Cubs: Does Anthony Rizzo have something to prove in San Diego?

Cubs: Does Anthony Rizzo have something to prove in San Diego?
May 24, 2014, 12:00 am
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SAN DIEGO — Andrew Cashner would love to prove Cubs executives wrong and definitely has a chip on his shoulder. Anthony Rizzo pretty much shrugs off getting traded from the San Diego Padres.

Dealing for Rizzo became a signature move for Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod in January 2012. It will take years before anyone can do a full accounting of the transaction.

Cashner looked like one of the National League’s best young pitchers, throwing a one-hitter against the Detroit Tigers and putting up a 2.35 ERA through nine starts — before going on the disabled list last week with right elbow soreness and irritation.

Rizzo entered Friday hitting .275 with eight homers, 23 RBIs, 35 walks and an .873 OPS. He’s improved against left-handers (.979 OPS) while hitting .229 with runners in scoring position. The guy who was supposed to replace first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego has $41 million guaranteed through 2019, a commitment that should put him in the new clubhouse at a renovated Wrigley Field.

“I don’t know that he comes here with something to prove,” said Cubs manager Rick Renteria, the former Padres bench coach. “Everybody that was here before believed that he could play. He’s just playing the game of baseball right now. He’s having a lot of fun doing it, and he’s just being himself.”

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During Thursday night’s 5-1 victory, Rizzo hit a two-run bomb over the right-center field wall at Petco Park, a place that got in his head during a brutal 49-game audition in 2011. Playing in a pitcher’s park, fighting the marine layer and dealing with all the hype ruined his big-league debut (one homer and 46 strikeouts in 128 at-bats).

“Last year, we came back and I got a few hits here, and I started to enjoy this ballpark,” Rizzo said. “During batting practice, I really enjoyed it and just treated it like any other park I would come to.”

Did you enjoy it as a Padre?

“Uh, I was in the big leagues, so I enjoyed it,” Rizzo said. “But it was tough. Obviously, I struggled a lot, but it’s two-and-a-half, three years later now, so I’ve kind of moved on from all that.”

The Padres moved the fences in before the 2013 season, changing the stadium’s dimensions and hoping to generate more offense.

“It’s still pretty big, especially at nighttime with that thick air,” Rizzo said. “But if you hit a ball well, you’re going to get it here. But it’s definitely nice not having to take batting practice here every day, I’ll tell you that.”