The so-called “book” of accepted baseball logic said Joe Maddon made a curious move in the sixth inning of Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the bases loaded and two outs, Maddon brought in left-hander Zac Rosscup to face former MVP and right-handed hitter Andrew McCutchen, replacing righty reliever Justin Grimm.
A closer look, however, might reveal why Maddon made the move he did. Entering Friday, right-handers had three home runs but were hitting .219 against Rosscup, and the young lefty also had moved past his appearance Sunday in Milwaukee when he gave up two homers. McCutchen is also off to a slow start for his standards, and was hitting .250 against lefties, though for his career he’s a .326 hitter against southpaws.
“I’m not concerned left or right or right or left. There’s guys that are neutral and there’s actually guys that reverse. There’s actual pitchers that get both sides out well, and there’s actually guys that get out the opposite side better,” Maddon said. “It’s been pounded into our mindset for too long that it’s got to be a righty on a righty and a lefty on a lefty. For me, ‘Cup, he falls in that category of getting anybody out.
“I thought Grimm had reached his Waterloo. He pitched the day before. You could see he was really grinding it out. He was not comfortable. We did not want to lose the lead right there.”
Rosscup’s ability to get righties – even McCutchen – was more important to Maddon than the traditional wisdom. And it paid off when McCutchen flew out to Jorge Soler.
“All I was trying to do is get him out, so I wasn’t thinking about he’s a former MVP or something like that,” Rosscup said. “I’ve just got to attack the hitter that’s in front of me.”
That Maddon made the move he did was another sign that he doesn’t always care for baseball orthodoxy. On Friday in both pre- and post-game sessions with the media, Maddon railed against excessive batting practice.
Normally, BP is an accepted part of baseball preparation, but that didn’t matter much to Maddon, whose team skipped batting practice Saturday for the third consecutive game.
“We took it during the game today,” Maddon quipped Friday. “That’s my point though. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game. It has everything to do with pitching. If you’re pitching well you can take five hours of BP if you have a good pitcher out there and it’s not going to help you.”
That line of thinking might not go with traditional baseball management, and neither did using Rosscup when he did Friday.
Perhaps neither does the conversation the two had a bit after Rosscup’s rough outing against the Brewers. Maddon said he told Rosscup he had “confidence with you against anybody at any time. Just know that. Just know that. I’ll put you in against anybody at any time.’”
Maddon lived up to that, conventional wisdom or not.
“I’m just trying not to disappoint,” Rosscup said. “He’s told me that he’s got confidence in me and you can see that in the moves he makes.”
RELIEF IN THE PEN
Reliever Brian Schlitter was recalled from Triple-A Iowa and outfielder Matt Szczur was optioned. The move was in response to the heavy workload endured recently by the bullpen, but it also leaves the Cubs with 14 pitchers and only three position players off the bench.
“That’s just the way it has to be,” Maddon said. “We had to thicken up the pen and there was just no other options.”
That might be, but at least for Saturday the Cubs’ bench was down to catchers Welington Castillo and Miguel Montero, plus infielder Jonathan Herrera. Maddon hinted that situation might not carry into Sunday, though Szczur can’t come back for 10 days, barring an injury.
“There’s a lot of different possibilities but just for today, we wanted to do this just for today,” Maddon said. “Then we’ll figure out tomorrow.”