Rizzo selects Cubs coach to throw in Derby

Rizzo selects Cubs coach to throw in Derby

CHICAGO -- Franklin Font has been Anthony Rizzo's batting practice pitcher for the last two years, and the Cubs' first baseman didn't hesitate to ask the coach to help him when he found out he was going to be in the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders.

Rizzo will be participating in the Home Run Derby for the first time along with teammate Kris Bryant. Font also throws BP to Bryant, but the rookie picked his father, Mike, to throw to him in the event on Monday at Great American Ball Park.

It will be Font's first All-Star Game experience since 1997 when he was named to a Minor League honor team. Font, 37, didn't get to participate in that one, though, because he was promoted to High Class A.

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Rizzo, Bryant and Font practiced their strategy before Friday's game. Font didn't want to give away any secrets. The coach, who primarily helps in the bullpen and with the infielders, said he may be a little nervous.

"Everybody should be nervous," Font said. "It's not easy -- there's a million people watching us."

• The Cubs will open the second half on the road with a three-game series against the Braves, and the rotation will be Kyle Hendricks on Friday, Jon Lester next Saturday, and Jake Arrieta on July 19. Left-hander Clayton Richard will open the series in Cincinnati on July 20 and Jason Hammel will follow.

Hammel, who came out of his last start after throwing 12 pitches because of a tight left hamstring, was able to play catch on Saturday.

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• Entering Saturday, Cubs starting pitchers had given up two or fewer runs in their past 11 games for the first time since at least 1914.

"I think a lot of it is fastball command," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been really good at making pitches. For me, everything begins with fastball command with pitchers and with starters it really matters a lot."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.