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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Rizzo envisions Cubs' Series title

By Doug Padilla

Anthony Rizzo
Anthony Rizzo has reported to camp with optimism and confidence.
MESA, Ariz. – Anthony Rizzo has never set foot inside of Wrigley Field, but that didn't stop him from envisioning a World Series celebration inside the cozy ballpark.

Rizzo, the Cubs' new power-hitting first-base prospect, has heard all the talk that he's supposed to open the season at Triple-A Iowa (he's ignoring it) and that the major league team is supposed to be in rebuilding mode (he's not worried about it).

But he's still thinking World Series, because quite frankly, that's what he does. If you aren't thinking championship when the season starts then why the heck are you even out there.

Asked what he thought of when he heard that he was traded to the Cubs, Rizzo said the memory is crystal clear.

“It was trying to win a World Series; the history of this organization and the drought this team has been in,” Rizzo said.

Does he dare put a five-year timetable on winning it all?

“Why not this year?” he said so matter of factly that it didn't seem as if it was the first time he expressed that thought. “But there is no timetable. Every year you go out and do the best you can do to win.”

Still, not everything about Rizzo is about a singular focus that he doesn't have his light-hearted moments too. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound slugger admitted that after the trade, he also had other thoughts.

“Wrigley Field and ‘Rookie of the Year,' popped into my head,” he said.

No, not that rookie of the year.

“I'm saying the movie ‘Rookie of the Year' popped in my head, not being rookie of the year,” he said about the family film that was released a month before his fourth birthday.

Winning the actual rookie of the year might prove difficult if his path to the major leagues remains as many are predicting. Rizzo is expected to start the season at Triple-A, but he could be in the major leagues by midseason, leaving him precious little time to pick up any postseason hardware.

Bryan LaHair is expected to win the first base job out of spring training, but Rizzo plans on making the decision difficult on the Cubs coaching staff as well as management. Yet he has no expectation that even his best this spring will land him at Wrigley Field on Opening Day.

“If I go out and hit 1.000 in spring training, I can't decide wherever I go,” said Rizzo, who hit 26 home runs and drove in 101 runs while batting .331 at Triple-A Tucson last season.

Part of what helps him to be so comfortable in his own skin is that general manager Jed Hoyer is obviously very high on him. Wherever Hoyer has gone -- from Boston to San Diego to Chicago -- he has made sure to bring Rizzo along. Of course, for Rizzo there is an inherent pressure that comes with being the general manager's project.

“There is pressure that comes along with every player,” he said. “At the end of the day you have to perform on the field. It's really nice and an honor that they have the faith in me that I will be a good player, but at the end of the day you have to perform.”

And ultimately that performance could lead to a World Series, delivering a fan base what they have wanted for generations.

“[It's] ‘when' not ‘if,'” he said about winning it all. “If you're saying ‘if,' who knows if it's going to happen. You're going to have to have that mindset that we're going to do it and we're going to win. Wherever I am I want to win every day and make the playoffs with that team and be an All-Star and go to the playoffs.

"That's got to be the mindset from Game 1 to Game 162. No, I'm sorry, Game 173, or however many it takes.”"