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Bruise control: Cubs Anthony Rizzo halfway to becoming baseball’s all-time king pain

When it comes to getting hit by pitches, the only thing that might stop Rizzo from breaking the record is breaking something else.

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Rizzo hit by a pitch in 2016.
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The bruises were still fresh when Anthony Rizzo spotted his favorite baseball writer in the Cubs clubhouse the next day and bragged about getting hit by 139 pitches in his career.

“I’m a legend,” said Rizzo, who surpassed Frank Chance’s 108-year-old franchise record Monday. “I’m in the [gosh-darn] record books! No. 1, and no one will ever beat it.”

A few laughs later, Rizzo was out the door to practice his hitting – which, we assume, actually was to include swinging the bat he carried.

Laughs aside, Rizzo might yet become a legend at the craft, maybe even baseball’s all-time king of pain.

Since Jason Marquis first hit him with a pitch on June 10, 2011, when Rizzo was a Padres rookie, Rizzo has been hit 143 times overall – about halfway to the record.

The top two are Hall of Famers: Hughie Jennings, who played most of his career before 1900, was hit 287 times; Craig Biggio (1988-2007), 285.

“I told him, ‘As far as the Cubs go that’s right up there with [Joe] DiMaggio (56-game hitting streak] and Cal Ripken [2,632 consecutive games],’ “ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I don’t see anyone breaking that.”

Never mind Rizzo’s response: “Ripken got hit by pitches?”

Whatever.

Considering Rizzo’s age (30), longevity suggested by his position (first base) and the fact he stands on top of the plate, the big-league record isn’t a reach.

“I hope I get hit 138 more times, so it means I play for a long time,” said Rizzo, who’s tied for 25th all-time with Carlton Fisk and David Eckstein.

He’s been hit by some of the best (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber), some of the hardest throwing (Aroldis Chapman, Felipe Vazquez) and some of the meanest (John Lackey) he’s faced.

Kluber hit him twice in only 11 plate appearances. Matt Harvey and Francisco Liriano hit him four times each. And when he set the franchise record Monday, it was Seattle rookie Justus Sheffield hitting him in the second and third PAs ever facing him.

Rizzo wears no protective gear and rarely shows anger.

“He doesn’t want to show them any weakness,” Cubs reliever Steve Cishek said. “We know how much it hurts, too. He’ll tell us. When I got hit in the knee [playing catch before a game in June], he made sure to say he knew that he’s tougher than me.”

Cishek, with the Marlins, was the first to hit Rizzo as a Cub.

“No way,” he said. “That’s awesome.”

DID YOU KNOW

  • Before their 24-inning scoreless streak that ended Monday against Seattle, the last time the Cubs had a scoring skid that long was April 16-18, 2014, against the Yankees and Reds (also 24). The last time they had one longer (at 26), it took two seasons and two managers – ending 2013 with nine against the Cardinals, under Dale Sveum and opening 2014 with 17 more against the Pirates under Rick Renteria.
  • The Cubs faced seven Cy Young Award-winning starting pitchers this season a total of nine times. They went 5-4 in those games. The collective performance of those seven pitchers (Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez twice, Max Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom twice and Dallas Kuechel): 3-3, 3.83 ERA. The Cubs do not have another Cy Young pitcher on the schedule.

THAT’S WHAT HE SAID

“Why pitch? I mean, that’s why we’re starting pitchers. That’s why we get paid a lot of money to do what we do. If you’re going to take away a win, then what’s the point of even going out there.” – Cubs starter Jon Lester on the analytics-fed perception that pitcher wins have little or no value.

“If I get fatigued it’ll probably show, probably show in the numbers. So they’ll know when to sit me.” – Ben Zobrist, 38, on his projected workload down the stretch after a four-month layoff for personal leave.

“It is nice when the guy on top is definitely stirring it up a little bit.” – Manager Joe Maddon on seeking improvement in a Cub leadoff spot that had the worst on-base percentage in baseball (.281) as Zobrist returned Tuesday.

HIDDEN FIGURES

27 – Home runs in 211 career games as a Cub, across three seasons, for Jorge Soler, who on Wednesday became the first Kansas City Royal to hit 40 in a season.

2 – Homers needed for Jason Heyward to become the sixth Cub to reach 20 this season. They’ve had that many only once in franchise history (2017). This is only the fifth season with five (also 2008, 2004, 1958).

15 – MLB teams on pace to break their franchise records during this record year for home runs in the majors, including the Cubs (235 in 2004). Both league marks already have fallen.