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updated: 6/26/2012 11:31 PM

Cool and calm, Cubs' Rizzo takes flight

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  • Anthony Rizzo was 2-for-4 in his Cubs debut Tuesday night, driving in the go-ahead run with a double in the fourth inning.

      Anthony Rizzo was 2-for-4 in his Cubs debut Tuesday night, driving in the go-ahead run with a double in the fourth inning.
    Associated Press

 
 

The coolest customer in the house Tuesday night might have been Anthony Rizzo.

A superheated media crowd was waiting to chronicle Rizzo's every move at Wrigley Field, almost four hours before first pitch of a 5-3 Cubs victory over the New York Mets.

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Wowed? Not Rizzo.

"Um, no offense," he told the Chicago media. "There was kind of the same thing in San Diego. There was a lot of people there. It was kind of déjà vu all over again."

And no doubt Rizzo heard all that talk about being a "savior" for this woebegone Cubs team. "I was the savior last year, too, and that's why I think it's easier this year to come up," he said.

Well, then. Cool as can be with a sense of humor, to boot.

Rizzo also showed he can play a little bit as he broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth inning with an RBI double. For the night, Rizzo was 2-for-4.

"It was awesome," said the 22-year-old first baseman, called up from Class AAA Iowa for his Cubs debut. "Coming in here today, the guys welcomed me with open arms. Lot of fun today."

Rizzo said the "cool" is who he is.

"That's how I play the game," he said. "I play really relaxed. Everyone always tells me, 'It looks like you're not even trying.' I like hearing that a lot."

Not that there weren't a few butterflies.

"To be honest, before the game, I was breathing a lot, taking deep breaths," he said. "Getting in the (batter's) box just felt really good. It's always a good feeling."

In the final analysis, the Cubs and their fans want to know if Rizzo is the real deal, especially at the plate.

He certainly hit well at Iowa, with a hitting line of .342/.405/.696 with 23 home runs and 62 RBI.

Manager Dale Sveum put Rizzo into the No. 3 spot of the batting order. After being cheered loudly by the 34,064 in attendance, Rizzo singled sharply off shortstop Ruben Tejada on a ball that originally was scored an error. He grounded out to first base with runners on first and second and nobody out in the third.

Of course, Rizzo still has much to prove. He tore up the Pacific Coast League last year, too, as a member of the San Diego Padres organization. The new Cubs brass drafted Rizzo in Boston. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer traded for Rizzo in San Diego and again last winter.

So what's different with Rizzo on this year's call-up?

"I think a lot's different," he said. "I'm a year older, a year more mature. A lot of people think it's funny that I say that because I'm just a little kid at heart, but I know a lot of these guys in the clubhouse now."

Hoyer has blamed himself for rushing Rizzo to the bigs last year, when he hit .141 in stints with the Padres.

"I think probably the biggest thing was he made a lot of swing adjustments," Hoyer said. "First of all, I think what he's done this year is more impressive than last year.

"Hitting in Tucson and hitting in the western part of the PCL is pretty easy. Tucson, it was hard to evaluate there, and I think he got away with a little bit more last year.

"I really like the adjustments he made starting in spring training this year. He lowered his hands. I think he shortened up his swing a little bit."

The night did not go as well for Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells, who may not get another fill-in start for the injured Ryan Dempster. On a night when Sveum said he needed Wells to throw strikes, Wells lasted 3-plus innings, throwing 79 pitches and giving up 6 hits and 3 runs while walking four and striking out three.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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