The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs


The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs

On some level, the Cubs think Anthony Rizzo can become their Paul Konerko, a thoughtful leader and a stabilizing force in the clubhouse.

Thats not to diminish the White Sox captain, who should one day get a statue outside U.S. Cellular Field. But with Rizzo, team officials feel like they will have first base covered for years to come, and a power bat they can build their lineup around.

Rizzo who keeps putting up monster numbers at Triple-A Iowa could bring a jolt right now. The Cubs woke up on Sunday ranked 12th in the National League in runs scored (149) and home runs (29), and 11th in slugging percentage (.379).

Manager Dale Sveum will bring up the issue with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Thats definitely going to be talked about, Sveum told reporters before Sundays game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Hes done everything he can down there. But once again, when you bring somebody up like that, hes got to play every day. Thats the million-dollar question: How do we get that playing time?

But its definitely something were going to talk about, probably around the beginning of June, interleague play, when we need the DH and those kind of things, too.

Cubs fans are obsessed with Rizzo, 22, whos been described as mature beyond his years after overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma as a prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. Hes hitting .353 with 14 homers and 39 RBI through 40 games at Iowa.

Rizzo should become a major part of this crosstown rivalry. Its not unreasonable to think the top prospect could be there when the Cubs head to the South Side (June 18-20).

The Cubs will also need a designated hitter when they visit Target Field to face the Minnesota Twins (June 8-10) in interleague play.

Sveum said the Cubs arent going to move Rizzo, a very smooth left-handed first baseman, to another position.

This is a good problem to have: Bryan LaHair has run with this opportunity at first base and should be in the All-Star conversation this summer.

This is not: Alfonso Sorianos 136 million contract still runs through the end of the 2014 season. Epsteins front office will eventually have to decide when that truly is a sunk cost and move in another direction.

Rizzo and LaHair have talked about how they could do damage with their two left-handed bats in the middle of the Cubs lineup. LaHair has played the outfield before and doesnt think it would take long to get comfortable there again.

Hoyer brought Rizzo to the San Diego Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and then re-acquired him in the Andrew Cashner trade last winter.

Hoyer has admitted that it was a mistake to rush Rizzo to the big leagues last season. Rizzo hit .141 and struck out 46 times in 128 at-bats. That experience seems to have colored the front offices thinking.

Near the beginning of spring training, Sveum said: Right now its a concrete plan to let Rizzo have another season in Triple-A, and let him be comfortable instead of moving him up and down.

That vote of confidence for LaHair left plenty of room for reinterpretation. When that comment was relayed to Rizzo minutes after he was told he was cut from big-league camp he showed some fire.

If thats concrete, I want to know who laid that down, Rizzo said. Nothings concrete in this business. Last year I was the future first baseman for the Padres and now Im the future first baseman for the Cubs. I cant control (it). If I go down and hit 1.000 with 40 home runs, who knows whats going to happen?

Im going to go down and just work hard and prepare myself for the next step.

Between this season and last, Rizzo entered Sunday with 40 homers and 140 RBI in 133 games at the Triple-A level. The cracks in the concrete are beginning to show.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.