Anthony Rizzo’s imminent arrival all the talk at Wrigley Field
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com June 25, 2012 10:28PM
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:25AM
A baseball uniform, not a cape and an ‘‘S’’-emblazoned Spandex suit, will be handed to Anthony Rizzo on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
But as much as the Cubs’ hierarchy and manager Dale Sveum try to downplay the hype surrounding Rizzo’s arrival from the minors, the expectations are set.
Rizzo will arrive Tuesday after outgrowing Class AAA ball with his .342 average, 23 home runs and 62 RBI. He will carry with him the weight of president Theo Epstein’s vision for the future.
‘‘I hope he comes in with no pressure and helps the team,’’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano said Monday. ‘‘He should just play baseball and don’t think about pressure. Just play baseball and have fun. That’s what I’ll tell him.’’
He’ll get the same message from Sveum, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, who was the first to give Rizzo a major-league shot last season with the San Diego Padres.
That debut didn’t go well, with Rizzo hitting only .143 in 35 games with the Padres after hitting .365 for their Class AAA affiliate in
Tucson, Ariz. But Rizzo was the first acquisition Epstein and Hoyer looked to make after taking over the Cubs. And with the team going nowhere in the standings, Rizzo’s ‘‘time’’ might be better now.
‘‘The conversation will be more the vanilla [type],’’ Sveum said of his planned talk with Rizzo when he arrives. ‘‘Get here and relax. Don’t try to carry the team on your shoulders; that’s not what you’re here for. You’re here for the long-term future to make this organization and lineup much, much better.’’
The Cubs have the worst record in baseball at 25-48, but they ended a four-game losing streak Monday with a 6-1 victory against the New York Mets.
Two-time Cy Young Award-winning left-hander Johan Santana started for the Mets — part of the reason Rizzo’s debut was delayed until Tuesday — but Cubs lefty Travis Wood (2-3) was the star,
allowing five hits in seven scoreless innings.
‘‘My arm was feeling good, and I was able to keep them off-balance,’’ Wood said. ‘‘I had great defense
behind me, and we scratched out some hits.’’
Joe Mather’s two-run homer against Santana (5-4) in the fourth was the big hit, and three Mets
errors in the seventh led to four
Rizzo learned his ‘‘future’’ had arrived when he was taken out of Class AAA Iowa’s game Monday in the fourth inning. Iowa manager Dave Bialas gave him the news.
‘‘He has to understand he’s not a savior for this offense,’’ Sveum said of Rizzo. ‘‘That’s what he has to be careful of, that he can’t save things with one swing of the bat. Although I hope there are times when he does.’’
Rizzo appears to know what awaits him.
‘‘I want to tell [Cubs fans] that there’s going to be good times and there will be bad times,’’ he told
reporters in Des Moines. ‘‘Hopefully there will be times I’m a hero, and there will be times I’m the villain. That’s the nature of the game, and that goes for every baseball player.’’
His new teammates plan to do all they can to ease his transition.
‘‘I remember 2001, when I started [with the New York Yankees],’’ Soriano said. ‘‘I had veteran guys around me to support me. They said, ‘Just go out there and have fun.’
‘‘He’s very young, but he can play this game with no pressure. I hope he hits behind me.’’
Can one player make a difference for a struggling team?
‘‘Could be,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘We’ve lost many games because we didn’t get one big hit. If Rizzo can come here and help, I hope he can be the solution.’’