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posted: 6/24/2012 8:53 PM

Cubs' Rizzo needs to avoid another offensive funk

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  • Shortstop Starlin Castro, he colliding with the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton during a rundown Sunday, is the most likely player to be representing the Cubs at the All-Star Game.

      Shortstop Starlin Castro, he colliding with the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton during a rundown Sunday, is the most likely player to be representing the Cubs at the All-Star Game.
    Associated Press


Q. With first base prospect Anthony Rizzo on his way from Class AAA soon, what are realistic expectations for him early on?

A. Certainly you want to see a pretty vast improvement of his numbers compared to last year's slash line of .141/.281/.242 (.523 on base plus slugging) with the San Diego Padres, but it's not totally about the numbers.

I'd like to see patient at-bats, the power I witnessed in spring training (and clearly continued once the AAA season began), adjustments to big-league pitchers who exploited him last year, and consistent defense.

He got into an offensive funk that he couldn't escape in his 2011 debut, and it's not something he wants to repeat.

I know fans are thirsty to see the latest "next Cubs superstar," so the external pressure will be great.

But by all accounts, Rizzo has every intangible you want in a prospect, and hopefully he can take it all in stride.

Plus, he has a bunch of veterans and fellow 22-year-old teammate in Starlin Castro who can help him navigate the bright spotlight.

Q. After Alfonso Soriano was booed by Cubs fans for not running out the dropped liner vs. Boston, his manager and teammates were vocal in their support for him. What is your perspective on his standing in the clubhouse?

A. Of all the teams I've been around, there may not be a more popular guy in a clubhouse than Soriano is with the Cubs.

He is fun to be around -- always happy and gracious, never in a foul mood. I have long been impressed by his ability to deal with fans booing at Wrigley Field.

He seems to get this very simple idea: You play well, the fans will cheer for you. You struggle or fail to hustle, they will let you hear about it.

Many players have come and gone and never fully understood or accepted it here. But he has a very even-keeled personality in that regard, and it has served him well.

I agree with his assessment that the booing last weekend was a bit unfair, but fans always have a right to express their frustration vocally, whether they are right or not.

Alfonso's teammates and manager and coaches defended him because they see how hard he works and how good a teammate he is.

Q. Who is the Cubs' top all-star candidate at this point?

A. I have to go with Castro to make the team for the second consecutive season. Soriano is making an interesting case, as is Bryan LaHair. But I just think Starlin is the Cubs' best overall player and most deserving at this point.

Q. Do you have any favorite baseball broadcast crews or announcers you prefer or seek out when you're not working?

A. There are a ton of great broadcasters out there, and having MLB.TV allows me to check out my favorites.

Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow of the Giants probably are my top local duo. Nobody (aside from Bob and me, of course!) has more fun on the air.

I always try to get a good dose of Vin Scully's solo Dodgers broadcasts. The greatest play-by-play announcer ever is still doing something very few of us could even fathom attempting -- calling nine innings of TV by himself. Incredible.

Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton from ESPN's Sunday Night radio crew are excellent. And let me add one broadcaster who I believe is very underrated -- Ken Singleton of the Yankees.

He has a great voice and a smooth delivery and is equally adept at play-by-play and color analysis. The Yankees have a large rotation of TV announcers, so it's easy for him to get lost in the shuffle, but I think "Singy" is fantastic.

•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter;[URL]. Subscriber Total Access members can email him [/URL]questions;[URL] each week via our online link.[/URL]

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