Pitchers getting their grip
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.
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.