Will Anthony Rizzo be a Wrigleyville slugger ... Monday?
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 23, 2012 10:58PM
The impending call-up of first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo could happen Monday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:55AM
PHOENIX — It’s time.
The calendar says it. The scoreboard says it. The deafening hype says it.
And on Saturday — perhaps the most significant day on Anthony Rizzo’s baseball schedule — the players in the Cubs’ clubhouse said they’re ready to see what the top hitting prospect in the organization can do in the big leagues.
Maybe just as important to them, they can use him in the lineup as soon as the front office can get his promotion papers ready.
‘‘We’ll take any type of offense right now,’’ catcher Geovany Soto said. ‘‘It wouldn’t hurt.’’
That’s coming from a guy with two home runs in his first three games back from the disabled list.
As the Cubs prepared to face Arizona Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy late Saturday, they already were lost in their own offensive wasteland, having scored just three runs in their previous three games and three or fewer in six of their previous eight.
‘‘Yeah, I hope they can call him up soon,’’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano said. ‘‘People have a lot of respect for him, and now it’s the perfect time because we are struggling offensively.
‘‘To me, it’s the right time to see what he’s got in him. And I hope he feels comfortable and can do here what he’s doing in the minor leagues.’’
It’s the right time in more ways than one. The slugging first baseman has reached the point when he can be recalled without having a chance to earn enough service time — if he sticks in the big leagues — to become a free agent a year earlier than he otherwise would.
The front office is mum on specifics, but manager Dale Sveum said Rizzo wouldn’t join the team during the trip to Arizona this weekend. He offered no such assurances about the homestand that opens Monday against the New York Mets and Johan Santana.
Privately, several on the trip assume that’s when Rizzo will return to the big leagues —‘‘when they can have the parade for him at home,’’ said one.
Rizzo, who took a .355 average, 23 homers and 62 RBI into the game Saturday night for Class AAA Iowa, has the top slugging percentage (.722) in professional baseball and the top on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.138) for any league higher than Class A.
‘‘We want to see this guy in the big leagues,’’ Soriano said.
Soriano isn’t alone. The Rizzo buzz in the clubhouse isn’t as big as it is among the media and fans, but it’s clearly there.
‘‘It’s not something we sit around and talk about all day,’’ said first baseman Bryan LaHair, who will move to right field when Rizzo joins the club. ‘‘But at the same time, I think everybody knows he’s going to be here at some point. He’s the No. 1 prospect in the organization. He’s killing it, and he deserves to be here.’’
You won’t get an argument from Soto, who got an up-close look at Rizzo on a minor-league rehab assignment just over a week ago.
‘‘From what I saw down there, he was like a man playing among boys,’’ Soto said.
How it translates to the big leagues is the only question that remains.
‘‘I don’t think I’ve really been around anybody that’s had this much hype getting ready to come up,’’ said Sveum, who acknowledged the pressure it brings. ‘‘It’s where you find out a lot about people, too. Just being around him the 30 days or so in spring training, he seemed to be a guy that’s very, very ahead in the game maturity-wise. But I think we all have to be a little bit patient and understand the game’s a lot different here than in Triple-A.’’
That said, ‘‘It’d be nice to have some extra firepower in the lineup on an every-day basis,’’ Sveum said.