Rizzo's first full year shows his promise

MILWAUKEE -- Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of one of the most highly anticipated Cubs debuts in recent memory. It was just 12 months ago that Anthony Rizzo made his first appearance with the Cubs after tearing up Triple-A Iowa to the tune of a .342/.405/.696 line with 23 home runs in 70 games.

Manager Dale Sveum remembers the back-and-forth he and the front office had trying to decide when Rizzo would finally join the big league club.

“It was touch and go when it was going to be,” Sveum said. “Obviously when he got here he took off right away and had a great first six weeks, tailed off, then finished off real well.”

Rizzo ended the 2012 season hitting .285/.342/.463 with 15 home runs in 87 games. Despite a recent June slump -- he hit .157 in the 15 games to start the month -- Rizzo has delivered an .807 OPS with 27 home runs over the last calendar year, kicking off a very promising career with the Cubs.

“Young hitters at the beginning are going to be up and down,” Sveum said. “But at the end of the day, you know those numbers are going to be what you expected.”

Sveum pointed out that his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, had several talented youngsters -- Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Prince Fielder to name a few -- who struggled with consistency early in their careers and have gone on to have very productive careers.

Rizzo has bounced back from his early June slump to hit .400/.480/.800 over his last six games with a pair of home runs -- his first since May 18. Even while struggling to hit at times this month, Rizzo has managed to help out on offense by getting on base, walking 17 times so far in June, after drawing a total of 15 free passes in April and May combined.

“He’s one of those guys that he’s all in to his defense and his work ethic and trying to make himself a better every day,” Sveum said. “The rest falls into place when you have that kind of mentality. The hands are there, the ability to hit is there, we’ve seen it, he’s already produced at the big league level, the power numbers and all that. They only get usually better if you have that kind of work ethic and mindset.”