Who is Anthony Rizzo?

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Who is Anthony Rizzo?

The biggest indicator of who Anthony Rizzo is cannot be found from looking at the back of his baseball card. Statistics don't tell the whole story.

Rizzo, a first baseman and former sixth-round draft pick of Jason McLeod (as well as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) in Boston, struggled early in his career with cancer. Limited-stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma to be specific.

He underwent chemotherapy for six months after the diagnosis in 2008 and resumed his playing career in 2009.

"He's got a fantastic makeup," Hoyer said on a conference call following the trade. "He obviously went through a lot by overcoming cancer when he was 19 years old. He's a very strong individual. Certainly acquiring him in San Diego, I got to know him even better than I knew him when I was with the Red Sox.

"He makes a big impression on his teammates. He's an incredibly hard worker. He's a very strong person. I think he's a leader. He's someone that can really help put this organization or our team on the right path as far as our culture."

Rizzo may have been drafted by Hoyer and Co. with the Red Sox in 2007, but he only spent a couple of years there before being traded to San Diego -- where Hoyer was the GM at the time -- as one of the main pieces in a deal that sent superstar Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.

Now, he's on his third HoyerMcLeod organization.

"We're very excited to acquire Anthony Rizzo," Hoyer said. "He's a player Theo, Jason and I know very well. This is now the third organization that Jason and I have been with with Anthony, which speaks to how much we speak to his ability and his character.

"We believe Anthony has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Cubs for a long time. He still has some development left, but we feel like what he's done at age 20 at Double-A and 21 at Triple-A was remarkable. He did struggle in the big leagues a little bit last year when he came up, but we feel like that's just an adjustment period and that he has a bright future."

Rizzo, whom McLeod once described as having the best makeup of any player he's ever drafted, has certainly torn up the minor leagues lately. In Triple-A last season, he raked to the tune of a .331.404.652 slash line with 26 homers, 34 doubles and 101 RBI in just 93 games and 356 at-bats.

Of course, he was playing in Tucson, Ariz., which is a great place to hit.

"That Triple-A enviornment he was in was a bandbox," Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said. "It was just a pinball machine. And that created some bad habits...He ended up getting loopy with his swing and getting pull-conscious."

Those bad habits were part of the reason he struggled in his first stint in the majors late in 2011.

In 128 at-bats with the Padres, Rizzo batted just .141 with only one homer and nine RBI. He also had a whopping 46 strikeouts. But that didn't deter Hoyer and his staff from wanting to acquire Rizzo, who just turned 22 in early August.

"It's really hard for a player to make adjustments before they fail," Hoyer said. "One of the things you talk about with young players is you actually want them to fail. Because once they fail, they can make adjustments. For Anthony, it took him getting to the big leagues at age 21 to have that failure, which is impressive."

Some around baseball may be wary of Rizzo's future. After being voted the Padres' top prospect last season, San Diego went out and traded Mat Latos for several prospects, including first baseman Yonder Alonso. That fact suggests the Padres organization holds Alonso higher than Rizzo.

Obviously Hoyer and his staff don't necessarily believe that and Goldstein isn't buying it either.

"I disagree with that notion," Goldstein said. "If I was starting a team and they said you could either have Rizzo or Alonso, I would take Rizzo."

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

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USA Today Sports Images

Contreras helps Cubs end 4-game skid by beating Marlins

MIAMI - One week into his major league career, Chicago Cubs super-sub Willson Contreras says he's simply trying to contribute and enjoy himself.

So how much fun is he having?

"A lot," Contreras said, practically shouting the words. "A lot."

No wonder - he's batting .412 with three homers, and the latest helped the Cubs break their longest losing streak of the season at four games by beating the Miami Marlins 5-4 Friday night.

Contreras hit a two-run homer in a four-run first inning, and his RBI single in the seventh put the team with the best record in the majors ahead to stay.

Manager Joe Maddon said Contreras' contribution as a reinforcement for the injury-hampered Cubs has been indispensable.

"It's like oxygen - it's absolutely necessary," Maddon said. "The life he has brought to the group is absolutely necessary. He's different in all the best ways."

While Contreras again excelled as a reinforcement, the NL Central leaders endured another setback when second baseman Ben Zobrist left the game after he was hit by a pitch that bruised his left ankle. X-rays were negative, but Zobrist said he'll likely miss at least one game.

Four pitchers held the Marlins to two hits, including Justin Bour's grand slam.

Each team scored four runs in the first inning, when Kris Bryant and Contreras homered for the Cubs. It was the first time in the majors this year that both teams scored at least four runs in the first, according to ESPN.

Despite the early onslaught, both starters settled down before departing with the score still 4-all.

The Cubs' Kyle Hendricks pitched five innings and allowed only one hit - Bour's slam. All four runs were unearned because of an error by shortstop Addison Russell.

"That was the most grinding of a one-hitter," Hendricks said. "It was a weird game."

Miami's Tom Koehler gave up six consecutive hits in the first but still pitched six innings.

Trevor Cahill (1-2) threw a scoreless sixth. Hector Rondon retired all four batters he faced for his second four-out save in a row, and his 13th overall.

Mike Dunn (0-1) retired only one of the five hitters he faced in the seventh, walking two and hitting Zobrist.

"I can't remember the last time I went out there and couldn't throw anything over the plate," Dunn said. "I didn't give the team a chance."

Dunn also allowed a one-out run-scoring single by Contreras, who has eight RBIs after seven games in the big leagues.

