U.S. Cellular Field in rough shape after brutal winter

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Interesting story today from JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com about the challenge White Sox head groundskeeper Roger Bossard faces to get U.S. Cellular Field ready for Opening Day on March 31 against the Twins. After a brutal winter, it’s not going to be easy.

As things stand, a brutal Chicago winter has left about 30 inches of permafrost beneath the playing surface at U.S. Cellular Field. Bossard needs to thaw the ground down about six to 10 inches for the field to be playable — though the brutal Chicago winter hasn’t loosened its grip to allow that to happen naturally.

So Bossard’s strategy is twofold. After removing about 400 tons of snow from the field over the weekend, he’s working on heating and thawing the playing surface from above and beneath.

Two tarps were stationed on the left and right sides of the infield on Monday with powerful heaters blasting warm air to help thaw the ground. The temperature under the tarps is around 75 degrees, and Bossard said it’ll take three days of constant heat to thaw the required six to 10 inches on those areas of the field.

Crazy stuff. While Bossard remains optimistic that his crew will be able to get the field ready in time, Stankevitz writes that Chicago is expected to get another cold blast this weekend and will experience a low below freezing every day leading into Opening Day. With less than two weeks to go, they could be cutting it close.

Kris Bryant exits game with sprained right ankle

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The Cubs had a scare on Wednesday night when third baseman Kris Bryant left with an apparent ankle injury. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a pop up that veered just into foul territory near the third base bag. Bryant caught it but his momentum took him back into fair territory. In doing so, he stepped awkwardly on the third base bag and appeared to twist his ankle. Bryant needed the assistance of manager Joe Maddon and the team trainer to get off the field.

Bryant was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Bryant was 2-for-3 on the night before departing and being replaced by Jeimer Candelario. He’s now hitting .264/.395/.520 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI in 329 plate appearances. Needless to say, the 39-39 Cubs would see their playoff odds hurt immensely if Bryant were to miss a significant amount of time.

Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

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Hector Gomez reports Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, to be held in two weeks at Marlins Park in Miami. So far, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the only other confirmed participant.

Sano, 24, is having an outstanding season, batting .274/.375/.548 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 293 plate appearances. According to MLB’s Statcast, only Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (96.7 MPH) has a higher average exit velocity than Sano (96.4 MPH).

Brian Dozier was the last member of the Twins to participate in the Home Run Derby. In 2014 at Target Field, Dozier failed to make it into the second round after hitting only two home runs. Justin Morneau is the only Twin to have ever won the Home Run Derby, as he beat Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals of the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium — although Hamilton out-homered him in total 35 to 22.