MIAMI – The day after watching his .500-ish team get shut out again, and as the growing pains continued for his young hitters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon benched the self-proclaimed greatest leadoff guy of all-time.
“I’m hoping Jon Jay goes 5-for-5 today,” Anthony Rizzo said before Saturday’s 5-3 win at Marlins Park. “Wally Pipped out of that spot.”
In the middle of a stretch where the Cubs will play 17 days in a row, Maddon figured he would give Rizzo a break against a Miami lefty (Justin Nicolino) instead of Sunday’s right-handed starter (Edinson Volquez).
An added bonus: The All-Star first baseman grew up in South Florida and has a home and family here and reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant is comfortable in the other corner-infield spot.
“Get him off his feet,” Maddon said. “He’s been going after it pretty hard being the leadoff hitter. I think he’s done a wonderful job, obviously, so I don’t want to beat him up. I don’t want to beat up our bullpen. I don’t want to beat up our players right now. We still have a long way to go.
“If you ride him too hard, man, the point of diminishing returns will set in. All factors considered, I thought it was the right thing to do.”
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Rizzo put up a .700 on-base percentage leading off the last 10 games, homering three times to jumpstart the offense and enjoying the smack talk with his teammates. Maddon said Rizzo will be back at the top of the order on Sunday, and the manager doesn’t have many options after the failed Kyle Schwarber experiment and Ben Zobrist’s wrist injury forced him onto the disabled list.
Do you expect to be back in the leadoff spot?
“I play first base for the Cubs,” Rizzo said. “I don’t make the lineup card.”
Are you still the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time?
“For the week I was,” Rizzo said with a smile. “I said that after the first day.”
The loudest moment on Saturday from the crowd of 25,448 came when Rizzo walked up to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.
“I had no idea,” Maddon said. “I was looking around. Did somebody walk in the door? Was it A-Rod and J-Lo?”