After his performance last season, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is almost certain he will stay put this offseason.
Rizzo, who hit .285 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 87 games, had the type of season that should lend the youngster a bunch of confidence. But since he has been traded in each of the past two offseasons, Rizzo wont allow himself to get too comfortable, even if management is high on his abilities.
Youve still got to work hard and put in the time, Rizzo said before Saturdays National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Rosemont. But I feel good. I know Im not going to get traded, hopefully at least. I just feel good and confident.
Rizzo should take some solace in the fact Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod have twice acquired him.
It was Hoyer and McLeod who also brought Rizzo to the Padres as part of a four-player package that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox in December 2010. Though Rizzo wasnt considered the centerpiece of the Gonzalez trade -- Red Sox No. 1 prospect Casey Kelly was also included -- Hoyer and McLeod were clearly excited about the first baseman. The Padres promoted Rizzo to the majors in June 2011 after he tore up Triple-A pitching and believed him to be the franchises first baseman of the future.
But Rizzo hit only .141 in 153 plate appearances with the Padres and after Hoyer and McLeod joined Theo Epstein with the Cubs, Rizzos job status appeared to be in doubt. The Padres new brass made their feelings even more clear when they acquired top prospect and first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Cincinnati Reds last December, which led to Rizzo feeling more uncertain about his future with the Padres.
Less than three weeks later, Rizzo was headed to Chicago.
I had no idea what they were going to do, Rizzo said. Its one of those things that is uncontrollable. I think it worked out for the best. Once (the Alonso trade) happened, I hoped it would be here because Jed and Theo and Jason all came over here. So I was hoping they believed in me and they brought me over and I have an opportunity and have got to keep going with it.
Perhaps it was the belief held by Hoyer, McLeod and Epstein that allowed Rizzo to overcome a slight confidence problem brought on by his struggles in 2011. Unlike the previous season, Rizzo didnt endure long slumps with the Cubs. He reduced his strikeouts from once every 2.78 at-bats in 2011 to once every 5.44 at-bats. He also hit 14 more homers and never gave the Cubs reason to remove him from the lineup.
(My confidence) did waver definitely (in 2011), but it didnt get me down because I knew that it was all mental, Rizzo said. I just got out of it and had some success last year and just want to keep building. Next season, spring training, I just cant wait to get out there and get going.
He hopes with the Cubs.