Rizzo Beats the Shift, Samardzija Looking for a Win and Other Cubs News and Notes

Anthony Rizzo went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored on Thursday afternoon in St. Louis. Rizzo was on board for Starlin Castro’s two-run homer and scored the Cubs’ third run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Junior Lake. Teams have been using the exaggerated shift on Rizzo, basically leaving the entire left side of the infield open. And on Thursday, Rizzo dropped down two bunt singles and not only was he on base for Castro’s home run, but the Cardinals did not shift on him after the second successful bunt.

Anthony Rizzo said after Thursday’s game, “Everyone wants to play these shifts and I have Starlin hitting behind me. If they’re going to give me that, I might as well take it.”

Including Thursday, Rizzo has three bunt hits on the books this season. Rizzo told ESPN Chicago, “If I’m the tying run I’m not going to be bunting. I’m going to try to drive the ball. If it’s there it’s there. For the most part, if teams are going to give me that I’m going to take it every time. If they want to play the shift like that, then I’ll just take my bunts, take my hits.”

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija’s quest for a win that has eluded him since last August (14 starts) will continue Friday in the opener of the three-game series with the Brewers. Jeff Samardzija has been very good this season and is still getting better according to a report from the Sun-Times.

Samardzija had been using his cut fastball as a show pitch this season, until last Saturday in Atlanta. According to the report, Samardzija “regained command and feel of the cut fastball that had eluded him in his first seven starts.” Samardzija said he and Welington Castillo “had been chasing it for this whole season” and apparently found it Saturday. Samardzija was surprised when Castillo kept calling the pitch after the way he’s struggled with it this year. Samardzija told the Sun-Times, he figured “something must be up with it” for Castillo to keep calling it. Samardzija admitted the pitch “was pretty good.”

Samardzija has a lot of intangibles according to his pitching coach. Chris Bosio said Samardzija is “still getting better” and “that’s the exciting thing.”

Jeff Samardzija told ESPN Chicago he is “taking his season in stride” but “on the back of baseball card terminology, it’s tough.” Samardzija “is convinced things will even out over the long haul” and he’s not judging his season on wins.

Jed Hoyer pointed out despite a pitcher’s win-loss record being a stat he thinks baseball has all moved away from, that because Samardzija is “now breaking records with his winless streak” it’s unfortunately become a big story.

Teams like the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rockies, Royals and Yankees could be in the mix for Samardzija, or Jason Hammel, in the very near future. And according to a report from Comcast SportsNet, “no one will be surprised when the Cubs try to jump the market again.” The Cubs have two pitchers that could be difference makers for teams with post-season aspirations and general managers on the hot seat to deliver a winner.

Chris Bosio and Pitching Mechanics

The alarming amount of elbow injuries throughout baseball that has resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgeries has everyone asking what is causing the pitchers to breakdown and what can be done to avoid future elbow injuries.

Patrick Mooney caught up with Chris Bosio shortly after the announcement was made that Jose Fernandez would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Bosio told Mooney that he knew something was wrong with Fernandez based on a lower arm slot, flat pitches and “he wasn’t throwing his breaking ball.”

Bosio did not have elbow or shoulder issues during his career and thinks the key to pitchers avoiding injury is “to have really good, clean mechanics.”

Chris Bosio is on the same page with the Cubs front office (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod) when it comes to pitching. According to the report, “Bosio charts everything, even throws off flat ground in Spring Training.” Bosio breaks down video “frame by frame and inhales all the data while putting together game plans.” He and Lester Strode spend time, on a daily basis, “talking about timing, the breaking of hands, getting out over the front foot, finding that release point.” That is “where the good mechanics really come in.”

Bosio explained that the Cubs are “one of those organizations that really look hard at mechanics.” As for what the Cubs look for in a pitcher, Bosio said, “Guys that are 6-3, long, but strong, broad shouldered so they can take the workload.”

