The end is near for the White Sox, and that's a good thing.
Only four games are left in the Sox' worst season since 1970, when they lost 100 games. The White Sox need to win one of four against the Royals to avoid 100 losses this year.
In reality, it doesn't really matter.
This season has been spiraling downward since late May, when the Sox lost eight in a row after scratching their way back to the .500 mark.
"It's not the season that you wanted," manager Robin Ventura said in his pregame media session. "At this point you can't go to the playoffs so you're ready to end it and get ready for what you're going to do next year."
Joakim Nordstrom doesn't even have a regular stall in the Blackhawks' dressing room at Johnny's Ice House West, but he did have a regular spot on the fourth line at practice on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Nordstrom, whose versatility and chemistry with fellow Swede Marcus Kruger improves his chances of making the team, wasn't reading anything into his fourth line status.
"Everything is a new experience," said Nordstrom, who finished last season playing 11 games at Rockford after competing in the Swedish Elite League. "I hang out a lot with (Kruger) and he helps me out. He's easy to play with and supports me both on and off the ice. That makes it a lot easier."
Nordstrom enjoys playing a defensive role and killing penalties.
I followed up on Mike Spellman's interesting story today about how the number of racing days at Arlington International Racecourse this year could depend on lawmakers' further approval of betting on horses online.
The law allowing Internet gambling on horses in Illinois expired at the end of 2012. It's known as advanced deposit wagering. Spellman explains why that affects Arlington:
It wasn't extended this year until the spring, and it cost the (Illinois Racing Board), which is partially funded by ADW, approximately $750,000 in tax revenues.
The smell of cigar smoke and champagne still linger in the tiny visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field after two days of celebration. The Braves celebrated here Sunday after winning the NL East, and the Pirates partied last night after clinching a playoff berth. There’s still a lot to play for as far as Pittsburgh is concerned. The Pirates still want to win the NL Central, and at worst, they want home field for the wild-card play-in game.
The Cubs will send lefty Chris Rusin against Gerrit Cole. Rusin is 2-5 with a 3.52 ERA. Manager Dale Sveum says Rusin looks more self-assured than he did last year, when he came up for a short stint.
According to reports out of Cleveland, where the White Sox play the first of two games against the Indians tonight at Progressive Field, infielder Jeff Keppinger is scheduled to have shoulder surgery on Thursday.
Keppinger had some shoulder soreness in spring training, and manager Robin Ventura today told reporters the condition affected Keppinger’s throwing but not his swing.
Keppinger, 33, played against the Blue Jays Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field and went 1-for-2 with 2 walks as the designated hitter. He finishes a disappointing season with a .253/.283/.317 hitting line and 4 home runs and 40 RBI.
The Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract on Dec. 10. Check back later for more details.
Now that primary season has picked up, I'll do this occasionally because it's the time of year when party leaders will back one candidate or another.
Today, we got notice that state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican who isn't running for re-election in 2014, said she's backing state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale for governor. Dillard is running against state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, businessman Bruce Rauner of Chicago and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa.
And U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, will support state Rep. Darlene Senger for Congress in the 11th District over Chris Balkema of Channahon and Ian Bayne of Aurora.
The primary is set for March 18.
We begin the final Cubs homestand of the year tonight as the Pittsburgh Pirates come to Wrigley Field to open a three-game series. The Atlanta Braves celebrated their NL East division title yesterday in the visiting clubhouse. No sooner has the smell of champagne and cigar smoke begun to dissipate than we could have the same situation all over again tonight.
A victory tonight by the Pirates (89-67) and a loss in St. Louis by the Washington Nationals (84-72) would assure the Pirates their first postseason berth since 1992. The Pirates currently have one of the wild-card spots along with the Cincinnati Reds. They’re still trying to catch the Cardinals and win the NL Central. The Cubs finish in St. Louis this weekend, and it’s possible they could witness three celebrations.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked about a couple of the young players on the team this morning: Anthony Rizzo and Junior Lake. Rizzo is completing his first full year in the big leagues after coming up in June 2012 and having success. This year, it’s been a mixed bag.
“I think you have to analyze it in a way that we know how the game works and it’s his first time ever playing every single day in the big leagues,” Sveum said. “It’s his first time with the pressure of hitting third every single day, for the most part anyway. The 22 homers, 75, possibly 75 RBI for a second-year player isn’t the end of the world.
Can we have some peace and quiet around here, already? That was the feeling here at Wrigley at the end of what’s been a long week of trial and tribulation. As we reported this morning, the Cubs and closer Kevin Gregg have decided to let bygones be bygones, and Gregg will not be released after yesterday’s postgame session.
Gregg said he didn’t appreciate being told youngster Pedro Strop would close games the rest of the season, or at least that’s how he heard it. After some airing of words (some choice, no doubt) between team president Theo Epstein and Gregg, the pitcher apologized and cooler heads prevailed.
Theo said he would “sleep on” a decision about Gregg overnight, but Gregg said this morning Epstein called him last night and things were fine.
It’s always an eventful day on the Cubs beat, and today is no exception. We had both Theo Esptein and minor-league chief Jason McLeod talk to us on the field today. We’ll get to a few things here on the blog and flesh more out for the paper tomorrow (online tonight).
The one major news item is that catcher Welington Castillo had an MRI on his right knee this morning and that it revealed a partial tear in the meniscus and that he’ll have arthroscopic surgery. Theo said that, conservatively, the rehab is a 4-6-week process, so Castillo should easily be good to go by spring training barring any setbacks.