Instead of being the rah-rah, in-your-face type, though, Rizzo has displayed an approach that could serve the Cubs roster well. Guys like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters could learn from his ability to turn the page, but so could a guy like Starlin Castro, who has a little more big league time than he does.
Rizzo’s ability to forget the recent past, whether good or bad, is a trait that is well beyond his years. Whether it’s the four-hit game he had Monday or the 0-for-5, two strikeout game he had two days later, Rizzo has been a master at not getting too high or too low from day to day.
On Sunday he will have to turn the page after going a combined 1-for-9 in Saturday’s doubleheader.
“If you think about your last at-bat while you’re in your next at-bat, what’s the point? It’s gone, it’s done with,” Rizzo said. “You can’t take at-bats to the field which everyone has a tendency to do. You make an out and head out to the field, if you’re thinking about it, the next thing you know you’re in the hole and you didn’t get a good read on a ball or something. It’s really just about separating everything.”
The strategy seems obvious enough. The challenge is to apply it. Rizzo admits that it really didn’t click for him until last season when he was in the San Diego Padres organization. It has been reinforced now that he has been in Cincinnati this weekend.
“Last year I played with Ryan Ludwick and he had a down year but you couldn’t tell,” Rizzo said. “He had a good game, he had a bad game and he came to the park the same way every day.”
Now Ludwick is on the Reds and is a key contributor with a first-place team.
“I was struggling last year and no one ever felt bad,” Rizzo said. “Nobody is going to feel bad for you. Everything still goes on. It’s day by day. This game is four hits one day, no hits the next.”
As manager Dale Sveum gets to know Rizzo’s game, the mental side has impressed him as much as anything.
“I think a good key with that ability and those kind of mental skills is that it allows him to be able to do all those things and separate each pitch and move on from a pitch, move on from an at-bat,” Sveum said. “Obviously we know he’s capable of taking his singles with guys in scoring position or even hitting a ground ball when the infield is back and making sure we take the lead. Little things like that he’s obviously way ahead of the curve right now as far as the mental part of the game.”
Asked if it’s harder to put a bad game behind you or to not get too excited about a good game, Rizzo found it hard to choose. But in a sense, that’s the point. Good or bad it’s best if it’s forgotten about quickly.
“It’s all development,” Rizzo said. “You’d hit a couple of home runs, especially when I was younger earlier in my career. I’d hit a home run and I’d try to hit another one. You just go one at-bat at a time. Obviously if you have a bad game it’s not fun but you bounce back the next day. That’s the beauty of this game.”
Jackson in particular can learn from what Rizzo went through. Jackson entered the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader with 20 strikeouts and only seven hits. But in the second inning he delivered his first career home run.
“Last year I had so much success in the minors and in the big leagues I didn’t have success at all and I realized it was the first time I ever hit rock bottom like that,” Rizzo said. “I thought I handled it pretty well. I was just rolling with it. I knew I would get out of it and get better. Like here I just want to keep moving forward.”