The Rundown: Rizzo Speaks at Parkland Vigil, Darvish Unleashed, Almora Confident

The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to the baseball player “who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Anthony Rizzo won the award in 2017 and his response to the mass shooting at his alma mater in Parkland, FL and his ensuing support of the community is a great example of the man he is beyond the field.

“I am only who I am because of this community,” Rizzo said during Thursday night’s candlelight vigil. “And I just want all of you to know how proud I am to be a part of this community. I want you to know that you’re not alone in your grief. We’re all grieving with you. The entire country is grieving with you. So whatever comfort I can give, I will give. Whatever support I can offer to our students, teachers, coaches and families and first responders, you’ll have it.”

Kris Bryant knows what a class act his teammate and good friend is, too. “Anthony is a role model for everybody and this whole country.”

Aside from being a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a member of the community, Rizzo’s agent had a family member die in the tragic shooting. And Rizzo played freshman football under assistant coach Aaron Feis, who was among those killed in Wednesday’s shooting and is being hailed a hero for shielding a student.

Baseball seems almost inconsequential after Wednesday’s news. It’s absolutely tragic that we live in a society where we drop our children off at school and then have to worry if we’ll ever see them alive again. Many see the right to own a semi-automatic weapon as more inalienable and imprescriptible than the right to an education.

“While I don’t have all the answers,” Rizzo said, “I know that something has to change, before this is visited on another community, and another community, and another community.”

Cubs News & Notes

Yu Darvish has eight pitches and Cubs manager Joe Maddon wants him to use every single one of them. If you’re like me, you’ll want to grab seats behind home plate if you can when Darvish pitches this season.

Ryan Davis is back with three things he’ll be watching at Cubs camp this spring in his latest “Ryan Says” column. It’s a must read.

Albert Almora Jr. has a high level of confidence in his teammates and says the Cubs won’t settle for anything less than a championship this season. “The expectation for this group is to win the World Series,” Almora said. “We’ve done it and our mindset is to do it again.”

Joe Maddon is in full agreement. “You could feel the confidence,” he said Wednesday after the Cubs’ first workout for pitchers and catchers.

The Cubs manager added, “When you go to play somebody in a four-game series, they’re not going to want to see any one of the four [of five starters]. Visually, it looks wonderful. But at the end of the day, I’m always mindful of the sense that you’ve still got to do it. This is all theory right now. You love it when theory and reality come together.”

Willson Contreras announced Wednesday on Instagram that he and his girlfriend are engaged.

Thursday Stove

The Orioles announced yesterday that they former Cubs pitcher Andrew Cashner. The right-hander has a big fastball but doesn’t strike out many batters, averaging just 4.6 K/9 last season. Cashner will receive $16 million over two years, though incentives could max out at $41 million over three years.

Infielder Eduardo Nunez is returning to the Red Sox on a one-year deal.

The Blue Jays signed veteran left-hander Jaime Garcia to a one year deal that is worth $10 million guaranteed plus incentives.

Bryce Harper’s impending free agency will hang over new manager Davey Martinez and the entire Nationals organization this season, yet Martinez and owner Ted Lerner agree that anything short of winning the World Series should be considered a mission failure. No pressure there for the first-year manager.

If you weren’t paying attention to the White Sox late last season, James Shields dropped his arm angle to sidearm midway through a game at Boston and had a 3.94 ERA in five September starts thereafter. Yes, you read that correctly, he changed his mechanics mid-game. Big Game James hopes to build on that success this season.

Marcus Stroman is not too happy with the arbitration process. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the young pitcher said, “Lost arbitration. Is what it is. Looking forward to going out and dealing again. The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind. I’m thick-skinned so it will only fuel the fire. Can’t wait for this year! #HDMH”

Stroman softened his stance slightly a few minutes later.

Meanwhile Trevor Bauer and Colin McHugh won their arbitration cases against the Indians and Astros, respectively.

Oft-injured Cleveland starter Danny Salazar is already a couple weeks behind other Indians pitchers due to a strained right rotator cuff.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that pace-of-play changes are coming to baseball “one way or another.”

The Red Sox dealt with some internal strife in 2017. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts admitted players on the team were not getting along and that there were “disagreements” and “tension” in the clubhouse.

Bless You Boys looks at the storied life and career of CF Ron LeFlore.

I am really weary of writing about labor tensions, but this story isn’t going away anytime soon. MLBPA leader Tony Clark spoke out yesterday on owners’ excuses and the fact that too many teams are embracing tanking as a strategy. There are 30-40 players participating in a spring camp for unsigned players in Florida.

Friday Walk Up Song

Help Us Somebody by Chris Thomas King.

“Something has to change.”
– Anthony Rizzo.

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