Wearing a cup is no slam dunk for these Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- To wear a cup or not to wear a cup? That was the question put to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and his teammates on Tuesday afternoon, after the subject of getting hit in that -- ahem -- part of the body came up during the NBA playoffs.

"I don't," Rizzo told ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "It's just not comfortable for me. I don't think our infielders do."

A poll taken in the Cubs clubhouse later in the day revealed that some do and some do not. The answers tended to align with the players' personalities.

"I've worn it my whole life, so it's comfortable for me," third baseman Kris Bryant said. "Most people don't. I think they take for granted that the infield is going to be perfect and nicely manicured. I've seen some bad hops here and there."

Bryant even wears his cup when he plays outfield, which is a bit of surprise.

"I don't wear it in the outfield," Matt Szczur said. "I don't know who does."

Besides Bryant, maybe none in the outfield. But the infield is a different story.

"Of course I wear a cup," veteran second baseman Ben Zobrist said.

Maybe the most surprising non-cup wearer is shortstop Addison Russell. That seems like a position where you could use one.

"My hands are too good," Russell said with a smile. "I just like the feeling of not having anything there. I'm not comfortable with the cup. I'm pretty confident in my picking ability."

Bryant said it's not just getting hit on defense that he's worried about. He wears a cup for what could happen at the plate as well.

"You don't know what a two-seam fastball might do or a foul ball hit right back up at you," he said. "Why take a chance?"

Russell and Rizzo are willing to take that chance, much to the dismay of Zobrist, who was taken aback when he learned that his teammates to the left and right on the infield don't wear cups.

"I'm surprised that neither of them do," Zobrist said. "Rizzo? Whatever. You're at first base, you have a big glove, OK. Addy [Russell] surprises me a little still."

What about the backups? Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella both play multiple positions around the diamond, but even they have differing opinions.

"My brother used to be a pitcher when he was little, and I saw him take a line drive right to the cup, and he split it in half," Baez said. "Since that day, I didn't want to use one. Even to catch, I didn't use it."

It's hard to imagine a catcher not wearing one, but we'll take Baez at his word. Besides, wouldn't your brother's cup getting split in half be a reason to wear one?

In any case, La Stella has a more sensible approach.

"I wear one, for obvious reasons," he said. "You don't want to take a chance not wearing one. It'll be the last time you do that."

Russell, Baez and Rizzo are willing to take that chance. They claim they're good enough or have quick enough hands to avoid getting hit in the wrong spot.

"You have to protect yourself," Rizzo said. "I trust my hands to protect myself. The outfielders don't [wear cups]. All pitchers do. Catchers, of course."

As Russell added, "Rizz has asked me that question, and he's like, ‘Say it, Addy, say it.' It's because our hands are too good. We don't need to wear a cup."

The naysayers still don't get it.

"I've gotten hit there a couple times," La Stella said. "It's not pleasant."

Zobrist walked away laughing and shaking his head. After all of spring together, then playing next to each other for six weeks, he learned something new about his young teammate.

"I did not know Addy doesn't," Zobrist said. "I still can't believe it."