CHICAGO – Things got a little tense last week between the Cubs and Pirates in Pittsburgh, thanks to Pirates pitchers’ proclivity for throwing high and inside.
The Cubs expected things to be quieter this weekend at Wrigley Field, but Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo couldn’t help but take a shot.
“It’s a great theory,” he said of throwing high and inside. “You throw at [teammate Javy Baez’s] head three times and throw a slider down and away, you’re going to get him out.
“It’s scary. Until Major League Baseball steps in and does something, it’s a good formula to get guys out. Throw at them and get them scared off the plate and throw down and away.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected from last week’s series finale, during which he directed his ire not at the umpires, but at Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
“We made our point the other day,” Maddon said. “I’m pretty good at putting things down and moving on. I think our group is, also. I really don’t anticipate any of that. Honestly, I don’t. We came here to play again. We need to get the second half off in the right direction. We need to play baseball and play it right.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a huge carryover. I really don’t. Inside is inside. I’m totally into inside. I totally believe in that. It’s just that eventually a guy (David Bote) got hit in the head. That’s where my focus was.”
Hamels begins program: Left-hander Cole Hamels began his throwing program off flat ground Friday. Hamels went on the injured list June 29, one day after exiting his start at Cincinnati after one inning with a left oblique strain.
There is no timetable for Hamels’ return. The Cubs will see how he feels Saturday.
“See how he feels, but he’s been feeling pretty well,” Maddon said. “Even prior to the break, talking to him, he was pretty optimistic. I think today’s going to be important to find out how he feels going into tomorrow. ”
Fresh for the stretch: Maddon’s teams generally are good second-half teams. Maddon said he believes he knows why.
“The intentional part on my part in the past has been to not run them into the ground in the first half,” he said. “That’s why I’ve always parceled out the workload the way we’ve done in the past to try to give guys rest and try not to beat people up in the first half.
“Right now, going into the second half, if you look at our bullpen numbers, they’re actually pretty good, usage of our bullpen guys, which I think is probably the No. 1 concern annually. The position players on the field, they went through a pretty tough stretch right there at the end. We get a lot of time off in this month. It’s a combination of playing well this month and utilizing these days appropriately, because there’s going to come August, and here we go again, like we did last year.”