MIAMI — Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo remained the center of attention Friday during a weekend series that has become more about his nearby hometown than the games at Marlins Park.
Rizzo worked with the Marlins to invite family members of three people killed in last month’s shooting at his alma mater — Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — as well as a student recovering from injuries.
“Unfortunately, I know all four of them,” Rizzo said before Friday’s game. It was his third large media briefing already in a series that continues through Sunday.
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Rizzo met student Ben Wikander when he visited victims in the hospital in the days after the shooting, and he had personal ties with the three who were among the 17 killed: the school’s athletic director, Chris Hixon; assistant football coach Aaron Feis and student Jaime Guttenberg, the niece of Rizzo’s agent.
Feis’ daughter, Hixon’s son, Guttenberg’s brother and Wikander threw out simultaneous first pitches during a pregame ceremony that also included the presentation of a $305,000 donation for a victims’ fund.
“You just want to see what’s best for them,” Rizzo said. “There’s nothing you can say. There’s nothing you can do, except be there.”
Rizzo also hosted the Stoneman Douglas High baseball team on the field before the game, with most of the Cubs’ players spending a few moments talking with them.
Rizzo called the events of the day “another weird, emotional moment” and has talked about how draining the experience has been for him and his community. As he spoke Friday, he still had three more games in Miami before the Cubs moved on to the next series.
“At some point, you’ve got to lock it in and do your job,” said Rizzo, who homered in Thursday’s opener. “I don’t think it’s any different being an athlete than any other person in a work field. There are things at work you might like or not necessarily like, and you deal with things outside of work.”
Right-hander Yu Darvish has never pitched at Marlins Park, or pitched a game that counted for the Cubs. But he downplayed the personal significance of his Cubs debut Saturday and said he expects it to feel like starting any other season.
Except for this: He also has said he felt his best at the end of this spring training than in any other year. And the Cubs have committed $126 million to him over the next six years.
“My body felt great, and my command was there,” Darvish said through his interpreter Friday. “So I’m as ready as I can be going into the season.”
This and that
Marlins right fielder Garrett Cooper was hit on the wrist by a pitch from Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning and left the game. The Marlins later said he had suffered only a bruise.
• Lefty Caleb Smith was with the Cubs through 2017 spring training as a Rule 5 draft pick. He was sent back to the Yankees at the end of camp last year and made his major-league debut in July. He struck out eight and allowed just one run in 5⅓ innings Friday against the Cubs in his Marlins debut.
• Hendricks made his 100th career start. He lowered his career ERA to 2.93 — second to Clayton Kershaw (2.36) among active starters with at least 100 starts.