April 18 Fri., April 20 Sat., April 21 Sun., April 22 Tue., April 24 Wed., April 25 Thur., April 26 Fri., April 27 Sat., April 28 Sun., April 29 Mon., April 30

at Marlins at Reds at Reds at Brewers at Brewers at Brewers at Brewers vs. Pirates vs. Pirates vs. Pirates vs. Braves vs. Braves vs. Braves vs. Cardinals vs. Cardinals vs. Cardinals at Rockies at Rockies at Rockies at Indians at Indians vs. Brewers vs. Brewers vs. Brewers vs. Brewers vs. Rockies

DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Tue., May 1 Wed., May 2 Fri., May 4 Sat., May 5 Sun., May 6 Mon., May 7 Tue., May 8 Wed., May 9 Fri., May 11 Sat., May 12 Sun., May 13 Tue., May 15 Wed., May 16 Thur., May 17 Fri., May 18 Sat., May 19 Sun., May 20 Tue., May 22 Wed., May 23 Fri., May 25 Sat., May 26 Sun., May 27 Mon., May 28 Tue., May 29 Wed., May 30 Thur., May 31

vs. Rockies 7:05 pm vs. Rockies 1:20 pm at Cardinals 7:15 pm at Cardinals 1:15 pm at Cardinals 7:05 pm vs. Marlins 7:05 pm vs. Marlins 7:05 pm vs. Marlins 1:20 pm vs. White Sox 1:20 pm vs. White Sox 1:20 pm vs. White Sox 1:20 pm at Braves 6:35 pm at Braves 6:35 pm at Braves 6:35 pm at Reds 6:10 pm at Reds 6:10 pm at Reds 12:10 pm vs. Indians 6:05 pm vs. Indians 7:05 pm vs. Giants 1:20 pm vs. Giants 6:15 pm vs. Giants 7:08 pm at Pirates 12:35 pm at Pirates 6:05 pm at Pirates 6:05 pm at Mets 6:10 pm

DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Fri., June 1 Sat., June 2 Sun., June 3 Tue., June 5 Wed., June 6 Thur., June 7

at Mets at Mets at Mets vs. Phillies vs. Phillies vs. Phillies

12:10 pm 3:10 pm 5:40 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 3:05 pm 1:10 pm 1:20 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 6:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 7:40 pm 7:10 pm 2:10 pm 5:10 pm 6:10 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 6:05 pm

NBCSC+ NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC+ FS1, ABC 7 WGN ABC 7 WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC WGN WGN, ESPN NBCSC ABC 7 WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC+ NBCSC ABC 7 NBCSC NBCSC

MAY WGN NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 ESPN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC ABC 7 WGN NBCSC+ WGN WGN NBCSC WGN ABC 7 ESPN, WGN NBCSC ABC 7 FOX ESPN ABC 7 WGN NBCSC NBCSC

JUNE 6:10 pm 6:15 pm 12:10 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm

NBCSC+ FOX ABC 7 WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC

Schedule & highlights Fri., June 8 Sat., June 9 Sun., June 10 Mon., June 11 Tue., June 12 Wed., June 13 Fri., June 15 Sat., June 16 Sun., June 17 Mon., June 18 Tue., June 19 Wed., June 20 Thur., June 21 Fri., June 22 Sat., June 23 Sun., June 24 Mon., June 25 Tue., June 26 Wed., June 27 Thur., June 28 Fri., June 29 Sat., June 30

vs. Pirates vs. Pirates vs. Pirates at Brewers at Brewers at Brewers at Cardinals at Cardinals at Cardinals vs. Dodgers vs. Dodgers vs. Dodgers at Reds at Reds at Reds at Reds at Dodgers at Dodgers at Dodgers at Dodgers vs. Twins vs. Twins

1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:15 pm 7:15 pm 1:15 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 6:10 pm 6:10 pm 3:10 pm 12:10 pm 9:10 pm 9:10 pm 9:10 pm 2:10 pm 4:05 pm 1:20 pm

NBCSC ABC 7 WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC WGN ABC 7 FOX NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 WGN NBCSC WGN ABC 7 NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7

DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sun., July 1 Tue., July 3 Wed., July 4 Fri., July 6 Sat., July 7 Sun., July 8 Mon., July 9 Tue., July 10 Wed., July 11 Fri., July 13 Sat., July 14 Sun., July 15 Thur., July 19 Fri., July 20 Sat., July 21 Sun., July 22 Mon., July 23 Tue., July 24 Wed., July 25 Thur., July 26 Fri., July 27 Sat., July 28 Sun., July 29 Tue., July 31

vs. Twins vs. Tigers vs. Tigers vs. Reds vs. Reds vs. Reds at Giants at Giants at Giants at Padres at Padres at Padres vs. Cardinals vs. Cardinals vs. Cardinals vs. Cardinals vs. D-backs vs. D-backs vs. D-backs vs. D-backs at Cardinals at Cardinals at Cardinals at Pirates

JULY 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 9:15 pm 9:15 pm 2:45 pm 9:10 pm 9:10 pm 3:10 pm 6:05 pm 1:20 pm 6:15 pm 1:20 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 1:20 pm 7:15 pm 3:05 pm 7:05 pm 6:05 pm

WGN NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC ABC 7 NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 WGN ABC 7 NBCSC FOX ABC 7 NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC FS1, NBCSC ESPN NBCSC

AUGUST DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Wed., Aug. 1 at Pirates Thur., Aug. 2 vs. Padres Fri., Aug. 3 vs. Padres

6:05 pm WGN 7:05 pm NBCSC 1:20 pm NBCSC

MAY 11-13

Sat., Aug. 4 Sun., Aug. 5 Mon., Aug. 6 Tue., Aug. 7 Wed., Aug. 8 Fri., Aug. 10 Sat., Aug. 11 Sun., Aug. 12 Tue., Aug. 14 Wed., Aug. 15 Thur., Aug. 16 Fri., Aug. 17 Sat., Aug. 18 Sun., Aug. 19 Tue., Aug. 21 Wed., Aug. 22 Thur., Aug. 23 Fri., Aug. 24 Sat., Aug. 25 Sun., Aug. 26 Mon., Aug. 27 Tue., Aug. 28 Wed., Aug. 29 Fri., Aug. 31

vs. Padres 1:20 pm vs. Padres 1:20 pm at Royals 7:15 pm at Royals 7:15 pm at Royals 7:15 pm vs. Nationals 1:20 pm vs. Nationals 3:05 pm vs. Nationals TBD vs. Brewers 1:20 pm vs. Brewers 1:20 pm at Pirates 6:05 pm at Pirates 6:05 pm at Pirates 6:05 pm at Pirates 12:35 pm at Tigers 6:10 pm at Tigers 6:10 pm vs. Reds 7:05 pm vs. Reds 1:20 pm vs. Reds 1:20 pm vs. Reds 1:20 pm vs. Mets 7:05 pm vs. Mets 7:05 pm vs. Mets 1:20 pm at Phillies 6:05 pm

NBCSC WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC WGN NBCSC FS1, ABC 7 NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN ABC 7 NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 WGN NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC+

| vs Chicago White Sox |

The Cubs had already acquired Jose Quintana from the White Sox when these two met last year, but the lefty didn’t get the opportunity to face his former team. Quintana could get the chance this time around. Let’s hope it’s not too early for White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez, who was sent to the South Side in the Quintana deal, to be in the lineup.

JUNE 5-7

| vs Philadelphia Phillies |

Jake Arrieta will always have a special place in fans’ hearts after helping the Cubs to their

SEPTEMBER DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sat., Sept. 1 at Phillies Sun., Sept. 2 at Phillies Mon., Sept. 3 at Brewers Tue., Sept. 4 at Brewers Wed., Sept. 5 at Brewers Thur., Sept. 6 at Nationals Fri., Sept. 7 at Nationals Sat., Sept. 8 at Nationals Sun., Sept. 9 at Nationals Mon., Sept. 10 vs. Brewers Tue., Sept. 11 vs. Brewers Wed., Sept. 12 vs. Brewers Fri., Sept. 14 vs. Reds Sat., Sept. 15 vs. Reds Sun., Sept. 16 vs. Reds Mon., Sept. 17 at D-backs Tue., Sept. 18 at D-backs Wed., Sept. 19 at D-backs Fri., Sept. 21 at White Sox Sat., Sept. 22 at White Sox Sun., Sept. 23 at White Sox Mon., Sept. 24 vs. Pirates Tue., Sept. 25 vs. Pirates Wed., Sept. 26 vs. Pirates Thur., Sept. 27 vs. Pirates Fri., Sept. 28 vs. Cardinals Sat., Sept. 29 vs. Cardinals Sun., Sept. 30 vs. Cardinals

