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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Lake and Rizzo outshine Puig

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- Youth was on display at Wrigley Field on Thursday night as three 20-somethings played long ball in the Chicago Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yasiel Puig (22) is the darling of the league right now, so his hitting his 11th home run doesn't come as much of a shock. But Junior Lake (23) is starting to earn attention, especially after his first two-homer game in the big leagues.

Junior Lake
Junior Lake impressed Thursday with his first two-homer game in the majors.
"I've learned a lot," Lake said through interpreter and teammate Dioner Navarro after the game. "The biggest thing is to be ready for every pitch, every at-bat. I'm seeing a lot more breaking balls right now. I have to be more patient to swing at a good pitch."

That's a man who's learning on the job. The knock on Lake is his plate discipline, but it's getting better. It did in the minors, and now he's starting to make adjustments after his quick start. His second home run came on a slider.

"I'm hitting the pitch that in the past I've had a little bit of trouble with," Lake said. "That's the biggest thing."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum must have a hand in some of this teaching, right?

"I'm not saying anything to him," Sveum said with a smile. "The guy is hitting .300 with four homers in his first two weeks in the big leagues. I'm not saying anything to a guy that's doing that."

Not to be outdone, Anthony Rizzo (23) also went deep twice. The duo did it in back-to-back style in the first inning. A few weeks ago, if Alfonso Soriano and Rizzo were hitting home runs, it didn't have much meaning for the future. Lake is 14 years younger than Soriano, which means he and Rizzo might be doing this together for a long time.

"It's nice to see what he's doing," Rizzo said of Lake. "He's a good kid, works hard and does his business. It's nice to see that."

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo hit two homers Thursday but was especially pleased one came off a left-hander.
Rizzo is no seasoned veteran, either. He has had his slumps, but not recently. His home runs went to right field and to left-center, and one came off a left-hander.

"Any time you square the ball up and get rewarded for it, it feels good," Rizzo said. "It doesn't matter to me. It feels good off the lefty, especially."

Sveum is interested in the long term, and he knows that right now guys such as Lake -- and even Puig -- are doing it with raw talent. Adjustments will be made.

"They are swinging and running into stuff," Sveum said. "Hopefully you make the adjustments just as pitchers are making to you. That's what makes good hitters. That's what keeps you here."

Adding another layer to the growing legend of Lake is his athleticism in the outfield. He's still learning the position, but his jump and catch into the left-field wall in foul territory in the ninth inning was a highlight. He didn't realize it was brick he was hitting.

"Now I know," he deadpanned.