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posted: 8/22/2013 12:01 AM

Sveum trying to get Castro, Rizzo back on track

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  • Anthony Rizzo, batting second for the first time in his career, watches his 2-run homer in the fifth inning leave the ballpark Wednesday night. It was Rizzo's second home run of the game and his 20th of the season.

      Anthony Rizzo, batting second for the first time in his career, watches his 2-run homer in the fifth inning leave the ballpark Wednesday night. It was Rizzo's second home run of the game and his 20th of the season.
    Associated Press

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  • Video: Castro on leading off

 
 

This whole batting-second thing just might agree with the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo.

Manager Dale Sveum made a few more surprise lineup moves for Wednesday night's game, an 11-6 loss to the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

Those moves came one day after Sveum moved shortstop Starlin Castro down to the eighth spot in the batting order.

For Wednesday, Sveum moved Castro up to the leadoff spot. But the real shocker came when the lineup card featured first baseman Rizzo batting second for the first time in his career.

All Rizzo did was hit a solo home run in the first inning. He walked in the third and then hit a monster 2-run homer over the right-field bleachers and onto Sheffield Avenue in the fifth.

He singled in the ninth but was thrown out between third and home to end the game on a Brian Bogusevic single that would have loaded the bases.

The second homer was Rizzo's 20th of the season, as he became the second-youngest Cubs left-handed batter since 1900 to reach 20 homers in a season. Rizzo is 24. Billy Williams hit 25 home runs as a 23-year-old in 1961.

Both Castro and Rizzo had been in miserable slumps entering Wednesday. Castro was 1-for-27 on the homestand, while Rizzo was 2-for-24.

The day began with both players coming out for early batting practice, taking tosses from hitting coach James Rowson and hitting off a pitching machine.

Rizzo wasn't quite sure to make of batting second, or at least he was guarded in his opinion.

"I'd rather not comment on it, to be honest," he said. "It's just baseball."

Asked what he thought Sveum's reasoning might be, Rizzo replied: "Mix it up. I talked to him about it. Just mix it up, try to get us going, Castro and I."

Rizzo was happy about the individual result but down about the loss.

"Unfortunately, we didn't come out on top, and that's all that matters," he said. "I'd be a lot happier with my day. It's just keep working. That's it."

It's likely that Castro lasts in the No. 1 spot longer than Rizzo lasts hitting second. Sveum said getting both players in a positive frame of mind to end the season was the reason for Wednesday's moves.

If Rizzo comes out of his funk, the Cubs will need his power in the third spot again.

"Most of it came down to obviously thinking about Castro the last couple days," Sveum said. "I don't think we're doing him any good trying to get through these next five weeks trying to get him and Rizzo feeling good going into the winter.

"Of all places, now that we've lost (David) DeJesus in the leadoff spot anyway, I think this is one spot that he's flourished in and he kind of can use to get his so-called swagger back and see if that can get things going a little bit, too.

"Rizzo, it's putting him somewhere that he doesn't even have to think about it, being 'the guy' or whatever. You can put him in the 2-hole and make sure he gets up in the first inning without feeling like, right now, taking a little pressure off as far as being the guy in the third hole or the fourth hole or the fifth."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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