6:05 pm 12:35 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 6:05 pm 6:05 pm 6:05 pm 12:35 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm 3:05 pm 1:20 pm 8:40 pm 8:40 pm 8:40 pm 3:10 pm 6:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 7:05 pm 1:20 pm TBD 2:20 pm

NBCSC WGN WGN NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN ABC 7 WGN NBCSC ABC 7 WGN WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC ABC 7 TBD NBCSC

Jake Arrieta

AP PHOTOS / CHRIS O’MEARA

first World Series in more than 100 years. The former Cy Young winner will return to Chicago for the first time in June after signing a three-year deal with the Phillies this spring.

JUNE 25-28

| at Los Angeles Dodgers |

Is there a rivalry brewing after these teams met in the National League Championship Series in each of the past two seasons? The Cubs got the best of the Dodgers on their way to the World Series title in 2016, and the Dodgers got revenge last season before falling to the Houston Astros in the World Series. Both teams expect to be contenders again, making their regular-season meetings all the more important.

SEPTEMBER 28-30

| vs St. Louis Cardinals |

It’s possible the NL Central title is decided by the time the Cardinals come to town for the final weekend of the regular season. But wouldn’t a Cubs-Cardinals series at Wrigley Field with the division on the line be a ton of fun?


MARCH DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Thurs., Mar 29 at Royals Sat., Mar 31 at Royals

3:15 pm NBCSC 6:15 pm WGN

APRIL DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sun., April 1 Mon., April 2 Tue., April 3 Wed., April 4 Thurs., April 5 Sat., April 7 Sun., April 8 Mon., April 9 Tue., April 10 Wed., April 11 Thurs., April 12 Fri., April 13 Sat., April 14 Sun., April 15 Mon., April 16 Tue., April 17 Wed., April 18 Fri., April 20 Sat., April 21 Sun., April 22 Mon., April 23 Tue., April 24 Wed., April 25 Thurs., April 26 Fri., April 27 Sat., April 28 Sun., April 29

at Royals at Blue Jays at Blue Jays at Blue Jays vs. Tigers vs. Tigers vs. Tigers vs. Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays at Twins at Twins at Twins at Twins at Athletics at Athletics at Athletics vs. Astros vs. Astros vs. Astros vs. Mariners vs. Mariners vs. Mariners at Royals at Royals at Royals at Royals

1:15 pm 6:07 pm 6:07 pm 6:07 pm 3:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 9:05 pm 9:05 pm 2:35 pm 7:10 pm 6:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 4:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:15 pm 7:15 pm 6:15 pm 1:15 pm

WGN WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC+ NBCSC WGN NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC WGN WGN

Schedule & highlights MAY DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Tue., May 1 Wed., May 2 Thurs., May 3 Fri., May 4 Sat., May 5 Sun., May 6 Tue., May 8 Wed., May 9 Fri., May 11 Sat., May 12 Sun., May 13 Tue., May 15 Wed., May 16 Thurs., May 17 Fri., May 18 Sat., May 19

at Cardinals 7:15 pm NBCSC at Cardinals 12:15 pm WGN vs. Twins 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Twins 7:10 pm NBCSC+ vs. Twins 6:10 pm WGN vs. Twins 1:10 pm NBCSC vs. Pirates 7:10 pm WGN vs. Pirates 1:10 pm NBCSC at Cubs 1:20 pm WGN at Cubs 1:20 pm NBCSC at Cubs 1:20 pm NBCSC at Pirates 6:05 pm NBCSC at Pirates 11:35 am NBCSC vs. Rangers 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Rangers 7:10 pm NBCSC+ vs. Rangers 6:10 pm NBCSC

Sun., May 20 Mon., May 21 Tue., May 22 Wed., May 23 Thurs., May 24 Fri., May 25 Sat., May 26 Sun., May 27 Mon., May 28 Tue., May 29 Wed., May 30

vs. Rangers 1:10 pm WGN vs. Orioles 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Orioles 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Orioles 7:10 pm NBCSC+ vs. Orioles 1:10 pm WGN at Tigers 6:10 pm WGN at Tigers 3:10 pm NBCSC at Tigers 12:10 pm NBCSC at Indians 3:10 pm WGN at Indians 5:10 pm NBCSC at Indians 12:10 pm NBCSC

DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Fri., June 1 Sat., June 2 Sun., June 3 Tue., June 5 Wed., June 6

vs. Brewers vs. Brewers vs. Brewers at Twins at Twins

JUNE 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm

NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC

Thurs., June 7 Fri., June 8 Sat., June 9 Sun., June 10 Mon., June 11 Tue., June 12 Wed., June 13 Thurs., June 14 Fri., June 15 Sat., June 16 Sun., June 17 Mon., June 18 Tue., June 19 Wed., June 20 Thurs., June 21 Fri., June 22 Sat., June 23 Sun., June 24 Tue., June 26 Wed., June 27 Thurs., June 28 Fri., June 29 Sat., June 30

at Twins at Red Sox at Red Sox at Red Sox vs. Indians vs. Indians vs. Indians vs. Indians vs. Tigers vs. Tigers vs. Tigers at Indians at Indians at Indians vs. Athletics vs. Athletics vs. Athletics vs. Athletics vs. Twins vs. Twins vs. Twins at Rangers at Rangers

12:10 pm 6:10 pm 3:05 pm 12:05 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 6:10 pm 6:10 pm 12:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:05 pm 8:05 pm

WGN WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC NBCSCH WGN NBCSC+ WGN NBCSC NBCSC+ NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN WGN NBCSC

DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sun., July 1 Mon., July 2 Tue., July 3 Wed., July 4 Thurs., July 5 Fri., July 6 Sat., July 7 Sun., July 8 Tue., July 10

at Rangers at Reds at Reds at Reds at Astros at Astros at Astros at Astros vs. Cardinals

JULY 2:05 pm 6:10 pm 6:10 pm 6:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 3:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm

NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC WGN

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CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

(ALL TIMES CENTRAL)


vs. Cardinals vs. Royals vs. Royals vs. Royals at Mariners at Mariners at Mariners at Angels at Angels at Angels at Angels vs. Blue Jays vs. Blue Jays vs. Blue Jays vs. Royals

7:10 pm 7:10 pm 1:10 pm 1:10 pm 9:10 pm 9:10 pm 3:10 pm 9:07 pm 9:07 pm 9:07 pm 3:07 pm 7:10 pm 6:10 pm 1:10 pm 7:10 pm

NBCSC WGN NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC WGN NBCSC+ NBCSC NBCSC WGN NBCSC+ WGN NBCSC WGN

AUGUST DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Wed., Aug. 1 Thurs., Aug. 2 Fri., Aug. 3 Sat., Aug. 4 Sun., Aug. 5 Mon., Aug. 6 Tue., Aug. 7 Wed., Aug. 8 Fri., Aug. 10 Sat., Aug. 11 Sun., Aug. 12 Mon., Aug. 13 Tue., Aug. 14 Wed., Aug. 15 Fri., Aug. 17 Sat., Aug. 18 Sun., Aug. 19

vs. Royals 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Royals 1:10 pm NBCSC at Rays 6:10 pm NBCSC at Rays 5:10 pm WGN at Rays 12:10 pm NBCSC vs. Yankees 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Yankees 7:10 pm WGN vs. Yankees 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Indians 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Indians 6:10 pm NBCSC vs. Indians 1:10 pm WGN at Tigers 6:10 pm NBCSC at Tigers 6:10 pm WGN at Tigers 12:10 pm NBCSC vs. Royals 7:10 pm WGN vs. Royals 6:10 pm NBCSC vs. Royals 1:10 pm NBCSC

Tue., Aug. 21 Wed., Aug. 22 Thurs., Aug. 23 Fri., Aug. 24 Sat., Aug. 25 Sun., Aug. 26 Mon., Aug. 27 Tue., Aug. 28 Wed., Aug. 29 Thurs., Aug. 30 Fri., Aug. 31

vs. Twins 7:10 pm WGN vs. Twins 1:10 pm NBCSC at Tigers 12:10 pm WGN at Tigers 6:10 pm NBCSC at Tigers 5:10 pm NBCSC at Tigers 12:10 pm NBCSC at Yankees 6:05 pm WGN at Yankees 6:05 pm NBCSC at Yankees 6:05 pm NBCSC vs. Red Sox 7:10 pm NBCSC vs. Red Sox 7:10 pm NBCSC

