Rizzo won't face discipline for slide into Hedges

MLB deems contact was not malicious, but violated rule

June 20th, 2017

CHICAGO -- A day after his controversial collision with Padres catcher , received a call from the Commissioner's Office.

The message: He'd violated Rule 6.01(i) on Monday night's play at the plate during the Cubs' 3-2 victory . But Rizzo wouldn't receive any further discipline from the league in the form of a fine or a suspension.

On the sixth-inning play, Rizzo attempted to tag up from third base on 's fly ball. But 's throw to the plate arrived well ahead of Rizzo.

Major League Baseball deemed that Hedges offered Rizzo an appropriate path to the plate. Rizzo initiated contact nonetheless, sending Hedges flying backward. Hedges was knocked from the game with a bruised right thigh, and he wasn't in the starting lineup on Tuesday night -- though the Padres don't expect Hedges to be out much longer.

"It was a bad slide," Hedges said. "I clearly gave him the plate. He went out of his way and got me pretty good."

The bylaw in question states, "A runner may not run out of a direct line to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher," and it later clarifies, "The umpire will consider such factors as whether the runner made an effort to touch the plate and whether he lowered his shoulder."

Implemented in 2014, no player has received discipline for a violation. The rule merely stipulates that the runner be called out, and since Hedges held onto the baseball, Rizzo was out anyway.

Still, Rizzo's slide was enough to prompt a call from Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre.

"We spoke, and he explained the rule a little more in depth to me, said according to the rule it was a violation, but there's not going to be discipline because the way I slid into him and the way I was going, it was zero intent to be malicious toward Austin Hedges," Rizzo said. "It was a good conversation, and I'm happy they came to closure on it."

Padres manager Andy Green wasn't surprised by MLB's decision not to discipline Rizzo, noting the lack of precedent.

But he turned the conversation to the health of Hedges, a young catcher who the Padres view as a cornerstone to build around. Green said he doesn't view an "out" call as a significant deterrent. Without harsher consequences, Green said, "it's just open season" on catchers.

"I don't think in any way, shape or form he's a dirty baseball player," Green said of Rizzo. "It was one of those plays where you make a decision in a split-second, and you violate the rule -- a rule designed to protect the health of my catcher."

In the immediate aftermath, Maddon heaped praise on Rizzo's aggressiveness. He took a lighter tone on Tuesday, but noted that he firmly believes Rizzo was within the rules.

"Their catcher did everything right," Maddon said. "Anthony did the right thing by attempting to score a run, which is the whole purpose of playing baseball. It was a good baseball play, and I want to compliment the Padres, because they're the ones who won the moment."

Said Green: "There's aggression we all celebrate in the game of baseball, and there's aggression that's probably too far. I clearly sit on the opposite side of the fence from Joe on this one and think that aggression was too far."

Hedges called his day-to-day thigh injury "best-case scenario," given the force of the impact. The rule was implemented largely in response to 's fractured leg following a similar collision with Miami's Scott Cousins.

"Apparently there was some confusion," Hedges said. "[The rule] seemed pretty clear to me. I thought I gave him the opportunity to follow that rule, and he didn't."

Rizzo, who was apologetic for the injury itself, maintained his belief that he was trying to play the game hard, noting the split-second nature of his decision.

"It wasn't like I was going in trying to end Austin Hedges' career," Rizzo said. "He's trying to do the same thing I'm trying to do, and that's win ballgames for his team and have a long career. It's not like I'm going in trying to hurt him."