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updated: 5/11/2013 6:48 PM

No worries -- Rizzo is doing just fine

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  • After a slow start, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is on pace to hit 42 home runs and 42 doubles this season, which would be remarkable.

      After a slow start, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is on pace to hit 42 home runs and 42 doubles this season, which would be remarkable.
    Associated Press

 
 

Anthony Rizzo is just fine.

There were concerns early this season. His strikeout rate was horrific, and his ability to make contact off left-handers was in serious question.

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As of Friday night, Rizzo had a .903 OPS, and was on pace for 42 homers, 47 doubles, and 19 stolen bases.

If he gets to 42/42/21 in those categories, Rizzo would be only the second player ever to do so. The other was Larry Walker in his MVP season of 1997.

As hoped for, Rizzo is a young building block fans don't have to worry about.

There's plenty of other things to target with your anxiety.

Baseball's Memory Lane:

Two of baseball's endless anecdotal roads led to a Cleveland pitcher from the 1950s this week.

Last weekend, Yu Darvish registered his impressive 12th game with 10 or more strikeouts in his first 36 career starts. My radio producer, Nick Shepkowski, threw a fun trivia question at me. Who were the other four pitchers with 10 or more games of 10 or more K's in their first 36 starts?

I went right to Mark Prior (10), whose dominant Cubs beginnings are a wistful memory. I guessed wrong on Bob Feller and Fernando Valenzuela, but guessed right on Dwight Gooden (16) and Hideo Nomo (12).

I missed with Mark Fidrych and Tom Seaver. Then Shep hinted that the fifth and final answer played decades ago, and I blurted out "Herb Score" (10).

Score was a 21-year-old lefty phenom for the Indians in 1955, and was even better in '56, striking out 263 batters.

In 1957, Score was hit by a line drive off the bat of the Yankees Gil MacDougald, breaking facial bones and damaging his right eye. He missed the better part of two seasons, and never approached the same excellence. Score contended it was an arm injury, and not the fear of another line drive, that derailed him.

That was the second anecdotal road. The 56th anniversary of Score's shot to the head was the same day that Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was brutally injured by a liner. Both teams watched in horror as the bloodied Happ was immobilized from the neck up, and wheeled off the field on a gurney.

Let's hope Happ joins pitchers like Brandon McCarthy, Billy Wagner, and Billy Swift; men fortunate to survive violent batted balls with an eventual return to health and competition.

And hope, unlike the once great Herb Score, that the best for Happ is yet to come.

In case of emergency ... :

Sometimes this game calls for open-minded managerial creativity.

Joe Girardi needed a player to give the Yankees one inning at third base on Wednesday night.

With injuries aplenty, Girardi had no backup, but desperately wanted to use Travis Hafner as a pinch hitter for Chris Nelson with the bases loaded. He had talked to Vernon Wells, who said he thought he could do it.

So Hafner pinch hit, the Yankees eventually scored the lead run, and in the ninth, Vernon Wells played his first inning ever at third base. That's at any level, including Little League.

Wells fielded a routine grounder perfectly, and the Yankees got the win.

"It's not like I'm just going like this against the wall," Girardi said, throwing his arm up over his head. "It's thought out."

It was thought out well. I love stuff like this in baseball. Think starting pitchers going to the bullpen in a Game 7, or an emergency catcher called into service in extra innings.

It happens occasionally in other sports. Magic Johnson had a legendary night at center for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1980 NBA Finals. Wide receiver Troy Brown was pressed into service at cornerback for Bill Belichik's New England Patriots.

But baseball lends itself to the unlikely, frequently. Something is sure to arise next week.

• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670

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