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Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Rizzo wants to help prospects' transitions

By Jesse Rogers

MESA, Ariz. -- It sounds as though Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is as anxious to see the organization's heralded prospects at Wrigley Field as much as anyone is.

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo knows a thing or two about being a hyped prospect.
"A couple years ago when I first got here we didn't have that much talent," Rizzo said Tuesday morning. "They're going to tear up the minor leagues and it's our job to make them feel like they're part of the team."

Rizzo has been working out at the Cubs' new spring facility for several days in advance of mandatory full squad attendance, which begins Wednesday. And for the first time he'll be in the same locker room as all the Cubs' top prospects, including Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. All are among the top 30 prospects in baseball, according to multiple scouting services.

"You guys are going to crown them the next Babe Ruth," Rizzo joked about all the hype.

It wasn't long ago Rizzo was in their situation. Heralded as the next great hitting first baseman, he had his ups and downs like most players. Now he wants to help his teammates make the transition.

"People did for me so that's part of the game," Rizzo said. "So they'll have to deal with that so-called pressure of coming up. We'll make sure they have fun."

Rizzo uses the word "fun" a lot. It might be his way of escaping his own pressure, which surely will mount after a 2013 season, his first full year in the major leagues, in which he hit .233. And in talking about the Cubs' prospects, Rizzo could have been talking about himself. He's still figuring things out at the big league level.

"The biggest learning period is up here," he said. "Adding that third deck to the stadium is huge."

The more talent that arrives in Chicago the better it will be for Rizzo and his teammates. They could use more production in the lineup, and the Cubs could use some more wins. Then they really can have that fun he talks about. He knows the time is coming.

"There's no reason to ever take your time in the minor leagues," Rizzo half-joked. "It's the worst place. Why would anyone want to take their time?"