By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — An animated dugout conversation between Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and right-hander John Lackey between innings in Tuesday’s contest that was perceived by some to be a confrontation appears to be nothing of that sort.
Always animated when he’s pitching, Lackey was still upset about a ground ball that had snuck through the infield on a hit-and-run by the White Sox. The second baseman often covers second base on a steal attempt, but with a left-handed hitter up, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell covered the base, and the ball went to his area and helped set up an ensuing two-run double.
Knowing it was a tailor-made double play if Russell had been in his normal spot, Lackey was still irked when he was approached by Rizzo. While it didn’t gain that much attention, some perceived it to be a confrontational, with one report saying Rizzo bumped Lackey.
“I told him we would get those runs back,” Rizzo said. “That was it. I think it’s pretty funny I have to talk about this the next day.”
Rizzo added that a bump “didn’t happen.” The Cubs would win the game 7-2.
“I just gave him a pat on the butt,” Rizzo said.
Then Rizzo got sarcastic.
“It was almost like (Carlos) Zambrano and Derrek Lee,” he said, referencing teammates on the 2009 Cubs who had to be separated during a game.
Rizzo holds a great respect for the 38-year-old Lackey, a three-time champion.
“He is great,” Rizzo said. “He really competes and it’s fun, it is fun to play behind him. That is the way he has been for a long time. He has been really good at it a long time.”
An easygoing leader of the Cubs, Rizzo was miffed that he had to spend five minutes talking about the non-issue ahead of Wednesday’s game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“This is uneducated speculation, to be honest with you,” Rizzo said. “I don’t need to educate you guys on in-house matters. Lackey is probably one of my best friends on this team. That’s the good part. When you have friends, you can talk to them about anything. It will not be anything more than friends talking to friends.”
While Lackey is gruff to many outsides, notably the media, his personality can be different around teammates, who hold him in high regard.
“He does bring a lot of intensity every single start,” Rizzo said. “He expects the best out of everyone, just as we all expect the best out of him. That is great for this group of younger guys. Five or six years from now, they will tell younger teammates how Lackey was locked in for every one of his starts.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.