Pitch­ers get­ting their grip

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY RUS­SELL DORSEY, STAFF RE­PORTER rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

Pitch­ers have used saliva to get a bet­ter grip on the base­ball since the in­cep­tion of the game. But with MLB’s health and safety pro­to­cols in place to com­bat the spread of COVID-19, they’ll have to ad­just in 2020.

As part of MLB’s new pro­to­cols, pitch­ers won’t be al­lowed to use saliva to help them with their grip this sea­son. They will, how­ever, be al­lowed to have a small wet rag on the mound to help them with that.

‘‘It hasn’t been weird, it’s just been dif­fer­ent,’’ said Cubs right-han­der Kyle Hen­dricks, who will start the sea­son opener Fri­day against the Brew­ers. ‘‘We’ve been try­ing dif­fer­ent things out. Ev­ery time you go through a bullpen or go to play catch, I take a lit­tle wet rag out there with me. We each have our own rosin bags. So it’s just learn­ing that bal­ance of what you need with a lit­tle rosin and a lit­tle wa­ter to get that kind of tack.

‘‘You’re not get­ting that tack from your saliva, so it’s just a dif­fer­ent way of go­ing about it. But I think we’ve had a cou­ple of weeks now to work through it. I know I feel great with where ev­ery­thing’s at and what we can do while we’re out there.’’

As un­san­i­tary as it might sound, pitch­ers lick­ing their fin­gers is sec­ond na­ture to them. While it might seem like a quick fix to use a wet rag in­stead, that ad­just­ment could be­come a big­ger fac­tor later in the sea­son.

‘‘[Re­liever] Craig Kim­brel is a guy who has gone to his mouth his en­tire ca­reer to get grip, and it’s been in­ter­est­ing to watch him get com­fort­able not do­ing it,’’ pitch­ing coach Tommy Hot­tovy said. ‘‘I don’t think it will be a huge fac­tor right now with the weather be­ing hot and hu­mid. Guys should be able to get a good grip on the base­ball. As we get into Septem­ber and the play­offs, where it’s cooler and the air is dry, that’s when the ball will get slick.’’

Rizzo’s back re­spond­ing well

First base­man An­thony Rizzo seems to be on the mend. Rizzo’s back re­sponded well af­ter an in­tense work­out and test­ing Sun­day, when he went through bat­ting prac­tice and in­field drills.

‘‘[He’s] do­ing re­ally well,’’ man­ager David Ross said. ‘‘[Mon­day] was re­ally just a down day for him. Get some cage routine in and get outta here. Con­tin­u­ing to move in the right di­rec­tion [with] good, pos­i­tive feed­back.’’

Ross said the plan is for Rizzo to face live pitch­ing Tues­day and go from there. If things con­tinue to progress, there is a pos­si­bil­ity Rizzo will be in the lineup for the Cubs’ fi­nal ex­hi­bi­tion game Wed­nes­day against the Twins.

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

With pitch­ers un­able to use saliva this sea­son, the Cubs’ Kyle Hen­dricks says he is us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of rosin and a wet rag to get the kind of grip on the ball he wants.

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