Luke Farrell

One and done: Anthony Rizzo says he's never pitching again

One and done: Anthony Rizzo says he's never pitching again

Sometimes it can be hard to find the silver lining in a 7-1 blowout loss, but that wasn't the case Monday night when Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo finally made his MLB pitching debut. Rizzo had been begging manager Joe Maddon to let him pitch in Friday's blowout loss to the Cardinals, in which Maddon responded by pulling him from the game.

The first baseman has made it known to just about everyone he wanted his shot to pitch. After the dismal first inning starter Luke Farrell had, allowing five runs, it became clear Rizzo might get his shot.

"Oh he's been on me forever," Maddon said after the game. "So I said, 'That's it, this is your shot."

Rizzo entered the game in the top of the ninth, with two runners already gone thanks to Victor Caratini's double-play ball that Rizzo referred to as a sinker — hard to say what the pitch really was. But nonetheless, it allowed Rizzo the moment he's been desperately begging for.

"I was just giving (Joe Maddon) 'the eye' when he was coming out," Rizzo said with a grin. "Been working on that for six or seven years now with (assistant coach Mike Borzello) pretty much every day during BP. It was pretty crazy stepping on that mound."

Rizzo stepped to the mound to face Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock, who finished the night 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. The Cubs' first baseman only needed two pitches to get Pollock to pop up, wasting no time strutting off the field as if he was walking away from some massive explosion in an action movie.

And rightfully so, after making Cubs history Monday night.

When asked if he thought Pollock's ball had a chance to leave the yard, he instantly shot down the idea, pointing out the wind blowing in from center field. But as much fun as Rizzo had on the mound, he acknowledged this would be his first and last appearance as a pitcher. 

"It was a lot of fun and I have a career zero ERA," Rizzo said. "But barring any crazy playoff game, I'll be sitting at the end of the bench not wanting to pitch anymore."

Rizzo didn't give a straight answer on why he was done, it just felt like the Cubs superstar had finally scratched an itch he had been waiting over six years to scratch. And two pitches was all it took for Rizzo to be satisfied with himself. 

Sometimes, it's just one of those nights where nothing goes your way. Maddon knew from the first inning it was going to be tough to overcome a short outing from Farrell with a bullpen already on the verge of being overused. But thanks to his creativity, the Cubs relievers got some much-needed rest.

And Rizzo, who already set a few obscure records Monday, told Maddon he has some lofty aspirations for himself this season.

"He said he's going after the greatest leadoff hitter and relief pitcher in the same season."

Jose Quintana saved the Cubs pitching staff...for now, at least

Jose Quintana saved the Cubs pitching staff...for now, at least

The Cubs showed up to the ballpark Sunday morning knowing they were going to have to get creative with their pitching staff.

Sure, they just had the All-Star Break, but they kicked the season's second half off by jamming the pedal to the metal with a hard-fought 5-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-day span. 

Despite another quality start out of Mike Montgomery and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Cubs simply had too many innings to cover in Saturday's doubleheader.

They entered Sunday with Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson all unavailable, closer Brandon Morrow on the disabled list and hoping they didn't have to use long man Luke Farrell out of the bullpen so he could start Monday night's game.

That left some combination of Chavez (who had already worked 2 innings in his Cubs debut Saturday), Randy Rosario, Brian Duensing and Carl Edwards Jr. as the guys available out of the bullpen.

And that's even with 3 different position players pitching during Friday's blowout loss to help save the bullpen.

"Sometimes, you just gotta regroup and you have to try to do it in other ways to make sure that these guys are gonna be well for the rest of the season," Maddon said.

Enter Jose Quintana.

Quintana wasn't masterful — he allowed 10 baserunners in 7 innings, though a pair of those were intentional walks — but he still managed to eat up a bunch of outs and pick up his 9th win of the season. The 121 pitches he threw tied a career high and was the first time he topped the century mark since May 19.

It allowed the Cubs to only have to rely on Chavez (who threw another perfect inning) and Rosario, leaving Edwards to get some rest and Farrell to be set for Monday's start.

The Cubs are currently in a tough stretch where they play 12 games in 11 days against playoff-hopeful teams (Cardinals, Diamondbacks). They don't have another off-day until next Monday and have only four off-days between now and Sept. 13 as they'll play 53 games in that 56-day stretch.

