Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo Defends Plate Collision As ‘Hard’ Play While Padres Call It A ‘Cheap Shot’

By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — There was no slowing down for Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo as he barreled down toward home plate.

With the Cubs trailing the Padres, 2-1, in the sixth inning on Monday night at Wrigley Field, Rizzo tagged up from third base on a hard-hit liner off the bat of Kris Bryant. Center fielder Matt Szczur, a former Cubs teammate, came in and threw a dart to catcher Austin Hedges, who had dropped to his knees in front of home plate.

In came Rizzo, who came in high and sent Hedges backward with the baseball still in his control as the out was secured. Rizzo would be OK, while Hedges left the game with a bruised right thigh.

The Cubs would go on to a 3-2 win, after which Padres manager Andy Green said his piece on the play.

“You look at that play, and it’s a fairly egregious violation of the rule,” Green told reporters after the game, via Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The rule exists to protect that catcher. The safety of the catcher is more in jeopardy now when you have the rule to protect you, because you are not expecting to get hit. You’ve got to think like that.

“I think it’s a cheap shot. I’m not saying he’s a dirty player at all. No one is saying that. He clearly deviated from his path to hit our catcher and took our catcher out. The rule exists to protect him. That’s a disheartening play.”

Rizzo responded to the Padres’ claims shortly there after.

“I don’t by no means think that’s a dirty play at all,” Rizzo said. “I went pretty much straight in, he caught the ball and he went towards the plate.

“Play this game hard for 162 games plus. Every day, I pride myself on it.”

Hedges isn’t expected to play in Tuesday’s game, Green told reporters afterward. Luis Torrens came in for his place behind the plate in the seventh inning.

Rizzo has spoken with umpires on multiple occasions about the interpretation of the rule for when a catcher is blocking the plate, saying it’s his understanding that, “If they have the ball, it’s game on.”

Rizzo’s line of thinking is somewhat of a departure from the rule as written. Rule 7.13 reads in part: “A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has encouraged players to remain aggressive if they see the catcher in the lane to the plate.

“I loved it,” Maddon said. “Absolutely loved it. That’s part of the game. If the catcher’s in the way, you hit him. Very simple.”

Note: Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber left Monday’s game with swelling in his left ankle after fouling a pitch off it. X-rays were negative, and his status should be updated on Tuesday … Addison Russell entered the game as a defensive replacement for Schwarber, this after he was held out of the lineup due to an ankle ailment. Maddon had said he would’ve played if it were a playoff game.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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