Cubs manager Joe Maddon moved first baseman Anthony Rizzo into the leadoff spot on Tuesday last week, June 13. The decision immediately paid off as Rizzo led off the game with a no-doubt home run to center field off of Zack Wheeler. It was the start of what would become a trend.
The next day, Rizzo led off the game with a solo home run to left-center off of Matt Harvey. After an off-day, the Cubs opened up a series against the Pirates on Friday and Rizzo led off with a walk against Trevor Williams. On Saturday, he opened the game with a single facing Ivan Nova. He greeted Jameson Taillon with a double to begin Sunday’s game. Rizzo singled off of Clayton Richard to kick off Monday’s series opener against the Padres. And on Tuesday, he led off with a solo home run to center field off of Jhoulys Chacin.
So, coming into Wednesday afternoon’s game versus the Padres, Rizzo was 6-for-6 with two singles, a walk, a double, and three homers in his very first at-bat of a game since being made the Cubs’ lead-off man. Unfortunately for him, he was not able to keep the streak going. After working a 3-0 count to begin Wednesday’s game against Miguel Diaz, Rizzo flied out to Hunter Renfroe in right field.
Entering Wednesday’s action, Rizzo was batting .268/.398/.529 overall with 17 home runs and 47 RBI in 314 plate appearances. The competition is absolutely stacked this year at first base, but Rizzo is right up there and will probably be seen at the All-Star Game next month.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.