As creative as they had to get this weekend against St. Louis, the Cubs will still have plenty of hurdles to cross to ensure their pitching staff is healthy and fresh come October.

With trade deadline approaching, Cubs know they can't rely on Yu Darvish

With trade deadline approaching, Cubs know they can't rely on Yu Darvish

Sunday began like most days have around the Cubs recently: No update on Yu Darvish.

But while the skies opened up over Wrigley Field about 90 minutes before game time, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sat in the third-base dugout and spoke candidly about where Darvish is at currently and how much the Cubs can count on him during the stretch run.

Darvish threw from flat ground — 135 feet — Sunday morning and Epstein said it was "his best day in a long time. He threw really well and felt really good."

Still, there is no specific timetable for when Darvish may be back on the Wrigley Field mound, facing live hitters in a game that matters.

The next step for Darvish will be throwing off a mound, but the Cubs aren't yet talking about where or when the 31-year-old pitcher will go on a rehab assignment.

With the non-waiver trade deadline approaching in just over a week, Epstein and the Cubs know they can't simply project Darvish into the September — or October — rotation.

"I think just making an educated guess," Epstein said. "You can't be overly reliant on somebody who hasn't been able to stay healthy and perform this year. At the same time, you track the rehab closely because you know you have to try to anticipate what he might be able to give you.

"...If you put yourself in a position where you're overly reliant on something that hasn't been dependable up to this point and then it doesn't come through, it's probably more on you than on the fates."

Darvish has accounted for only 40 innings for the Cubs this season and hasn't pitched since May 20. He made it through 5 innings just three times in his eight starts on the campaign.

This is the second DL stint for Darvish this season. He had a bout of the flu in early May and then initially went back on the shelf over Memorial Day Weekend with a triceps issue. The triceps strain has morphed into an elbow impingement after Darvish made a rehab start with Class-A South Bend and he received a cortisone shot in the elbow in late June.

Mike Montgomery has taken Darvish's place in the Cubs rotation and the southpaw has had a lot of success in the role with a 3.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 10 starts, averaging nearly 6 innings a start.

Of course, Montgomery's insertion into the rotation has left a bit of a hole in the bullpen as the Cubs have been without their top long man and down one reliable left-handed option.

The long relief role was filled last week with the trade for Jesse Chavez, but the Cubs could probably still use another lefty in the bullpen with Justin Wilson's control issues, Brian Duensing's struggles and Randy Rosario's relative inexperience and worrisome peripheral numbers.

Whether the Cubs will acquire another starting pitcher before the trade deadline is unknown. Epstein's front office knows they need more pitching and understands it's much harder to acquire arms after July 31 than before.

But with Montgomery already filling the last spot in the rotation, Drew Smyly on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery while being stretched out as a starter and now Chavez in town, the Cubs have some veteran starting pitching depth beyond the inexperienced Luke Farrell and Duane Underwood Jr.

The starting pitching market is relatively thin at the moment in terms of arms a team like the Cubs could acquire and plug into a potential playoff rotation. And that's saying nothing of the pieces it would require to pull off such a move, as the Cubs don't have the elite-level prospects they once had to acquire Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana the past two summers.

But with Darvish's status unknown and Tyler Chatwood currently boasting more walks than strikeouts through 18 starts, the Cubs aren't exactly sleeping easy at night trying to project their October rotation.

Epstein acknowledged the front office is focused primarily on pitching ahead of the deadline and though it may be tougher to make those big-name deals compared to years past, that doesn't necessarily take the Cubs out of the running on the impact guys.

Still, don't expect Jacob deGrom or Chris Archer to be walking through that door anytime soon.

"I think we're in a more difficult position to do so. I don't think it's impossible," Epstein said. "But certain years lend themselves to being able to participate in more hands. Other years, because of the way your prospects are performing or because of your desire to keep growing the farm system or just the nature of what's available and how much you need, you have to be more selective.

"I think we're hopefully pursuing a lot of different things, but I think in terms of what's realistic for us, we have to be a little bit more targeted, more selective and a little more opportunistic. And that's fine. Sometimes those end up being the best deals. The Chavez deal is an example of that. He's probably not a name anyone had mentioned at all. We think he's a really good fit for us.

"So that's [an example of] the kind of stuff we're looking to do. While participating in everything else, but knowing that most of the stuff we talked about we won't be able to get done."