Anthony Rizzo retires as pitcher, but could his leadoff career just be starting?
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon might not be doubling down on Anthony Rizzo as a leadoff hitter, but he is looking for ways to get more out of his slugging first baseman at the top of the order.
And that doesn’t even count Rizzo’s first career pitching appearance for the final out of the top of the ninth inning of the Diamondbacks’ 7-1 victory Monday.
‘‘The one thing I’ve been considering is hitting the pitcher eighth again and putting another hitter in the 9-hole,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘If Rizz continues along this method, it’s probably wise to try to get somebody different in the 9-hole that could feed him.’’
Rizzo hit leadoff for the ninth consecutive game and has reached base in all nine. He’s 16-for-31 (.516) with eight walks (.619 on-base percentage) and six extra-base hits (.742 slugging percentage), and the Cubs are 6-3 in those games.
Maddon offered no indication about when he might move Rizzo back to his accustomed third or fourth spot in the order. Rizzo led off 14 times last season, similarly as a way to shake things up offensively.
‘‘I enjoy it,’’ said Rizzo, who didn’t seem fazed when he was asked about a willingness to stay there all season. ‘‘Whatever Joe thinks is best. We’ll just keep going with it and see what happens. . . . It seems to be working.’’
Maddon certainly will move him back to the middle of the order at some point, right?
‘‘I think so,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Right now, it’s just so hard to do that. He’s provided a lot of energy at the top of the batting order. He likes it. And Javy [Baez] has done so well with driving them in [from the cleanup spot].’’
Rizzo, Caratini pitch
For the second time in four days, the Cubs used multiple position players to pitch in a game, including catcher Victor Caratini getting three outs after being one of three position players to pitch Friday against the Cardinals.
How serious are the pitching-depth concerns created by the struggles of the starting rotation? Until Friday, the last time the Cubs used more than one position player to pitch in a game was 1884.
‘‘Obviously, we don’t ever want to pitch as position players,’’ said Rizzo, who has lobbied for years for the appearance that came after Caratini induced a double play in the ninth. ‘‘We always joke around about it, but on a serious note, it is what it is.’’
Maddon got assurances that Rizzo wouldn’t throw hard, then a concession that Rizzo now is retired from mound work after a two-pitch appearance that resulted in A.J. Pollock hitting a routine fly to center.
‘‘I got to do what I wanted to do,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘It was a lot of fun. Career zero ERA now. It’s awesome. You have to have fun with it and at the same time try not to embarrass yourself too much. . . . It was pretty scary standing out on that mound.’’
This and that
Rookie Luke Farrell created another bullpen-taxing day by lasting only two batters into the fourth of his second spot start. He gave up five runs in the first.
• The Cubs were 17-6 against left-handed starters before the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin shut them down for seven innings.
‘‘He channeled his inner Steve Carlton,’’ Maddon said.