Forward Taj Gibson returned from an ankle injury to the lineup Friday for the Chicago Bulls’ 108-92 victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors. He had six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes. So he wasn’t exactly the key to victory. He might be Saturday night at Detroit — because of his time played Friday. Gibson’s presence meant Pau Gasol, who normally logs heavy minutes, playing for only 28 against Toronto. And Gibson’s presence also meant coach Tom Thibodeau could feel more comfortable about keeping center Joakim Noah’s minutes to roughly management’s mandate (33). So Gibson’s return could be deemed timely indeed.
* Speaking of Noah, he had a game-high 14 assists and added 10 rebounds. Still waiting for him to start taking three-point shots. Something says he will have a 20-assist game before he has a three-point attempt.
* Speaking of the Bulls, rookie Nikola Mirotic had a solid game (29 points to tie his career high, 11 rebounds and four of the team’s seven blocked shots) in 32 minutes off the bench. Even more incredible, Kirk Hinrich was 3-for-3 from the field, including a three-pointer.
* Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester will miss Saturday’s scheduled start because of a “dead arm.” Good to see him having these problems in spring training and not the regular season. “More than likely, he will not miss the start after that,” manager Joe Maddon told media in Arizona. “But we wanted to be very cautious with it right now. And at this point it does not impact Opening Day.” OK, merely the possibility of every start after that.
* Speaking of Cubs left-handers. Travis Wood struck out two and did not walk a batter in 4 1/3 innings vs. the Sox. Then again, he retired only two more batters (13) than he did hits allowed (which would be 11 for the mathematically impaired such as your humble correspondent). The battle between Wood and Edwin Jackson for No. 5 starter is — if nothing else — truly competitive (not in a good way, if you’re a Cubs fan, however).
* Speaking of the Cubs, second baseman Javier Baez did not strike out in the team’s 10-7 Cactus League victory vs. the White Sox. Then again, he didn’t play. He did strike out four times Thursday. Baez is batting .100 batting (3-for-30 with 11 strikeouts). On the bright (?) side, Baez is striking out less frequently than he did last season. Yes, bright is a relative concept.
* For what it’s worth (and admittedly it’s not a whole lot), Sox left-hander Chris Sale threw a bullpen session Friday. He still won’t be ready for Opening Day. “He remains on track to not miss significant time,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn told media in Arizona. Well, if the American League Central is as competitive as some people think it will be, anything more than one start could be considered significant time.
* Speaking of the Sox, they signed center fielder Adam Eaton to a five-year contract extension for a reported $23.3 million. Which seems like a good deal provided that he continues to be productive and can avoid injury.
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