Cubs' Matt 'Pouty' Duffy gets game ball, new nickname in rout

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Gordon Wittenmyer
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Rizzo gives 'Pouty' Duffy game ball, new nickname originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Anyone still watching the Cubs game all the way to the end of their 16-4 victory over the Mets got a chance to see what might have been the least likely moment of a night filled with strange ones.

After first baseman Anthony Rizzo gloved Pete Alonso’s foul popup to end the game, he looked for teammate Matt Duffy across the diamond.

“You get the game ball,” he said, handing Duffy the ball. “You deserve it, Pouty.”

Apparently, Rizzo and “Pouty” Duffy have an inside joke that started after Duffy got on Rizzo for “pouting” after a tough game last week and Rizzo caught Duffy doing it after Tuesday’s game (after grounding into a double play in a pinch-hit at-bat).

“Just calling each other out for pouting,” Duffy said.

Consider the result a new nickname for the new Cub — at least until Wednesday’s third baseman has a few more three-hit games like he did against the Mets.

In fact, Duffy has been the poster boy for what the Cubs staff has been trying to get the Cubs hitters to do since last season, and that showed up in a big way most of Wednesday’s rout.

Specifically, put the ball in play and see what happens — or for much of this night, see what crazy places the Mets decide to throw the ball (four errors charged and a few that weren’t).

It’s no coincidence that Duffy would be in the middle of things once the Cubs actually put together a contact-hitting spree.

Not only is the guy who finished second to Kris Bryant in Rookie of the Year voting in 2015 the only Cubs hitter who hasn’t struck out this season, but that tendency is the biggest reason the non-roster invitee to camp was able to pull off one of the longest shots of spring training to make the Opening Day roster.

Long shot?

Duffy, 30, was so sure at one point he wouldn’t make the roster out of camp that he began talking to his agent about where he might go next

“I was obviously pumped about it,” he said, “but, yeah, I was a little bit surprised.”

What else were they going to do with a guy who can put the ball in play as consistently as Duffy does?

This is a team that strikes out 10.2 times a game — the second-highest rate in the National League.

In fact, this is a quote from the two-time All-Star in the lineup who hit his sixth career grand slam Wednesday:

“Even though I struck out four times last night, I was seeing the ball good,” Javy Báez said.

He was serious.

Báez didn’t strike out Wednesday — and still is on pace to K 295 times this year. That would be 73 more than the major-league record.

Báez probably will settle into a less-extreme pace. Still, he’s only one of five Cubs who strike out at least once a game.

Which makes Duffy’s contact rate especially unique around here.

“It was expressed to me that just my skill set and putting the barrel on the ball and putting together quality at-bats off the bench was valued, I think a little more than I thought they may be valued when I was just kind of internally stewing in my head what the roster was going to look like,” Duffy said of making the club.

Duffy drew a walk during the Cubs’ big six-single, three-error, seven-run fourth inning and delivered a two-run single the opposite way in a three-run fifth.

Who knows where he would have gone had he missed the cut this spring? He wouldn’t say what he and his agent discussed.

And who knows where he goes from here? He wasn’t doing much better than the rest of the lineup before Wednesday (1-for-11).

But there are at least two things he probably won’t be doing: Striking out. And pouting.

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