Cubs

Cubs: What is Joe Maddon's plan behind Anthony Rizzo at first base?

Cubs: What is Joe Maddon's plan behind Anthony Rizzo at first base?

MILWAUKEE - Anthony Rizzo strolled into the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park Thursday morning and immediately heard it from his teammates:

"Rizzo, how was your night off?" 

"Rizz, you only played like three innings last night, right? You should be feeling fresh!"

"Rizz, why are you so late? KB played like 30 positions last night and he's here already."

It was all in good fun, obviously, pointing out how Rizzo came out of the game in the top of the ninth for pinch-runner Javy Baez and then was forced to stay on the bench for the four extra innings.

It was only the second time all season Rizzo has not played a full game.

Meanwhile, Kris Bryant started the game in left field, then came in to act as a fifth infielder in the bottom of the 12th when the Brewers loaded the bases with nobody out.

During the course of that inning, Bryant moved all over the infield, including actually switching gloves with Baez to play first base for a bit, too.

"There were so many things going on," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said before explaining his thought process in detail, explaining why he decided to switch Bryant to first base in the middle of the inning.

"Javy at third base was very appealing. I went back in and looked and thought, 'I gotta do this for the next hitter if we get to him.' Then, when it gets to two outs, if there's a throw going to first base, who's gonna pick it? Who's gonna make the play at first base?

"KB can do that. But I have a lot of faith in Javy at handling the the baseball."

In spring training, Maddon said Baez was the backup option at first base if Rizzo ever got hit with a pitch in a bad spot or needed an extended break..

Baez has filled the Ben Zobrist role for Maddon this season, playing all four infield positions plus left field. He has been at first base all seven innings Rizzo has been on the bench in 2016.

But the Cubs manager also likes the 6-foot-5 Bryant over at first base and Baez's slick glove at the hot corner.

"[The plan behind Rizzo is] probably KB or Javy," Maddon said. "Just depends on who's pitching, where you think the ball's gonna be hit. I mean, truly, you think at that level. 

"When you have guys that are that versatile, you're always looking for the edge. Who's giving you the edge at a particular position? You're looking for an edge, however small it might be.

"Javy can play there, but so can KB. There are two guys beyond Rizz."

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

Cubs expected to hire Mike Napoli — David Ross' former teammate — as quality assurance coach

David Ross will not only be managing former teammates with the Cubs in 2020, but he'll be coaching alongside one, too.

The Cubs are expected to add former MLB catcher Mike Napoli to Ross' coaching staff, per multiple reports. Napoli will assume the title of quality assurance coach, vacated by Chris Denorfia, who held the position for one season.

Napoli played in parts of 12 big-league seasons from 2006-17 with the Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Indians. He won the 2013 World Series with Boston — alongside Ross and Cubs starter Jon Lester — and was also a key figure with the 2016 Indians, whom the Cubs defeated in the World Series. He finished his career with a .246/.346/.475 slash line with 267 home runs. 

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Cubs pursued Napoli last winter, though the 38-year-old wanted to take a short break from baseball before jumping into coaching. He'll join a Cubs coaching staff that is almost finalized, with the exception of one vacant base coach spot. Here's what the group looks like right now:

Manager — David Ross
Bench coach — Andy Green
Pitching coach — Tommy Hottovy
Associate pitching coach, catching and strategy coach — Mike Borzello
Hitting coach — Anthony Iapoce
Assistant hitting coach — Terrmel Sledge
Bullpen coach — Chris Young
Base coach — Will Venable
Base coach — open
Quality assurance coach — Mike Napoli

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the organization hopes to have the coaching staff finalized by the end of the week. With Napoli on board, the Cubs are one step closer to making that goal a reality.

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Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

Fans apologize to Yu Darvish following Astros cheating allegations

When the Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish at the 2017 trade deadline, he was expected to be one of the final pieces to their championship puzzle.

After a solid nine-start regular season with Los Angeles, Darvish was stellar early in the postseason. In two starts (one in the NLDS, one in the NLCS), he allowed two runs across 11.1 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts compared to a single walk.

Things went downhill for Darvish in the World Series, where he surrendered nine runs in 3.1 innings across two starts. This includes Game 7, when he threw 47 pitches in 1.2 innings, allowing five runs in a 5-1 series-clinching win for the Astros.

Darvish became a scapegoat for the Dodgers' World Series loss and faced heavy backlash from fans. Consequentially, he had concerns about re-signing with the Dodgers when he became a free agent that offseason, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, due to fears of how the city's anger towards him would affect his family.

Two years later, fans are now apologizing for directing their anger at Darvish for his World Series performance. Why?

Tuesday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported the Astros stole opposing teams' signs electronically during the 2017 season. This conflicts with the notion of Darvish tipping his pitches in the World Series, which an anonymous Astros player told Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci was the case.

The notion of Darvish tipping his pitches is now in question altogether:

As has often been the case this offseason, Darvish had a brilliant reaction to the whole situation on Twitter:

Darvish joined the Cubs in 2018 on a six-year deal. After an injury-riddled debut season with the Cubs, he took off post-All-Star break in 2019 and is expected to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2020. Although what happened in 2017 can't be changed, it's nice to see he's moved forward.

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