No MLB discipline — or retaliation from Padres — as Anthony Rizzo stays hot in Cubs leadoff spot

No MLB discipline — or retaliation from Padres — as Anthony Rizzo stays hot in Cubs leadoff spot

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.”

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


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