Cubs firmly believe Rizzo is NL MVP-worthy

Maddon sees slugging 1B making 'strong push' down the stretch

Cubs firmly believe Rizzo is NL MVP-worthy

CHICAGO -- For the third straight season, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has hit 30 doubles, 30 homers and driven in 100 runs. Is he a candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award in the National League?

"Absolutely," said Kris Bryant, Rizzo's teammate and the reigning NL MVP. "It doesn't help that some guys are playing out of their minds. It's one of those weird years."

Miami's Giancarlo Stanton is one of those players Bryant was referring to -- and he was watching Stanton highlights Sunday as he talked about Rizzo.

"This is quality stuff that's going on -- the homers, the RBIs, and they're clutch RBIs, and don't underestimate his defense," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Rizzo. "I know Stanton is having a great year, I understand that, and I know a couple guys with the Dodgers are having good years, I get that. If [Rizzo] keeps this pace up in September, he'll make a strong push for it."

Rizzo's solo home run

In August, Rizzo was third in the NL with 30 RBIs (Stanton was first with 37), and he hit seven homers and nine doubles. Maddon doesn't think the MVP needs to come from a team that makes the postseason.

"I don't think it necessarily matters," Maddon said. "I think overriding talent should win. If a guy goes out and plays better than everybody else, he deserves it."

"He's definitely that guy who gives you a good at-bat, he's focused, ready to go," Bryant said of Rizzo.

Javier Baez has been the Cubs' full-time shortstop since Addison Russell went on the disabled list with a right foot strain Aug. 3. Maddon is trying to find a spot to give Baez a breather, and may do so this week in Pittsburgh.

Baez's solo home run

• The Cubs tweaked the rotation and will keep Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester on their regular schedule, but inserted Mike Montgomery for another start Sunday. Will Montgomery stay? Maddon said they're still deciding.

"If we think it's a good idea to put him back out there, we will," Maddon said.

• Cubs players will wear NFL jerseys on the trip to Pittsburgh. Maddon has a Mike Ditka jersey for the flight to Pittsburgh and a Joe Namath jersey for the return. Alex Avila had a Dan Marino jersey, Hector Rondon was to wear Rob Gronkowski, Ben Zobrist had a Roger Staubach jersey, Jake Arrieta had a Dick Butkus No. 51 Bears top, and Baez was going with a No. 13 Odell Beckham Jr. jersey. Bryant opted for a shirt from the movie, "The Longest Yard," and chose the "Mean Machine."

• Left-hander Rob Zastryzny was recalled from Triple-A Iowa, raising the Cubs' active roster to 32.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. 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.