Daniel Murphy

Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon’s ‘Godfather’ urban legend about Mike Rizzo


Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon’s ‘Godfather’ urban legend about Mike Rizzo

Washington Nationals baseball boss Mike Rizzo grew up on Waveland Avenue and built a perennial playoff team in that image through old-school scouting more than sabermetrics, valuing guts and competitive nature and how those strong personalities would work together within a clubhouse.   

This is the family business. The son of a longtime scout, Rizzo keeps his father, Phil, around as a senior advisor who still takes in games at Wrigley Field, tracks potential postseason opponents and watches prospects in the Arizona Fall League.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wasn’t surprised when Rizzo made the Oakland A’s and Minnesota Twins offers they couldn’t refuse, completely rebuilding the shaky Washington bullpen on the fly this summer by acquiring Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.

“Rizz and I go way back,” said Maddon, who managed the Class-A infielder in 1982 in Salem, Oregon, where the California Angels had a branch of their farm system. “There was also a really good urban legend about a player that was no longer heard from after Rizzo had been released in spring training. The guy that was chosen in front of him was no longer to be found right after that.”

That Godfather-style line drew laughter from the reporters gathered in the Wrigley Field interview room before Wednesday’s workout, Maddon just warming up for the national media he will love to see this October.

“So the next day, Rizzo was reinstated,” Maddon said. “So we’re trying to find him. If anybody knows where Dave Govea is living right now, please let us know.”

After years of shrewd draft picks (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon), trades (Gio Gonzalez, Trea Turner) and free-agent signings (Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy), Rizzo’s bullpen moves fixed the one glaring weakness for a 97-win team that heads into a best-of-five National League Division Series against the defending World Series champs on Friday night at Nationals Park.

[MORE: Jon Lester won't concede anything: 'We should win the World Series'  

Another lasting image of Rizzo, a University of Illinois graduate who signed future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas for the White Sox:

“Rizz started a tremendous fight that we had vs. the Bend, Oregon Phillies,” Maddon said. “A play at the plate ended up against the backstop, Rizz was right in the middle of the whole thing. That’s who he was. He was a gritty player.”

Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Cubs taking the cautious approach with Addison Russell's injury

Get ready for more #JavyTime at shortstop.

The Cubs moved Addison Russell to the disabled list Friday morning with a right foot strain while Javy Baez drew his second straight start.

Baez will man shortstop in the short term while Russell gets healthy. In addition to Baez's baseball intelligence and instincts, this is also exactly why Joe Maddon doesn't want the Cubs to get rid of the young infielder: Shortstop insurance. Baez is really the only other guy besides Russell the Cubs have faith in running out at shortstop on a regular basis.

Russell has been hampered by an issue with his throwing shoulder this season, but Maddon said that is not a factor any longer and the Cubs just want Russell to get healthy for the stretch run as the Cubs have looked more and more like a playoff team of late. 

The Cubs hope to be playing deep into October (or even possibly November) again this fall, so no need to push a guy now, in the first week of August.

"It's been bothering him the last few days," Maddon said. "I wasn't aware of it prior to that. It's been going and he's probably kept it kinda quiet. I don't even know if it impacted those last couple throws that he made. We just thought it was wise to get it settled down right now."

Russell has had a couple throws come up short on him over the last few days, notching errors on Tuesday and Wednesday before sitting out Thursday's contest.

The Cubs ran tests on the foot and don't see any thing more sinister going on beyond a strain.

After a rough couple months to begin 2017, Russell has turned things around and helped turn the Cubs' season around in the process. He's hitting .306 since the All-Star Break with a .903 OPS, seven doubles, three homers and seven RBI.

His resurgence actually started earlier than that, as he's hit .288 with an .828 OPS since June 17. 

The Cubs called up left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny Friday in an effort to add more bullpen help against Washington's Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy as the current trio of southpaws — Mike Montgomery, Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing — have all been used a lot lately.

That leaves the Cubs with only three bench players Friday — Alex Avila, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. — though that figures to change over the weekend when the Cubs can send Zastryzny back down and call up Tommy La Stella or another infielder.