SEPTEMBER DATE

OPPONENT TIME TV

Sat., Sept. 1 vs. Red Sox 6:10 pm WGN Sun., Sept. 2 vs. Red Sox 1:10 pm NBCSC Mon., Sept. 3 vs. Tigers 1:10 pm NBCSC Tue., Sept. 4 vs. Tigers 7:10 pm WGN Wed., Sept. 5 vs. Tigers 7:10 pm NBCSC Fri., Sept. 7 vs. Angels 7:10 pm NBCSC+ Sat., Sept. 8 vs. Angels 6:10 pm NBCSC Sun., Sept. 9 vs. Angels 1:10 pm WGN Mon., Sept. 10 at Royals 7:15 pm WGN Tue., Sept. 11 at Royals 7:15 pm NBCSC Wed., Sept. 12 at Royals 7:15 pm NBCSC Fri., Sept. 14 at Orioles 6:05 pm NBCSC Sat., Sept. 15 at Orioles 6:05 pm WGN Sun., Sept. 16 at Orioles 12:05 pm NBCSC Tue., Sept. 18 at Indians 6:10 pm NBCSC Wed., Sept. 19 at Indians 6:10 pm WGN Thurs., Sept. 20 at Indians 6:10 pm NBCSC Fri., Sept. 21 vs. Cubs 3:10 pm WGN Sat., Sept. 22 vs. Cubs 6:10 pm WGN Sun., Sept. 23 vs. Cubs 1:10 pm NBCSC Mon., Sept. 24 vs. Indians 7:10 pm WGN

Tue., Sept. 25 Wed., Sept. 26 Fri., Sept. 28 Sat., Sept. 29 Sun., Sept. 30

vs. Indians vs. Indians at Twins at Twins at Twins

7:10 pm 7:10 pm 7:10 pm 6:10 pm 2:10 pm

NBCSC NBCSC+ NBCSC NBCSC WGN

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS APRIL 5-8

| vs Detroit Tigers |

Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and many of the White Sox’s top prospects will begin the year in the minors, but there’s still excitement building within the fan base. And with young talent like Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito already in the majors, fans should be in good spirits when the Sox host the Tigers for their home opener.

APRIL 20-22 | vs Houston Astros | Much like the Cubs in 2016, the Astros showed how quickly fortunes can turn once young talent reaches the big leagues with a World Series championship in 2017. The Astros will bring one of the best rotations in baseball to Chicago in April to provide a stern test for the Sox’s young offensive core.

MAY 1-2

| at St. Louis Cardinals |

Cubs fans are used to jumping on I-55 to make the short trip down to St. Louis. The White Sox, however, will only be making their third stop at Busch Stadium since the park opened in 2006. It’s the perfect opportunity to cross a ballpark off your

Chris Sale

AP PHOTOS / CHRIS O’MEARA

list if you haven’t been.

AUGUST 30 - SEPTEMBER 2 | vs Boston Red Sox |

Chris Sale’s return to the South Side didn’t go particularly smoothly, with the White Sox tagging their former ace for six runs in five innings last May. He’ll likely get another chance to exact revenge with a four-game set in Chicago, which will come just in time for rosters to expand in September.

SEPTEMBER 21-23 | vs Chicago Cubs |

Barring some unforeseen events, the White Sox won’t be contending for a postseason spot come September. Their crosstown rivals, however, will very likely be trying to sew up the NL Central or, at least, a wild-card spot. Sounds like the perfect time to play spoiler, right?

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•••

Q. What is the meaning of this White Sox season? Ostrowski: There’s a ton of excitement on the South Side for good reason, but we need to remind ourselves that the Sox’s rebuild started last winter. Naturally, much of the focus is on who joins Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez next. But there are other intriguing aspects of the 2018 roster. Can Tim Anderson, Carson Fulmer or Carlos Rodon, once healthy, join the long-term core? Avisail Garcia is under control for two more years and enter-

in the offseason. The Nationals can’t trade Harper because they’ll likely be in the playoffs and will do their best to re-sign him. Baltimore is going to have to deal Machado — and that should be the biggest move of the year. Rozner: For my money, it’s all the rookie managers on teams good enough to win it all, and specifically, Aaron Boone in New York. The Yankees were a hair away from getting to the World Series last fall and should be better with added depth and Giancarlo Stanton. So how does Boone handle the job? It’s a huge gamble on the part of GM Brian Cashman, and Boone is under enormous pressure.

