5/25/2013 8:37 P.M. ET
Sveum urges pitchers to better utilize scouting reports
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- On Friday, the Cubs' Scott Feldman hung a curve to the Reds' Ryan Hanigan that he wished he hadn't thrown. Hanigan hit a go-ahead three-run home run.
There have been other similar instances this season. On May 10, the Nationals had two outs with two on in the second, and Jeff Samardzija couldn't get No. 8 hitter Kurt Suzuki, who hit a two-run double. On May 19, Travis Wood served up a game-tying two-run homer to the Mets' Juan Lagares in the seventh.
Is it the catcher's fault? The pitcher? Cubs manager Dale Sveum said sometimes the battery forgets what they were told in the scouting report and throw the wrong pitch. Sometimes, the game simply speeds up. And sometimes, the pitcher's ego gets in the way and he feels he can pull it off.
"For quite a long time, we were doing so well limiting slugging percentage, and now we're giving up slugging percentage, and it's costing us ballgames at the wrong time," Sveum said. "It's still the fact of executing that pitch, whether you think you can pull it off or not."
The Cubs had the same problem with Matt Garza last season, but the right-hander has apparently learned from experience that he should pay attention to the scouting report.
"He'll be the first to admit when he faced the [Pirates] the other day, he's like, 'Man, I wanted to do that, but I remembered what you said would happen,'" Sveum said.
Sveum: Rizzo can't let pitchers dictate his approach
CINCINNATI -- Manager Dale Sveum considered giving Anthony Rizzo a day off Saturday. The Cubs' first baseman entered the game in an 0-for-23 skid.
"Not yet," Sveum said. "Obviously, it's a thought, but I don't think we're quite there yet."
Good thing Sveum didn't. Rizzo drew a walk in the first inning, then delivered an RBI double in the third, singled in the fifth, and doubled in the eighth. His average jumped from .249 to .261 in the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Reds.
On Friday, Rizzo showed his frustration in the seventh after he flew out to right to end the inning, stranding a runner at first. He slammed his helmet to the ground.
"It's frustrating because it was a 3-0 pitch, and I felt they were good takes, and I felt good in the box, and I get that 3-0 pitch, and I hit it off the end of the bat," Rizzo said. "That was the frustrating part -- 3-0, I want to barrel that up. Whether I hit it out or not, I want to barrel it up."
Sveum doesn't think the problem is pitchers adjusting to Rizzo.
"I think it's too much of [him] adjusting to the pitchers, instead of just getting a good pitch to hit and being ready to hit it all the time," Sveum said. "Sometimes we get scouting reports, and [you think], 'I know what this guy is going to try to do,' and sometimes you get caught worrying about it, and the next organization is pitching you completely different. The bottom line is dictating the at-bat yourself."
Sveum mentioned Rizzo's swing had too much movement lately.
"Everything spirals when you try to do too much," Rizzo said. "That's what I always say is try not to do too much, which is hard to do. It's part of a season. This is one of the worst [streaks] I've ever gone through. You have to keep working and keep battling.
"It's the beauty of this game," he said. "There's nothing you can do except keep going."
So far, Rizzo has appeared to be a streaky hitter.
"I think young guys will be that way, especially someone with his personality who thinks himself out of so many at-bats," Sveum said. "You watch the consistent, really good hitters, and they're not letting the pitcher dictate the at-bat. That comes with some maturity, too."
Entering Saturday's game, Rizzo was batting .143 since signing a seven-year, $41 million contract extension. Is that the problem?
"You think this game would be a lot easier when you get that financial security, but your instincts stay the same and you still get mad when you get outs, because everyone in here is a competitor, whether you're making $10 an hour or $5 an hour," Rizzo said. "You get mad when you lose. You get mad when you fail."
If Rizzo did sit, who would bat third for the Cubs?
"[Scott] Feldman," Sveum said laughing.
In case you missed it, Feldman, one of the Cubs' starting pitchers, hit his first career home run on Friday.
• Rizzo isn't the only Cubs player who is struggling at the plate.
Starlin Castro is 4-for-17 in the last four games, and his slugging percentage in May is .318.
"There's not a lot of hard contact going on right now," Sveum said of the shortstop's at-bats. "Getting to two strikes, he's really expanding, and he's got to make some adjustments, too. The league adjusts to him because of the way he approaches hitting."
• The leash comes off Garza in his second outing since coming off the disabled list. Garza will start the series finale against the Reds on Sunday. He'll be allowed to throw up to 110 pitches, depending on the situation and whether he has any stressful innings.
• Samardzija, Wood and Feldman have all homered in May, and according to Elias, this is the first time three Cubs pitchers have done so in the same calendar month since August of 1961, when Jack Curtis, Bob Anderson and Don Cardwell all went deep.
Cubs pitchers have 15 RBIs in May. Sveum joked that Feldman could bat third if he gives Rizzo a day off. What about using one of the pitchers in the Interleague games against the White Sox as the designated hitter?
"Don't think I haven't thought of that one," Sveum said, laughing.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.