Cubs: Joe Maddon doesn't see pitchers targeting Anthony Rizzo


Cubs: Joe Maddon doesn't see pitchers targeting Anthony Rizzo

PITTSBURGH — A 96-mph fastball drilling Anthony Rizzo in the wrong spot could become a nightmare scenario for a Cubs team with ambitious goals this season.

But manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think opposing pitchers are headhunting and targeting the All-Star first baseman. Rizzo has been hit by six pitches already this month, setting the franchise record for April. So far, the Cubs have kept the peace.

“I’m not (seeing them) intentionally trying to hit (Rizzo),” Maddon said before Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. “I’m not seeing that vitriolic moment where the guy’s just going to smoke somebody. I’m sure it’s going to happen. But I don’t think I’ve seen it yet.”

Rizzo is only the second player in the last 100 seasons to get hit at least six times within a team’s first 13 games, according to ESPN Stats & Info. (Shin-Soo Choo was hit seven times during his first 13 games with the Cincinnati Reds in 2013.)

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Within the last 102 seasons starting in 1914, only one Cub has been hit more than six times in a single calendar month (Marlon Byrd with seven in July 2010).

“I don’t worry (about it),” Maddon said. “You always have a pretty good sense about when something’s intentional or not. In our game, if we want to pitch inside also, we’re going to hit some guys on occasion.

“We smoked (Andrew) McCutchen (on Tuesday night) and nobody said anything about that. We weren’t trying to hit him. But we hit him. So I think you have to try to evaluate intent before you want to reciprocate.”

Rizzo — who began the day hitting .302 with a .475 on-base percentage — crowds the plate and usually shrugs it off: “It’s going to happen. I don’t mind it. It’s part of the game.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get an Anthony Rizzo jersey right here]

Only five players in the majors got hit more times than Rizzo (15) last season.

“That’s who he is,” Maddon said. “Sometimes it’s the style of the hitter more than it is the pitcher.”

Sometimes it’s a cruel game. Mike Olt’s on the 60-day disabled list with a hairline fracture in his right wrist after one of these freak accidents. The Cubs don’t want to think about their lineup without Rizzo’s left-handed power or what sort of hole that would leave at first base.

“He’s not going to give any quarter right there,” Maddon said. “Just maybe wear a pad. Just get the Barry Bonds autographed elbow pad, something like that.

“I guess Walmart’s selling them right now very inexpensively. That would be something I would encourage him to wear.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of


Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: