Cubs

Cubs: Kris Bryant wants to keep the surprises coming in playoffs

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Cubs: Kris Bryant wants to keep the surprises coming in playoffs

PITTSBURGH — Forget the one-year-too-early storylines. Don't pay much attention to the "rookie" tag on Kris Bryant.

When it comes down to it, Bryant and the Cubs believe it doesn't matter how young or inexperienced they are once they step in between the foul lines.

Bryant has completely lived up to the all-world hype that surrounded him in the minor leagues and spring training.

The Cubs have completely lived up to Joe Maddon's playoff talk at his introductory press conference at The Cubby Bear last November.

The Cubs even came close to backing up Anthony Rizzo's division guarantee over the winter, forcing the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates to win 100 and 98 games, respectively.

[MORE CUBS: Kris Bryant’s Rookie of the Year season is just the beginning for Cubs]

Now Bryant and Co. want to carry that over into the postseason.

"We've proved some people wrong and kind of surprised some people," Bryant said. "Hopefully we can do that in the playoffs."

Wednesday night's one-game wild-card playoff will be the first taste of the postseason for most of the Cubs players ... and not just the rookies.

Jake Arrieta will get the start having never pitched in the playoffs while Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro figure to help anchor a lineup in their inaugural trip to the postseason.

"You dream of this as a little kid," Bryant said. "When I was growing up, I didn't watch too much of the regular season.

"But when the postseason came on, it was just a completely different atmosphere. It almost had a different feel just watching it on TV. I'm excited to experience that for the first time."

[MORE CUBS: Everybody loves Kris: Cubs' Bryant has the league's top-selling jersey]

Bryant is very even-keeled and doesn't ever seem to let the moment get too big for him.

The soon-to-be National League Rookie of the Year said this wild-card showdown with the Pirates is "just another baseball game" and said he won't be nervous, just a little "overly excited" if anything.

Bryant may be penciled in Wednesday's lineup in left field at PNC Park. The natural third baseman has played all three outfield spots this season and gotten some time at first base, proving his reputation as a team player focused solely on winning.

It's hard to envision the 23-year-old slugger as a rookie when he says all the right things and makes adjustments almost instantly.

During the final weekend of the regular season, while the Cubs were in Milwaukee, Bryant went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts Saturday. The simple assessment was that he was expanding the zone and swinging at bad pitches.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs postseason gear right here]  

So the next day, in Game 162, Bryant adjusted and instead took three walks. Two of those free passes came with a runner in scoring position and his stat card showing 99 RBI.

But instead of expanding the zone and trying to make something happen for that milestone 100th RBI, Bryant just took what the Brewers gave him.

"It's just second nature to me to resort back to that kind of approach," Bryant said Tuesday before the Cubs' wild-card workout. "I don't want to be a selfish player. Obviously I could have swung and got another chance, but I've never been that type of player.

"I don't want to start bad habits. I don't want to swing at a pitch out of the zone because maybe that makes me swing at a pitch out of the zone in [Wednesday's] game and this game is the important one that matters.

"I was more than happy to take my walks there and jog down to first."

That sounds like a guy with the No. 1-selling jersey in Major League Baseball, not a rookie putting the finishing touches on his first big-league season.

Carlos Zambrano gets four clean outs in Chicago Dogs debut

Carlos Zambrano gets four clean outs in Chicago Dogs debut

Carlos Zambrano hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 (and the minors since 2013), but he is back pitching in Chicagoland.

The former Cubs ace made his debut with the Chicago Dogs of the American Association on Saturday. Zambrano didn't register any strikeouts, but retired all four batters he faced.

The 37-year-old got three groundouts and a flyout in 13 pitches.

The Dogs play at Impact Field in Rosemont and the day before Zambrano's debut they set a world record for the most wieners in one location. So this is a bit different than the major leagues.

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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