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."

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo leaves Cubs game with injury

In the midst of a second straight tough game against the Nationals, the Cubs were dealt another dose of bad news when Anthony Rizzo was forced out of the contest due to injury.

The first baseman was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth inning with what the team called mid-back tightness. The Cubs did not have an update on his status immediately following the 7-2 loss.

Rizzo had walked the previous inning and was stranded on third base when a full-count pitch to Ian Happ was called a strike:

Rizzo made an error in each of the first two innings of the game, throwing a ball into left field when second base wasn't being covered and then dropping a throw from Javy Baez to begin the second inning.

Rizzo has dealt with back issues throughout his career, including a stint where he missed four games in mid-May.

Jonathan Lucroy hit for Rizzo in the fifth inning and doubled home the Cubs' second run of the game. He stayed in to catch while Victor Cartaini moved from behind the plate to first base.

The Cubs were already operating with a short bench since they currently have a nine-man bullpen and they had already utilized Happ off the bench earlier in the game (he was later ejected after the controversial call).

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

Joe Maddon has an interesting idea on how to fix the MLB Players Weekend uniforms

"Woof."

That's the first "word" Joe Maddon used to describe his thoughts on the all-white and all-black MLB Players Weekend uniforms and the Cubs manager may as well be speaking for seemingly every baseball fan on Earth.

The color schemes have not been a popular pick this weekend, from Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying his team feels like they're wearing "milkman uniforms" to the endless run of Stormtrooper or Backstreet Boys jokes:

One of the biggest draws of Players Weekend is the nicknames on the back of the jerseys, but in the white uniforms, you can't even see the team's logo let alone what the jersey number or nameplate says.

That's led to plenty of ideas for improvement, including letting the home teams add color to their white uniforms however they see fit:

But Maddon had maybe the best idea on how to make the uniforms better for the 2020 Players Weekend.

"They should have every team design their own Players Weekend uniform," Maddon said. "That would be cool. Like with us, you go to [Anthony] Rizzo, [Jason] Heyward, [Jon] Lester, whomever your team leaders are and in the offseason, say, 'we're gonna do this next year, you're gonna be on the road, so consider road kind of uniform - go. You style the Cubs uniforms.'

"Then it truly is Players Weekend. I think you'd get a lot more interesting and better unigrams if you went that route."

That would be awesome and would allow for plenty of creativity from the players' end.

The other issue with the all-black jerseys is how closely they resemble the umpires' uniforms. At various points when the home team is up, it looks like there are five or six players on one side of the infield with the umpires.

It's also led the defenders to blend in with the wall at Wrigley, too.

"From the dugout, looking out, the ivy is so dark, also, so when their players are running out there, it's almost like they disappear into the ivy," Maddon said. "Again, it was not good form. There's no way I can advocate that. It's just not good form. And that's not even being a traditionalist, honestly. It's another version of the dress code - the worst dressers create dress codes."

The Cubs also had to make a change in regards to their hats for Players Weekend.

Home pitchers are not allowed to wear white caps because of the possibility the baseball will blend in with the hat as it's being delivered. So on Friday, Jon Lester wore his blue Cubs hat and the rest of his teammates followed suit in a show of uniform uniformity.

However, they all took the field with the white hats Saturday (Jose Quintana wearing a black Cubs hat) after being told they have to wear the all-white version this weekend.

So this weekend is all about the players and fun and games...but also rules and stipulations that must be adhered to.