The Cubs have a Minor League Pitching Coordinator and an Assistant Minor League Pitching Coordinator to keep “tabs” on the minor league pitchers and “constantly stay on these guys’ mechanics.” Jason McLeod and Bosio have talked mechanics a lot and Bosio knows “that organizationally we are all on the same page on what we are looking for.”

Mike Olt

Jed Hoyer thinks Rick Renteria “has done a nice job” with Mike Olt and putting the power hitting third baseman is the right situations to succeed.

Hoyer told Carrie Muskat, “I want him to play, too, but I also think matching him up and finding the right matchups, you want to make sure that are days when Valbuena is in the lineup. There are days you really want Barney in the lineup because he’s our best defender. There are a lot of factors in play. Frankly, I think it’s helped Mike in the long haul adjusting to the big leagues and getting comfortable here.”

Succession Committee

Major League Baseball announced Thursday the executive council formed a succession committee to find the next Commissioner.

Bill DeWitt Jr., the Principal Owner and CEO of the Cardinals, will lead the new seven-member committee “that has been formed to act on behalf of the Executive Council in overseeing the succession process and collecting the input of all 30 Major League Clubs.”

The other six members of the committee to find a replacement for Bud Selig are Dick Monfort (Rockies), David Montgomery (Phillies), Arte Moreno (Angels), Bub Nutting (Pirates), Jim Pohlad (Twins) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox).

News and Notes

It appears the Cubs included a photo from Comiskey Park in one of the wall murals around Wrigley Field that were installed to recognize significant events at the beloved park over the last 100 years.

If the Cubs need him to, Darwin Barney said he would pitch … and is excited for chance to pitch according to a report from Cubs.com.

Rick Renteria liked what he saw from Jose Veras on Thursday. According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Renteria said, “His presence on the hill was very reassuring.”

It appears Jason Hammel, or ‘Plan B‘ will match up with Masahiro Tanaka for the opener of the Yankees’ series at Wrigley on Tuesday night. Jeff Samardzija is lined up to face the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon.

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  • Tony_H

    How can someone not like Anthony Rizzo!? He is finally at a point in his young career where you can tell he is comfortable and confident enough to take what they give you. But I will take his 284/405/468/873 line with Gold Glove caliber defense.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Totally agree! I think the kid is just an absolute stud and I love the bunts. I’ve been calling for it all season when I see those shifts. Keep it up just a bit more and that will be the end of the shifts, or at least in their current form.

      Rizzo is a consummate professional. And he’s just going to keep getting better and better. I don’t think we’ve gotten near a glimpse of how good he can be.

    • John_CC

      Absolutely. Everyone pretty much though Rizzo would settle into being a .260-.270 hitter with good power. Well, the power is there but now the avg is up and the OBP along with it.

  • Tony_H

    The surge of pitching injuries this year shows why every team needs to have a way to be 8, 9, even 10 deep in their plans for starting pitching, each year. It is also why the risk at the top of the draft is so much more when drafting a SP over a bat, if you feel they are close in value. But I do expect that if one of Aiken, Kolek or Rodon slip to the Cubs at 4, they will take the gift. And it’s funny, I read one article that says the Marlins will take one of the high school arms, because that is what they like, and another that said they will take the best bat and want Jackson. Some are saying that the Astros or White Sox, one or both could pick a lesser player and offer below slot money to be able to get a better player in the 2nd round. Of course, the Cubs could do this as well if those 3 arms go 1,2,3 as there is no clear cut 4th guy after all these arms keep breaking. That is why the Cubs have been attacking pitching in volume and will do so again this year.

  • Tony_H

    Does it surprise anyone that with only 7 members on the succession committee and 30 teams to choose from, that Jerry Reinsdorf always seems to get in on these type of things.

    • John_CC

      Thought the same thing when I saw his name at the end of the short list. That committee should have 10 seats.

  • John_CC

    Great write up Neil. Thanks for all the good info.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks man.