Rizzo impresses former, future teammates

June, 20, 2012
6/20/12
9:47
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The ascension of Anthony Rizzo from the minor league’s top slugger to Wrigley Field should take place sometime in the next week. As for what to expect from the 23-year-old first baseman, many of his former Iowa teammates are anticipating great results.

“There is no question about it, he has that great confidence in himself,” said infielder Adrian Cardenas. “He has a presence about him, make no mistake about it. But he is just one of the guys not cocky in a bad way, but confident in a positive way.”

Rizzo’s minor league numbers have been off the charts. Over a period of two years covering 157 games, he has 49 home runs and 110 RBIs to go along with a .343 batting average.

“He can hit any pitch and his plate discipline has improved,” said pitcher Casey Coleman. “Guys have tried to get him to chase pitches, but he doesn’t and ends up hitting in more favorable counts, often getting the pitch he wants.”

Team executives have said since acquiring Rizzo for Andrew Cashner this past winter, that once he is back in the major leagues, he will play first base every day.

“The one thing that is not talked about enough is Rizzo’s defense. He goes after everything out there and he has a great glove. He scoops everything up at first,” Coleman said. “When I got to play next to him at Iowa, I found out that as good as he is on offense, he is even that much better on defense.”

Added Cardenas: “That is really special for a great hitter to take so much pride on defense. It’s going to be fun watching him when he gets here.”

Rizzo was frequently bested by big league pitchers in his first exposure to the majors last summer (posting 46 strikeouts in 144 at-bats).

“He was this big strong guy last year that could handle the low pitch and be pitched to up high,” Coleman said. “This spring he lowered his hands at the plate and the results are less swing and misses.”

The clock is ticking and the beginning of what could be a big-time career may be just a few days away for Rizzo.

“He is a young guy who has a lot of energy and plays hard,” said reliever Scott Maine. “He does all the right things and I really think Chicago fans are going to love him. The statistics speak for themselves, so he is going to go hard on the field, and I think do a great job.”

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
WJ. Arrieta 10
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167