LOS ANGELES – Anthony Rizzo thinks he can be a middle-of-the-order force like Adrian Gonzalez, a player he will forever be linked with after that megadeal between the Red Sox and Padres in December 2010.
That’s why the Cubs first baseman was glad to be back as the No. 3 hitter on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s more, to be honest, an ego thing,” Rizzo said. “I’ve never hit second in my life. You think of your second hitter of the game as someone who gets guys over, bunts and slaps and whatnot. I think our lineup doesn’t call for me hitting second, personally.
“You see a lineup like the Cardinals and you see (Carlos) Beltran hitting second and that’s because he has nowhere else to really hit. They don’t want him seventh or eighth. But I was there and I tried to make the best of it. (Manager Dale Sveum) says it best: ‘It’s just a spot in the lineup.’ I just didn’t like it that much.”
In that five-game experiment, Rizzo went 7-for-24 (.292) with four walks, six strikeouts, two homers and four RBI.
“I was probably 0-for-40 before that,” he said, “so the law of averages have to equal out at some point or another.”
The Cubs are betting this is all part of Rizzo’s evolution.
Cubs executives scouted Gonzalez as an amateur in the San Diego area, engineered the Padres-Red Sox trade and reacquired Rizzo in January 2012. Gonzalez took a lot of heat in Boston for that epic collapse in 2011, and last year became a centerpiece in the reset-button trade that gave the Dodgers a Mexican-American star for their market.
Last season, Gonzalez didn’t make the All-Star Game or receive any MVP votes, hitting .299 with “only” 18 homers and 108 RBI.
“You can’t expect everyone to be Superman every day,” Rizzo said. “He still had a good year. It’s just not an ‘Adrian Gonzalez-like year.’
“You can look at everyone’s career that has had monster years and they’ve had that down year here and there. Like I always say: ‘It’s just baseball.’”
Gonzalez began the day hitting .297 with 17 homers and 81 RBI, while Rizzo was at .231 with 20 homers and 69 RBI – and back where he feels he belongs.
“Hopefully, that’s the last time I ever hit in the two-hole,” Rizzo said, “unless we have a power, monster lineup and that’s where the team needs me.”