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.”

MLB extends temporary financial support for minor leaguers

MLB extends temporary financial support for minor leaguers

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Major League Baseball has had to work through a number of logistical issues with no games taking place.

The owners and the MLB Players Association worked through a number of details on the major league level last week. Now, they have filtered some decisions down to the minors, as well.

MLB announced on Tuesday that minor league players will continue to be paid through the end of May. All players will continue to receive medical benefits.

Previously, MLB had provided interim support through April 8, which was the original starting date for the minor league season.

Baseball insiders Jeff Passan and Bob Nightengale had some insight as to what this means.

Minor leaguers don’t make big bucks, but this keeps a cash flow going to those players.

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Jon Lester's soccer career and other things to know about Cubs left-hander

Jon Lester's soccer career and other things to know about Cubs left-hander

Jon Lester is the best free agent addition in Cubs history, the guy who joined a last place club and helped push them to perennial contender status. He played a big part in the Cubs snapping their World Series drought, and even at 36 remains a durable, competitive starter.

Here’s a few things you may not know about the Cubs’ left-hander.

1. While playing in a soccer tournament in Italy at the age of 13, an Italian club approached Lester about playing professionally. He turned it down and the Red Sox drafted him five years later.

2. In August 2006, two months after making his MLB debut, Lester was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy in the 2006-07 offseason and returned to the Red Sox in July 2007.

3. Lester’s charity, NVRQT, works to raise awareness and funds to fight pediatric cancer. Lester was the Cubs’ 2019 Robert Clemente Award nominee for his charitable efforts.

4. In 2011, Lester was featured on a wine label produced by Longball Cellars. Proceeds from “CabernAce” benefited the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

5. Lester, an avid golfer, once shot an 81 at Augusta National, according to Golf Digest.

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