Answering the biggest questions of the ’18 season NATE ATKINS BARRY ROZNER

PATRICK FINLEY JOE OSTROWSKI

•••

Q. Who gets to the World Series?

AP PHOTOS

ing his age-27 season. Does he fit into the Sox’s timeline, and will he continue to be an all-star-caliber player? Garcia’s year will likely give Rick Hahn an answer to those questions. Rozner: That’s true, Joe. If you think in terms of the Cubs’ timeline, it’s not 2015 yet. So is it more like 2013 or 2014? It doesn’t much matter. Hahn will play it smart, and there’s no reason to start the clock on some of their best young players. Guys like Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez will tell Hahn when they’re ready to move up to the big leagues. They will force his hand, and he’ll be fine with that. At the big-league level, just as it is in the minors, it’s all about player development.

Q. Which is the best team in baseball? Rozner: There’s no ques-

tion, it’s Houston. On paper, it’s no contest. And they got better with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. But they are finding out what a short winter feels like. A year ago, the Cubs were the best team on paper, and it looked like they had a great chance to defend. By the time they got to the NLCS, they were on fumes. It will happen to the Astros. Ostrowski: You’re right, and Dallas Keuchel was right. The Astros have better players than the Cubs, and they own the best roster in baseball, but their starting rotation isn’t built like a lot of other teams that have dealt with the World

Series hangover. Cole didn’t go through the rigors of a championship run. Keuchel and Lance McCullers each missed almost two months last year. Brad Peacock is starting off in the bullpen, but he was a top-20 starter in a limited 21 starts, so he can step in when needed.

•••

Q. What is the biggest story in baseball? Ostrowski: Bryce Harper won’t answer any questions about free agency, but that doesn’t mean the questions and that dark cloud will go away. Harper and Manny Machado are both 25 years old and will be free agents at season’s end. Some believe they are the biggest reasons teams were reluctant to spend money

Rozner: I already hate my pick, but I’m going with the Cubs and the Yankees. I have no hesitation on the Cubs, but the Yanks with a rookie manager are probably a bad idea. The history of rookie managers winning it all is very, very thin, so not the wisest decision. New York has a terrific bullpen and an underrated rotation, so it’s up to Boone to manage that staff properly. They have incredible talent in the minors, and some of those guys will arrive this year. The Yanks might be able to overcome Boone’s inexperience. Ostrowski: You’ll hate my AL pick more. I’m also on the Cubs out of the NL, but I have the Astros making it back. The World Series matchup we’ve been talking about for years happens. I also had the Yankees pre-Giancarlo Stanton but have talked myself off of them. Makes sense. I’m banking on a Houston celebration not quite matching the Cubs party we saw in 2016. Yes, we haven’t seen a repeat champion since 2000, but over the past decade, three teams have made the Fall Classic in back-to-back seasons.

Catch Barry Rozner and Joe Ostrowski on their “Hit & Run” baseball show each Sunday morning from 9 a.m. to noon on WSCR 670-AM. Follow them Twitter @BarryRozner and @JoeO670.

CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

D

aily Herald columnist Barry Rozner and DH writer Joe Ostrowski debate some of the biggest questions on the 2018 season — in Chicago and across the country. Rozner: The Cubs got better in the offseason, and none of their main competitors did the same, so I like the Cubs to get back there again. As always, it’s a matter of health. If they stay healthy, I love their chances. The Dodgers already lost Justin Turner to a broken wrist. That’s just bad luck. You need some luck and you need depth. The Cubs have depth, but you can’t control luck. Given that, however, I see the Cubs as rested and hungry and ready to make a huge run again. Ostrowski: The Cubs are one of three teams in the National League’s top tier, along with the Dodgers and Nationals. Arizona will take a step back after losing J.D. Martinez, and their starting pitching will come back to reality. A bounce-back year from Kyle Schwarber or Ben Zobrist and a breakthrough season from Ian Happ or Albert Almora would make the Cubs a top-three offense. Their bolstered rotation is as deep as any in baseball. I also like the Cubs to get back to the NLCS, and anything short of a World Series appearance would be a disappointment.


CHICAGO BASEBALL | 2018 Season Preview | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018

The Stienstra family is a family divided. It happened in 2004 when the Cubs broke Derek Stienstra’s heart for the last time when, despite a strong record, the team missed the playoffs. That year, Derek broke from his family and officially became a Sox fan. His wife and two sons followed suit (although, he hasn’t swayed his daughter). Luckily, with a way to cheer for either team, their bank accounts don’t need to be a source of friction.

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Chicago Baseball 03-29-18  
Chicago Baseball 03-29-18