Cubs: Anthony Rizzo makes his All-Star case

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo makes his All-Star case
June 24, 2014, 11:00 pm
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Of course, Anthony Rizzo is thinking about the All-Star Game.

“If anyone says they don’t care about being an All-Star, then they’re lying,” Rizzo said. “It’s something you dream about as a kid. That, and winning a World Series.”

No one knows how long, but the Cubs first baseman will have to wait for that championship ring, the champagne celebration and the parade down Michigan Avenue. The All-Star Game could become a reality this summer.

Rizzo entered Tuesday leading all National League first basemen in home runs (16) and walks (48) while posting a .913 OPS, showing why the Cubs guaranteed $41 million last season and made him a face of the franchise.

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Rizzo then went deep against Homer Bailey, blasting his 17th homer into the right-center field basket, helping lead the Cubs to a 7-3 victory over the Reds at Wrigley Field.  

Rizzo’s name didn’t show up in the latest update to the All-Star ballot. The NL’s top five vote-getters listed at first base are: Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks); Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers); Freddie Freeman (Braves); Mark Reynolds (Brewers); and Matt Adams (Cardinals).

Rizzo’s heard enough about the Joey Votto comparisons after working out a little bit with the Reds first baseman in Sarasota, Fla., during the offseason. Their mutual friend, Padres pitching prospect Casey Kelly, helped set up the meeting.

“It’s funny that one person says me and Votto are best friends and now everyone asks about it,” Rizzo said. “He’s an MVP. He’s a Gold Glover. He’s hit a lot of home runs. He’s done a lot of good things in this game over a lot of years.

“He’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, (but) it’s just something for you guys to talk about.”

Rizzo is doing damage now. A 3-for-4 night raised his average to .288, and that shot off Bailey gave him six homers on the first pitch of an at-bat this season.

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Disappointing seasons from Rizzo and Starlin Castro contributed to Dale Sveum’s firing and forced the Cubs to overhaul their hitting program during the offseason. After a feeling-out process, Rizzo has responded to new hitting coaches Bill Mueller and Mike Brumley.

“They know me now,” Rizzo said. “They understand my personality. I understand theirs. We really get along. We have fun. When it comes down to business, they know when I’m messing up. They’ll get on me and help me out. It’s more being positive and talking about situations.”

Everyone appears to be on the same page now. After struggling last season against left-handers (.189) and with runners in scoring position (.191), Rizzo’s now hitting .328 vs. lefties and putting up an .884 OPS in those clutch situations. 

Some of this could simply be a 24-year-old player maturing, finding his confidence and knowing what he wants to do at the plate after getting more than 1,000 at-bats in the big leagues.

“I don’t really take pride in walking,” Rizzo said. “I don’t really want to walk. I’d rather drive the ball in the gap. But if I get a free pass, I get a free pass. It just depends on the situation. It really comes down to me swinging at my pitches.”