Cubs

Maddon, Cubs giving Iron Man Anthony Rizzo his own 'mini All-Star break'

Maddon, Cubs giving Iron Man Anthony Rizzo his own 'mini All-Star break'

Joe Maddon took full advantage of the off-day Thursday.

"I rested my butt off," the Cubs manager said.

Maddon wants Anthony Rizzo to do the same, giving the Iron Man first baseman the day off Friday to kick off a holiday-weekend series against the Phillies at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo has played every game for the Cubs so far, appearing in 399.1 innings at first base out of a possible 407.1.

He led the National League in games played (160) and plate appearances (701) last season and has missed only 26 games since the start of 2013.

"This is something I was looking forward to doing," Maddon said before Friday's game. "When I was with Tampa Bay, I used to do this with Carl [Crawford] all the time to try to take advantage of either the front or back side of a day off to give him two days off.

"I think it's great the way it all played out with the left-hander today (Adam Morgan) for them. And then we play consecutively after this — hopefully, barring any rainouts.

"It was a good time to just give him his little mini All-Star break. And then just have him come back fresh tomorrow."

Friday's game began a stretch of 13 straight for the Cubs, who don't have their next off-day until June 9.

Maddon said he wouldn't hesitate to use Rizzo off the bench if the Cubs needed it Friday.

The All-Star first baseman and perennial MVP candidate is mired in a 3-for-38 slump with his last extra-base hit coming May 14 against the Pirates.

Maddon is hoping this day off will help Rizzo recharge mentally, too.

"I'm anticipating a good result, so that moving forward later in the season, maybe do the same thing again," Maddon said. "'Cause it really does rest those guys up."

Maddon is also giving Jason Heyward his own "mini All-Star Break" Friday after playing two straight games coming out of the scary-looking injury in San Francisco last week.

Heyward left in the first inning of last Friday's game and then missed the next three before playing every inning of the final two games against the Cardinals this week.

Maddon said Heyward is feeling OK, but the Cubs just want to play things safe.

"I wanna be a little cautious," Maddon said. "We had a significant moment in San Francisco. We were more worried that it was going to be even worse and it turned out to be good, so why press our luck right now?

"Let's take advantage of the moment. And a lot of times, the schedule tells you what to do, you just gotta pay attention."

In place of Heyward and Rizzo, Maddon inserted Matt Szczur in right field and Kris Bryant at first base.

Maddon forecasted his backup plan at first base last week in Milwaukee the day after Rizzo was removed in the ninth for a pinch-runner in a game that ultimately went to 13 innings. 

Javy Baez was the option then at first base, but Bryant did shift over there for an out. 

Friday, Maddon opted for Baez at third and Bryant at first.

"KB's been really good at third base. Just a little bit more agility there with Javy," Maddon said. "I still like how large KB is at first base, for lack of a better word. I mean, he's big. He's a great target.

"Moving forward, it's kind of interesting to give him an opportunity to do it. This is something when he's 10 years from now, he's probably going to be able to do very easily. For right now, I like the agility of third base with Javy and I like the target at first base with KB."

Bryant has continued his evolution into Mr. Versatility this season, moving to right field in a tough ballpark when Heyward got hurt last week and regularly seeing time in left field and third base.

When asked how he will handle the transition to first base, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year had the same reaction he does to most things — a simple shrug of the shoulders.

"I think I have good instincts on the field, so I'm gonna go with those and hopefully my glove's broken in," he said through a smile. "That's all I'm worried about, really. I think just playing the infield and throwing the ball across the diamond a lot, I kinda see how it works over there and the bunt defenses and stuff like that. I think it should be alright."

Bryant said he's not worried about making scoops or stretches, relying on his hands and instincts and acknowledging that those are both actions in the moment.

Bryant — who has 6.1 innings under his belt at first base in his professional career — also said he feels comfortable wherever he plays and has talked in the past about being seen as a "baseball player" rather than a "third baseman" or "outfielder."

"I've played some first before," he said. "I played my freshman year in college. I actually worked out mostly at first base my whole fall leading up to the season and then I played third base the whole year there.

"I've had some experience there working around the bag, turning double plays, throwing from a different arm slot over there. I feel comfortable with it.

"I like to be a baseball player and I guess this is another one of those situations where I get to kinda show that."

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

cubs_podcast_offense_slid.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below:

 

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

The changing of the guard continues for the Cubs this offseason. 

After the team hired a new hitting coach yesterday, it was reported today that they're losing a front office member: 

Rehman, who has been with the Cubs in the same position for the last seven years, will reportedly head up the Rangers' analytics department. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rehman's role was " evaluating existing systems, and recognizing and applying solutions in an effort to create competitive advantages for the organization." 

All reports indicate that he'll be doing similar analytic-based work with the Rangers.