VELJKO PAUNOVIC, LAST PLACE FIRE TRYING TO STAY POSITIVE

While the acquisitions of Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell and Rodrigo Ramos add to hope for a longer-term turn around, the Fire haven’t shown much sign of improvement overall. Still, coach Veljko Paunovic remained positive in what he said Monday during his weekly conference call with the media.

“Nobody likes to see where we are in the standings, but of course everyone is still very committed and everyone wants to work harder in order to improve that and to make it better,” Paunovic said. “I absolutely believe in our guys and I think they all believe that only working and staying together can we improve and get out of this. It is too early to say we are in a bad position, but it is obvious that we have to win games and improve. We will do that.”

It’s hard to say last place isn’t a bad position, but Paunovic is right in one way. It is early enough that the Fire have a chance to get out of this position. NYCFC is the perfect example. New York City beat the Fire on opening day, but then went winless in seven straight. A current three-game winning streak has vaulted them to a share of the conference lead.

The point is things can turn around quickly in MLS with a winning run. Whether or not this Fire team has looked capable of that is another story. Obviously time will tell if they can get things going.

“We have the right players and the right guys,” Paunovic said. “We know where we are and where we are standing, but for sure we will work hard and stay positive. We will improve.”

Ben Zobrist tossed his bat to the ground in disgust and jogged to first base as Pirates right fielder Sean Rodriguez settled under the ball.

It was an odd sign of frustration from a guy who has been the hottest hitter in the game over the last couple weeks on an offense that just scored 17 runs over the previous two games.

But it illustrated the reality: The Cubs’ offense can’t possibly be on at all times.

The subject came up when Oher was asked if a minicamp tiff between him and defensive end Kony Ealy showed he has to prove his worth after struggling the past two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.

Houston sits in last place in the A.L. West and the struggles of pitcher Dallas Keuchel have been a big reason why. Keuchel, Tuesday’s scheduled starter, has posted an ERA under 3.00 the past two seasons, including a 20-win season a year ago, but has an ERA north of five at 5.58 so far.

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