D-backs’ Souza: Cubs 1B Rizzo said ‘I needed to learn how to slide’

Jul 25, 2018, 11:09 AM | Updated: Dec 20, 2018, 7:19 am
First base umpire Chad Fairchild gets between Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr., left, and Chi...
First base umpire Chad Fairchild gets between Arizona Diamondbacks' Steven Souza Jr., left, and Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo as the pair have words during the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Chicago. The Diamondbacks won 5-1. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Steven Souza Jr. found himself back in the middle of a slide-spurred controversy once again Tuesday night.

During the seventh inning of a 5-1 win in Chicago, the Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder attempted to take second base on a line drive hit but collided with Cubs infielder Javy Baez’s knee while being tagged out.

When Chicago pitcher Steve Cishek beaned Souza two innings later in apparent retaliation, it led to a mild argument between Souza and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, which briefly delayed the game.

“Anthony Rizzo told me that I needed to learn how to slide,” Souza told Bickley & Marotta Wednesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I told him that if (the pitch) was intentional, that it was tired. And his first response was that it was not unintentional — it was that I needed to learn how to slide, which made me think that (the pitch) was intentional.

“It was unfortunate. Obviously I would never want Javy Baez to get hurt,” Souza added.

In postgame interviews on Tuesday, Baez said he didn’t think the slide was dirty but did add that he thought he gave Souza enough room on the basepath. Rizzo, perhaps after watching replays, echoed that the Cubs didn’t feel the slide was dirty but also said Chicago didn’t intentionally hit Souza with the ninth-inning pitch.

“I don’t think we hit him on purpose there,” Rizzo said, according to NBC Sports Chicago. “But he thought we did and I just obviously defended us and defended Javy. He slid hard into Javy. We don’t think it’s a dirty (play) at all — it’s a hard slide.”

Apparently, Rizzo’s tune changed between the game and the postgame locker room session.

Souza, a day later, took exception to Rizzo’s initial complaint.

“I do find it funny that the same guy who slides hard into catchers and had some problems earlier in the year told me I need to learn how to slide,” Souza told Bickley & Marotta.

Souza was referencing Rizzo’s May 28 slide into Pittsburgh catcher Elias Diaz that was ruled illegal a day later by MLB.

The comment on Souza’s end comes from a place of frustration. Tuesday wasn’t the first time the D-back has been accused of intentionally attempting to hurt an opponent on a slide.

In early May, Souza’s slide into Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy led to a squabble between Souza and the Los Angeles dugout.

“I feel like these guys, because I haven’t been in the National League, that they think I must not know how to play the game,” Souza, who was acquired from Tampa Bay this offseason, said Wednesday. “I never had a single issue with the way I slid in the AL East — which let me tell you this, (there are) some very veteran ballclubs in the AL East with us being one of the younger ballclubs in Tampa. Any kind of problem, I’m sure they would have taken care of it over there.

“It is frustrating to come over here to a new league and because maybe these guys don’t know me on a personal level … they’ve decided to take into their hands that I calm down my play. And it’s just not going to happen. I’m going to play hard.”

Souza said his slide Tuesday against the Cubs was to protect himself.

Earlier in the game, he’d reached second base on a similar play by diving head-first into shortstop Addison Russell.

“My initial instinct was I was going to slide head-first and kind of pull the thing that I did earlier in the game,” Souza said. “But unfortunately, the throw was a short-hop to Javy and Javy made the athletic decision to follow the long-hop up into the line. And when he does that, it’s unfortunate but it’s right in the lane of my path. If I slide head-first there, then it’s my shoulder that’s going to get banged-up and I had no other option.”

Souza took the beaning in the ninth from his former Tampa Bay teammate and said Rizzo’s comment about that play’s unintentional outcome was inaccurate. Nonetheless, Souza believes there shouldn’t be any more plunking with two games left in the series.

“I hope it ends,” Souza said. “And Steve Cishek is actually one of my really good friends. I was able to talk to him and squash some stuff.”

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