The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs

The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs
May 20, 2012, 8:33 pm
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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.