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Rizzo's season jump-started at leadoff spot

Struggling slugger and Maddon had heart-to-heart talk in late April
August 24, 2018

CHICAGO -- Earlier this season, Anthony Rizzo and manager Joe Maddon had a heart-to-heart talk. It might have been in late April when the Cubs' first baseman was batting .149."I tried to reassure him that things were going to go well," Maddon said on Friday. "At that moment, I said,

CHICAGO -- Earlier this season, Anthony Rizzo and manager Joe Maddon had a heart-to-heart talk. It might have been in late April when the Cubs' first baseman was batting .149.
"I tried to reassure him that things were going to go well," Maddon said on Friday. "At that moment, I said, 'I'm going to write down and show you at the end of the year what your numbers will look like.' I wrote that down a couple months ago, and I just have to remember where I put it."
Rizzo is doing just fine, batting .307 in August after Friday's 3-2 walk-off win against the Reds. He got a boost when he was inserted into the leadoff spot in the lineup on July 13.
"He got jump-started by hitting first," Maddon said. "He's good -- he's really good."
It's not the first time Maddon has had such conversations with his players.
"I appreciate the fact that they come to talk to me about things," Maddon said. "It's a good thing."
Heyward nursing injury
Benjamin Zobrist started in right field on Friday, which gave Jason Heyward a breather. Heyward has been battling a sore left ankle.
"Right now, it's bothering him a little bit," Maddon said. "It's not debilitating, it just bothers him a little bit."
Baez receives honor
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association honored Javier Baez pregame as the Cubs' winner of the Heart & Hustle Award. The award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
One player from each Major League team is chosen for the award. The overall winner will be announced on Nov. 8 in New York.

Injury updates
• Left-hander Brian Duensing (left shoulder inflammation) will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Friday with Triple-A Iowa
Brandon Morrow, on the disabled list since July 18 because of right biceps inflammation, continues to make progress in his rehab, Maddon said. Morrow was not expected back until September.
Kristopher Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) hit in the batting cages. No word yet on whether he'll get some playing time with one of the Cubs' Minor League affiliates.
• Mike Montgomery (left shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen session on Sunday, and if all goes well, he could be close to returning. When Montgomery does return, he will be inserted back into the Cubs' rotation. The lefty had been subbing for Yu Darvish, who is done for the season because of a stress reaction in his right elbow.
"[Montgomery will] be back in the rotation, but there are different things we can do," Maddon said.
One of those options may be to use a six-man rotation and give Alec Mills another start. Mills struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings on Friday.
Light suspended
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced Friday that Cubs Minor League pitcher Braxton Light has received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Amphetamine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Light was on the roster of the Rookie-level Arizona League team.
Upcoming theme trips
The Cubs haven't invited as many animals or magicians or reggae bands to Wrigley Field this year to break up the 162-game schedule.
"I'm maturing," Maddon quipped.
The Cubs have had a few theme trips, including a recent one honoring reliever Pedro Strop. They will wear football jerseys on the next trip.
"I'm ashamed to say, I might be maturing a bit," Maddon said. "If that's true, I'd really be disappointed in myself."
What's in a name?
Players' Weekend does have its benefits. David Bote's nickname is "Boat" because that's how most people pronounce his last name. A company that spells its name the same way sent Bote some shirts, hats, coozies and a paddleboard. One of the company's owners is a Cubs fan and wrote to Bote, saying that "since you're carrying our namesake on your back, that's the least we could do."

What was Maddon's nickname? "Pino."
"When I did clinics in Italy in the early 2000s, the pitching coach they assigned to me was from Rome," Maddon said. "When I met him, and I introduced myself as Joe, he said, 'Pino.' He said, 'That's Joe in Italian.' From that moment on over there, I became Pino with him. I've messed with it for years. There's an inner circle that nickname flows with."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.