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Cubs, White Sox Friday spring training report

Photo by John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

Kyle Schwarber figures to get the most looks — at least early in the season — in the leadoff spot for the Cubs.

Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of your classic leadoff hitter, but with the talent throughout the Cubs’ lineup, this doesn’t figure to be the kind of nagging issue that faces most teams.

There’s no question the Cubs will miss Dexter Fowler’s presence in the lineup every day, but they will benefit from Schwarber’s regular presence.

The bigger question is whether Schwarber’s defensive issues will be offset by his offensive production. The bet here is Schwarber’s bat will tip the scales in the right direction.

Schwarber, Jon Jay and Ben Zobrist will get the most looks in the top spot. But with Schwarber expected to get 140 starts this season, manager Joe Maddon tipped his hand by saying: “I like the idea of Schwarbs.”

YOU’VE GOT MAIL

Imagine Cubs outfield prospect John Andreoli’s surprise when he opened an email last month and saw an invite to play for Team Italy in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

“I just kind of did a double take,”Andreoli said, “and responded. It ended up being an unbelievable opportunity. It was crazy but it was great.”

A WORLD SERIES GAME OF INCHES

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal caught up with the Indians and let them relive that rain-delayed, extra-inning Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs.

For Cubs fans, imagine — and many of you did during every second of that final inning — being on the other side of that emotional outcome. The Indians — insisting they are not bitter — have been imagining just that.

“You’re in Game 7 of the World Series,” Indians catcher Yan Gomes told Rosenthal. “I think on both sides many things were said. I’m pretty sure during that rain delay in our dugout, our clubhouse, somebody was like, ‘Let’s get this done. Let’s win this.’ The same thing happened on their side. It was [Jason] Heyward, right? He felt like he needed to say something. If we come out victorious, the story’s about us.”

Check out Ken’s story. It’s a terrific read — especially if you know the outcome.

BUEHRLE ‘BLOWN AWAY’

Mark Buehrle made a quiet entrance to the White Sox’ pitching staff midway through the 2000 season, making the jump from Class AA after Cal Eldred was put on the disabled list. The left-handed Buehrle wasn’t expected to stick around all that long. He was a 38th-round pick who happened to have a fresh arm at the right time.

Then he went on to appear in 518 major-league games — winning 214 of them — during a career that spanned 16 seasons and included some World Series heroics.

He hasn’t pitched since appearing for the Blue Jays in 2015. Buehrle knew he was retiring that season, he just didn’t bother announcing that to anyone.

“The reason I didn’t say anything, I didn’t want all the attention,” Buehrle told reporters today during a conference call with reporters to discuss the White Sox retiring his No. 56 this summer. “I’ve always told people I was a young guy that came into the big leagues unknown. Kind of snuck into the big leagues and I wanted to kind of sneak my way out. That’s why I haven’t said anything, I haven’t talked to anybody, I just kind of let it go.”

In typical lousy planning — especially to announce good news — the White Sox revealed Thursday that they were retiring Buehrle’s number, but didn’t arrange for Buehrle to talk until a day later. Go figure. For a baseball team starving for positive attention in this town, this seems a little backward — especially after Buehrle revealed that the number news had been in the works for months.

SOX SET FOR CACTUS OPENER

One of the most closely guarded secrets of White Sox camp was revealed this morning when manager Rick Renteria announced his starting pitcher for the Cactus League opener Saturday against the Dodgers.

Drum roll, please … oh, come on, you gotta click here to find out.

HE’S CHICAGO-TOUGH

Let’s be honest, getting rid of Aaron Rowand after the 2005 season was a monumental mistake by then-Sox GM Ken Williams.

Yes, Jim Thome’s left-handed bat was a nice weapon to have, and we love Thome as a person, but losing Rowand from that clubhouse was a major blow for a White Sox team that needed his energy down the stretch of an exhausting and disappointing 2006 season.

It’s good to see Rowand back in a White Sox uniform, now serving as the team’s coordinator for baserunning and outfield play. During a sitdown with the Sun-Times, Rowand reflected on that 2005 World Series run and relayed his thoughts on how he’s helping the current crop of Sox.

Loved this quote from Rowand discussing the scene after sweeping the Astros in Houston: “We looked like a bunch of schoolgirls after winning a volleyball game. There were tears, high fives and hugs. And it was real.’’

FEEL FREE TO TAKE A PITCH

Sox shortstop Tim Anderson describes himself as a quiet leader who goes out and plays “with a lot of energy, with my hair on fire.” There’s no question Anderson has a lot of potential, but he must make pitchers work a little harder against him.

In 431 plate appearances, Anderson has 117 strikeouts and just 13 walks.

Manager Rick Renteria says the Sox are working on getting Anderson more disciplined at the plate.

“It’s just a matter of time, more plate appearances, more at-bats,” Renteria said. “I think the story isn’t quite written yet in terms of Timmy Anderson and who he is as a hitter.’’

Cameron Payne #22 and Dakari Johnson #33 of the Thunder pose during 2015 NBA rookie photo shoot. (Getty Images)
Cameron Payne #22 and Dakari Johnson #33 of the Thunder pose during 2015 NBA rookie photo shoot. (Getty Images)

PICTURE THIS

Photo day — no matter the sport — always seems to bring out the, um, interesting side of athletes, who clearly would rather be doing anything other than loving the camera for a row of photographers.

Most of the photo-day shots are never seen by the general public because, well, they are awful. As editors, we occasionally get a glimpse of this awfulness.

For instance, when the Bulls pulled off their head-scratcher of a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, a quick search for Cameron Payne produced a crop of 2015 photo-day snapshots that went from moody to downright silly. There were a handful of shots of Payne and Dakari Johnson that were downright silly.

Thankfully, the White Sox — predictable for this current club — had a rather boring photo shoot. But our Daryl Van Schouwen did the heavy lifting by assembling a nice selection of Sox photo-day shots from this week.

Enjoy.

SHOW TIME

Can’t get enough of the 2016 season?

The answer to that question clearly depends on whether you are a Cubs or White Sox fan.

Either way, our friends at Whistle Sports have assembled a blooper reel that’s worth a look.

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