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updated: 2/18/2014 11:15 PM

Cubs still expecting big things from Rizzo

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  • Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo says he wants to be "the guy coming up in the big situation."

      Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo says he wants to be "the guy coming up in the big situation."
    Associated Press

 
 

The "R" word has been bandied about quite a bit when it comes to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

That word would be "regression," as to go backward.

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Certainly, Rizzo's offensive numbers were a mixed bag in 2013, but whether he "regressed" is debatable. In 690 plate appearances, Rizzo put up a hitting line of .233/.323/.419. The batting average and on-base percentage weren't what the Cubs wanted, and an OPS-plus of 101 was pedestrian.

However, traditionalists like the 23 home runs and 80 RBI Rizzo produced.

The debate comes in when those number were compared to those of 2012, when Rizzo came up from Class AAA Iowa in June in his first year in the Cubs organization following his trade from San Diego.

In 87 games and 369 plate appearances, Rizzo went .285/.342/.463 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and a nice OPS-plus of 116.

The key members of the Cubs management team -- president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer -- have liked Rizzo so much over the years that one or both have acquired him with three different organizations: Boston, San Diego and the Cubs. They also rewarded Rizzo's potential with a seven-year, $41 million contract extension last May.

This will be a big year for Rizzo, and we may find out whether he will trend more toward a player like Joey Votto or toward a low-average, high-power hitter like Carlos Pena.

During the Cubs caravan last month, Rizzo answered a question about areas of improvement and turned it to the team.

"Just winning," he said. "We want to win. I want to hit. I want to be the guy coming up in the big situation, the tough out, knowing that I'm going to come to the plate and do the job."

One area of improvement will be hitting against left-handed pitchers. The left-handed hitting Rizzo had a line of .252/.342/.454 with 16 home runs against righties. Against lefties, he was .189/.282/.342 with 7 homers. Rizzo also did most of his damage in April, with 9 homers. He hit 2 in May, 2 in June and 3 in July.

He also batted only .191 with runners in scoring position, a troublesome area for the Cubs all of last year.

"The more opportunities I get, the better off, I think, I'll be personally and the team will be," he said.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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