Major League Baseball won’t discipline Anthony Rizzo for knocking San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges out of Monday night’s game, even though chief baseball officer Joe Torre found that the Cubs superstar violated the collision rule.
That interpretation of intent will hang over the next two games at Wrigley Field, waiting to see if the Padres retaliate for what manager Andy Green called a “cheap shot” against one of their building-block players.
“I can’t control what they do,” Rizzo said Tuesday afternoon, pointing out the way the Padres attacked him last month. “They throw inside, most likely, on the second pitch. If you look at the games back in San Diego, every second pitch last time was at me. It’s just part of the game.
“Just be ready to hit. If I get hit, I get hit. It’s certainly not the first time.”
Rizzo blasted Jhoulys Chacin’s second 93-mph fastball 432 feet over the center-field wall, setting the first-inning tone in a 4-0 win and giving him his third leadoff homer within the last seven games. The San Diego Union Tribune quoted Chacin postgame: “I had a meeting with Andy, and he asked me to give my word I won’t hit (Rizzo) on purpose.”
Rizzo — a left-handed slugger who crowds the plate — is already tied for the major-league lead after getting hit by 12 pitches so far this season. While the Hedges crash went viral, Rizzo explained his side of the story to Torre, the Hall of Famer who caught more than 7,400 innings in the majors and now oversees umpiring and on-field operations and discipline.
“We were pretty much on the same page, as far as it’s an instinct play,” Rizzo said. “There was no intent to be malicious towards Austin Hedges. It wasn’t a statement. It’s just one of those plays where my instincts took over.”
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Rizzo again stood at his locker, faced the cameras and tried to shrug off the entire incident, from Green making it a much bigger story with his postgame comments to the media — “it’s a manager backing his player” — to Hedges dealing with a bruised right thigh and being kept out of Tuesday’s lineup.
“Yeah, if I see him,” Rizzo said when asked if he’ll be in contact with Hedges. “From what I understand, he’s all right. He’s just banged up a little bit.
“It’s just one of those weird plays. I’m ready to move on.”
Rizzo’s defense amounted to the series of split-second decisions made while reading Kris Bryant’s low line drive, tagging up from third base, accounting for Matt Szczur’s bouncing throw from center field and trying to find an angle to home plate against Hedges.
“I don’t expect retaliation,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There was no intent on our part to injure anybody. That was an intent to score a run. And at the end of the night, you try to score one more than they do. That’s all that was going on.
“That was a good baseball play. Period.”
Even a Cubs official admitted that Rizzo ran outside the base path, but not in such an egregious way that he should become a new precedent for a gray-area rule. Even the Padres acknowledged that Rizzo doesn’t have the reputation of being a dirty player.
“You got to play this game on instinct,” Rizzo said. “I play this game on instincts all the time. They take over and most of the time you have to live and die by your decision.”