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.”

Cubs' David Ross has DH dilemma: Not getting to pull Jon Lester off on-deck circle

Cubs' David Ross has DH dilemma: Not getting to pull Jon Lester off on-deck circle

David Ross faces an extremely unique set of circumstances in his rookie season managing. Not only is he guiding the Cubs through a season amid the COVID-19 crisis, but he's doing so with several new rule changes in Major League Baseball.

One such change is the National League adding a designated hitter for 2020 to reduce the strain on pitchers in a shortened season. Ross told reporters on Tuesday he's glad the DH is coming to the NL, although there is one thing he'll miss about pitchers hitting on a full-time basis this year. 

"I told Jonny [Lester], I said, the only drawback to the DH for me is I didn't get to pull him off the on-deck circle and tell him he was done for the day," Ross said in Tuesday's Zoom session. "He told me, 'What're you talking about? I'm one of your top five hitters off the bench.'" 

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Lester started his career 0-for-66 at the plate before getting his first hit in 2015. He's improved since then and has a decent swing, hitting a home run in each of the past three seasons. His 50 wRC+ last season ranked fifth in MLB among pitchers with at least 40 plate appearances. 

Lester won't be in the batting order each outing this year, but perhaps Ross will need his prowess off the bench at some point.


Cubs' David Ross responds to veteran umpire Joe West's comments about COVID-19

Cubs' David Ross responds to veteran umpire Joe West's comments about COVID-19

Cubs manager David Ross responded on Tuesday to comments made by umpire Joe West downplaying the severity of COVID-19.

In an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, West — considered high-risk for contracting the virus at age 67 — said “I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus. I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

“The one thing I've learned in this role that I have now and talking to guys — everybody's got different views on things in life,” Ross said. “There's a lot going on and some people, they take things more serious than others — it's no different than other topics in life.”

Over 130,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Nearly 3 million people have been infected, and the country has seen recent case spikes in states home to Major League Baseball, including Florida, Texas, Arizona and Georgia.

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MLB has instituted numerous health and safety protocols this season, such as testing players and staff every other day, no spitting and social distancing from opponents before and after games. But teams have already experienced delays in getting their testing results, the type of “hiccup,” as Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said, that cannot happen for the league’s plan to work.

MORE: Kris Bryant chimes in on testing concerns: 'We've got a big hill to climb'

The Cubs pushed back Tuesday's workouts because of a delay in getting their results from Sunday's tests. West's comments suggest that those involved in this season do not come from the same line of thinking.

"It's natural and when you're in this environment, you know that everybody is in a different boat mentally and so you try to set standards and follow the guidelines we’re given to make sure everybody is in check and doing the right thing," Ross said. "These are medical experts that are a lot smarter than I am that have set these things in place, and so we try to listen to those and keep it as safe as we possibly can."

West told Rosenthal he has no plans to opt out of this season and is going to be careful. Ross expressed confidence the veteran umpire will follow safety protocols this season.

"His internal thoughts are what they are," Ross said. "Those don't concern me as much as just the fact that he comes to work and is a professional and does his job to the ability that he can and under the guidelines that we’re gonna be provided."

West is second on the all-time list of most games umpired.