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updated: 7/1/2012 4:31 PM

On long seasons, Rizzo hype and Samardzija woes

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  • Cubs fans, says broadcaster Len Kasper, understand the importance of young slugger Anthony Rizzo, and the hype around his promotion hasn't been too much.

    Cubs fans, says broadcaster Len Kasper, understand the importance of young slugger Anthony Rizzo, and the hype around his promotion hasn't been too much.
    Associated Press


Q. Bad seasons in baseball are known as "long" years in the business, but has this seemed like a long season to this point?

A. I think it's a sign of my advancing age, but every year has the same rhythm for me. Spring training takes forever, and then once Opening Day hits, the regular season flies by.

Of course, losing seasons like this are more challenging, but I am excited to go to the ballpark every day.

The great thing about baseball is that you might see something incredible, bizarre or unprecedented on any given day.

Just in the last week we have seen Anthony Rizzo's debut with the team, two three-base errors in one inning, and a two-out bunt single with a runner at third that did not score a run.


Q. Has the Rizzo hype been appropriate?

A. Absolutely.

First off, Cub fans are as passionate and smart as any fans in sports. They know how important Rizzo's development is to this franchise's future. I don't think they have gotten carried away, though.

Let's face it, there have been numerous examples of highly touted prospects in the past who haven't panned out here. But there's nothing wrong with being excited just to see a guy everybody has been talking about.

And the reception he has received has to make him feel more comfortable in his surroundings.

I have no idea if he will become an all-star or a just a guy, but I do think he has all the tools to be a terrific player and the centerpiece of this lineup for years to come.

Q. What's wrong with Jeff Samardzija lately?

A. That is the million dollar question right now in Cub land.

His velocity has remained consistent and he doesn't seem to be fatiguing physically. So, from there you go to the mental side of things, which he has alluded to in interviews.

The walks are definitely a concern. I was blown away at his command in spring training and early in the regular season considering how much he had struggled with the strike zone in the past. To see some of that wildness creeping back in is a bit unsettling.

But, let's remember that this is his first full season as a big league starter, so he is going through a lot of things for the first time. I have no doubt he and Chris Bosio will exhaust every avenue in trying to figure out if he has subtly changed anything mechanically or with his approach.

Maybe this is the year he learns all the things he can't or shouldn't do next season. Every guy is different, and clearly he is still finding his way. But I think he has the chance to be a No. 1 starter.

Q. The NL Central hasn't been particularly strong as a whole. What's your take on it as we get into July?

A. Right now, it's the Reds by default. The Cardinals have kind of sputtered along after a hot start and the Brewers have been a big disappointment (injuries have been a significant factor for them).

The Pirates have been a nice story for the second consecutive year, but I don't know if they can score enough runs to be a factor down the stretch.

This is Cincinnati's division to lose, and if the Reds have one good hot stretch they could run away with it.

Going back to the first question of the column, I will admit that playing more contenders down the stretch makes for more interesting games with the Cubs being out of it. You always want your team to be in the race, but at the very least, you like to watch games that have as much meaning in the standings as possible.

• 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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