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Friday, February 15, 2013
Early arrival Rizzo planning for big 2013

By Jesse Rogers

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo is ready for his first full season in the major leagues.
MESA, Ariz. -- Every morning Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo looks to his closet. On it are his goals for 2013, which will be his first full season in the major leagues. If last year is any indication, this will be the first of many.

"I wake up to them every morning," he said Friday, two days before position players have to report to spring training. "I read my team goals, my personal goals. Just so I can read them every day."

After a break-out half season in 2012 in which he hit 15 home runs and drove in 48 runs in just 368 plate appearances, Rizzo is primed to become a fixture in the middle of the Cubs lineup.

"I have all the confidence in the world in him to double what he did last year," manager Dale Sveum said. "He came up, did well, had a little hiccup but other than that he was really good. There will be some bumps along the road but you give Rizzo 600 plate appearances there's going to be some damage done."

Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro are part of the core that is supposed to lead the Cubs to the playoffs -- someday. It's a lot for the 22-year-old to swallow considering he hasn't played a full season in the big leagues.

"It's just people talking," Rizzo said. "No one or two players are going to take any team anywhere. Every great player says the same thing."

Rizzo has been in camp since before pitchers and catchers reported last weekend even though he's not required to be here until Sunday. After all, it wasn't that long ago he was struggling, back in the minors with the San Diego Padres before the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner for him. Rizzo hit .141 in 49 games for Padres in 2011.

"I think he took that offseason (2011) really seriously, and he knew what he had to work on," hitting coach James Rowson said Friday. "He came to spring training and the season focused."

Rizzo and Rowson are developing a special relationship. They were both promoted to the big leagues within a month of each other last season and rely on each other for improvement.

"He knows me very well personally, on and off the field," Rizzo said. "I can go to him and lean on him, and he'll pump me up or I'll pump him up. It's a good relationship. It's not just baseball, we talk about other things outside the game."

So what's the one thing the budding star needs in terms of coaching from Rowson?

"From my standpoint it's a matter of making sure small keys were there, and he stayed with his same routine every day," Rowson said. "It's a relationship that we tell each other exactly how we're feeling, so if there is something that he needs he'll let me know and if there is something he needs to focus on I'll let him know. You get the best out of each other that way."

Rizzo said he's working on keeping the same attitude no matter who's pitching on a given day. "See the ball, hit the ball" is about all he would describe about his approach at the plate.

As for those goals for the season, Rizzo said "you can guess what the team goals are" but wasn't revealing his personal ones. Safe to say, the bar is set high.

"I don't see why not," he said. "Why would I say I'm only going to hit 10 home runs when I can hit however many?"

Rowson added: "No one will set the bar higher for himself than Rizzo."

For now, since it's only mid-Feb. Rizzo is stuck staring at his closet every morning.

"I think it's just good to wake up to that," he said. "See that every day and visualize it and feel it."