PITTSBURGH — A snitch? A clubhouse problem?
“I don’t know where that came from,” newly acquired Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler said of the apparent rationale the Nationals used for dumping the former All-Star closer for a minor-leaguer on Tuesday.
“I don’t want my character being questioned,” Kintzler said when asked about the fallout of a Washington Post story suggesting the Nats believed Kintzler was an anonymous source for a Yahoo Sports report describing the Nats clubhouse as “a mess.”
“I work hard to be a very good teammate,” he said. “That’s something I’ve learned coming up from Trevor Hoffman: always worry about being a good teammate. I always take that serious. So when I got questioned about it, I’m going to have to clear my name and make sure that everyone knows I wasn’t part of that.”
Cubs bosses say their background work on Kintzler tells a story far different than what the Post insinuated.
“I’ve heard the exact opposite from good sources,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve heard he’s a great teammate, great competitor and his agenda is to win. And if you look at his body of work, he’s not a strikeout guy obviously, but he throws a lot of ground balls.
“He checks all the boxes.”
Team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday during his weekly ESPN radio show appearance that the writer of the original story, Jeff Passan, called him to say he had never talked to Kintzler on the record or off. Kintzler said the same thing during a radio interview in Washington.
“That’s cool of that guy, the fact that he wanted to go out there and set it clear for me,” Kintzler said Wednesday after pitching a scoreless debut for the Cubs a few hours after driving to Pittsburgh from Washington. “It affected a lot of people I’m sure.”
Said Epstein: “We spoke to a number of teammates who shared the clubhouse with him over the years and everyone feels strongly that he’s a big positive in the clubhouse.”
Kintzler said he’s ready now to move on with a team he remembered being relentless against the Nats in last year’s playoffs.
“These guys know how to win games, that’s the thing,” he said. “And that’s what I’m happy to be a part of, guys that know how to win and they win as a team. They play together.”
Next for Darvish: Saturday
Right-hander Yu Darvish, who hasn’t pitched since May 20 because of elbow pain and a subsequent setback during rehab, reported feeling good playing catch Wednesday, the day after a 35-pitch bullpen session.
Darvish plans to throw in the bullpen again Saturday at home, a session to be broken up into two “innings” with a five-minute sit-down in between.
One of the reasons the Cubs were especially intent on getting pitching help before Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline was because it could become potentially harder this year than most to add after August.
“It’s something that came up in our room a fair amount, thinking about where we are in the waiver wire,” general manager Jed Hoyer said after the team landed three pitchers in the final 13 days before the deadline. “We’re aware that we have much less control than some teams would, especially when it comes to American League players.”
The Cubs started August with the best record in the National League. The way the waiver-trade period works is that if multiple teams make a waiver claim on a player, the claim is awarded based on reverse order of team records, going first through the player’s league, then the other league.
Any NL opponent can block the Cubs with a claim, and any AL team can block them from an AL player before the process reaches the NL.
“You never know,” Hoyer said. “We’ll continue to look to upgrade the team through August.”
Not fair, but no other options
Rookie left-hander Randy Rosario, who earned increasing trust from Maddon since joining the bullpen in May, was optioned to Class AAA Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster for Kintzler.
Rosario, who was claimed off waivers from the Twins in November last season, has a 1.97 ERA with the Cubs, and opponents are 4-for-27 against him in “close and late” situations.
“He was upset. It caught him a little bit off guard,” Maddon said. “He did a great job. Guys like him, until they’re out of options, pay the price of having options. I know it leveled him a little bit, but he’ll be back.”