"He looks like an established big league hitter," Hendricks said. "He just hits balls hard. It's really fun to watch. To be that young and come up and do it, it's unbelievable. And we need it right now."

Contreras started at catcher and moved to first base late in the game. He's expected to be in the lineup again Saturday, although he's unsure where.

"I don't know if I'm going to play left field or first base; I caught a few flyballs in right field today," he said. "So I'll be ready, man."

Chris Coghlan understands his role with Cubs is different this time around

Chris Coghlan understands his role with Cubs is different this time around

At one point in the middle of last season, the Cubs were on a 12-game winning streak with Chris Coghlan hitting third in the lineup...while playing second base.

It's hard to see that scenario playing out again in 2016 for a lot of reasons.

After getting traded back to Chicago earlier this month, the 31-year-old outfielder came to a different Cubs team than the one he played a major contributing role with in 2015.

Coghlan was penciled in at fifth in Friday's Cubs lineup and has generally been playing against right-handed pitchers since he was acquired, akin to his role last season.

But what about when Jorge Soler returns? And when Dexter Fowler gets off the disabled list, the Cubs will still want to find time for Albert Almora Jr. and Matt Szczur and have $184 million man Jason Heyward patrolling right field.

Plus, Kris Bryant has played a lot of corner outfield already this season and his presence out there allows Javier Baez and Tommy La Stella (who is also currently on the DL) to man third base.

Simply put: Coghlan will be hard-pressed to reach 500 plate appearances again this season.

"I think my role is different. I've accepted that," Coghlan said. "Last year, I felt like if it was a righty, I'd start every day and do the platoon thing. Here, there's just so much talent and different roles that I don't think mine's maybe as definitive as last year's was. 

"I would probably say I'm even more accepting of that. 'Cause I feel to go from where I went and then to come here and get another opportunity. When you're on a team that plans on winning the World Series vs. a team that hopes you go to the playoffs, it's two totally different things.

"To get back on that and be around it, you're like, 'Man, I have a chance legitimately to win a World Series. I'll do whatever I can to win a World Series.' And that's kinda the attitude that I have. 

"I think it's different for people if you're not trying to win a World Series and you're not one of those teams, then you probably want a bigger role. But when you have a legitimate shot, there's a reason why there's only 25 that are allowed and there are only certain roles. I'm excited for this opportunity, however big or small it may be."

Coghlan only got 12 plate appearances in the postseason with the Cubs last year, collecting a lone single in the process.

It's understandable the former National League Rookie of the Year (2009) would want to play more after overcoming a lot of adversity in his career with injuries and posting a .793 OPS with 25 homers in 273 games with the Cubs from 2014-15.

But he also got his first taste of the playoffs last year and just moved from a last-place Oakland A's team to a squad that has a World Series or bust mentality.

Coghlan sees a different Cubs team than the one that got hot in the final two months of 2015 and wound up winning 97 games and two playoff series.

"When I came over here, I just realized, man, you've seen guys have more time," Coghlan said. "You see some growth and you see so much depth that you just feel like it's a matter of — this isn't an arrogant comment — playing within ourselves. 

"When you're on that level of talent and then you have everybody as close as they are, you feel like you're only competing for one thing and that's to win the World Series.

"...To watch it and to be a part of it, you're just like, 'Man, if we stay within ourselves and execute and stay healthy, we're gonna be fine.' And I think that's kinda more the attitude vs. maybe last year, it wasn't until the end where we kinda found our identity and our belief.

"Early on [last season], it was like, 'Man, we're fighting mano y mano and we need to have something break through.' Now, I think it's just about us executing. We execute and we got a shot to beat anybody in baseball."

Injury Report: Chicago baseball keeping the disabled list active

Injury Report: Chicago baseball keeping the disabled list active

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

The White Sox placed Zach Putnam on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Manager Robin Ventura said it is not the same injury the pitcher had been dealing with for the past few weeks.

However, Putnam received a second opinion on Friday and surgery may be an option.

“(Surgery is) possible,” general manager Rick Hahn said on Friday. “But again, we are exploring all the options. We want to make sure we have all the possibilities laid out before us. It’s just one of the things we are considering. Still parceling through the options and at this point we don’t have a specific timeframe for him.”

Justin Morneau remains on the disabled list as he recovers from left elbow primary flexor surgery. The new White Sox first baseman could begin his minor rehab assignment in July and possibly return after the All-Star break.
 
Austin Jackson is still recovering from a torn meniscus. The outfielder underwent successful surgery last Wednesday.

CUBS

The banged-up Cubs continue to have to fight through adveristy, putting Dexter Fowler on the disabled list this week with a hamstring injury.

It is the third hamstring issue this month for the Cubs, as Fowler joins Tommy La Stella and Jorge Soler on the shelf. Fowler has been a vital cog to the Cubs' offense as a leadoff with a .398 on-base percentage. 

La Stella is said to be due back before Soler and the left-handed hitting infielder could go on a rehab stint as soon as next week, meaning he should be back and able to make an impact before the All-Star Break. La Stella has posted an .871 OPS this season in 90 plate appearances.

The Cubs are still taking things slow with Soler, playing the conservative approach wtih the oft-injured young outfielder. He currently has no timetable to return.

The Cubs also placed Clayton Richard on the disabled list, but the team won't likely miss his 7.30 ERA or 2.189 WHIP.

The Cubs signed veteran pitcher Joe Nathan to help provide some potential relief down the line as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. The 41-year-old made his first appearance Thursday with Double-A Tennessee, striking out two batters in a perfect inning while tossing 17 pitches.