Updated: June 6, 2013 12:20AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Of course, Anthony Rizzo is the face of the franchise for the Cubs.
Just check out the advertising campaigns, the No. 3 spot in the order he has owned since Day 1 as a Cub, and the $41 million the Cubs bet that their slugging first baseman will be the centerpiece of their next playoff team.
On Tuesday night, the Cubs and Rizzo got an up-close look at the face of the next generation of superstars when Mike Trout stepped to the plate in the first inning for the Los Angeles Angels.
Trout is a 21-year-old who has yet to play a full season in the majors, but who nonetheless did enough in five months last year to leave the impression with many that he was robbed of the MVP award.
But face of the Angels franchise? What about Albert Pujols, who stepped up after Trout and drove in the first Angels’ run of the game? Or Mark Trumbo or Josh Hamilton, who followed after that?
Try just picking out Trout’s face — never mind putting it on the hood of the franchise.
Even Trout knows he had the softer landing in the clubhouse and on the big-league field than Rizzo in their much-anticipated 2012 debuts.
‘‘I was fortunate enough to come up here last year with guys like Torii [Hunter] and Albert [Pujols] and guys that played the game a while,” Trout said. “They basically took me under my wing and told me what I needed to know. It’s helped me a lot.
“Even this year with Albert and Josh [Hamilton]. … Every chance I get to talk to them about baseball — Albert is the guy to go to, for sure.”
“That’s a young team …,” Trout said.
To be sure, Trout — and Bryce Harper in Washington — are the role models for what the Cubs see in Rizzo.
But no matter how big the expectations are at 21 for the Angels’ fast and powerful center fielder, Trout doesn’t have to be something he’s not, or even something he’s not ready to be.
“Throwing a team on somebody’s back, that’s the comparison,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Trout and Rizzo expectations. “That’s why we signed Rizzo to a big contract. And that’s the kind of player Trout is as well.
“”That’s the thing Rizzo’s got to be careful of, is trying to do too much. He doesn’t have the Pujolses and the Hamiltons and the Trumbos. You have so many veterans around him that he probably doesn’t have to feel like that. We’ve got to be careful that Rizzo doesn’t get to that, where he has to feel like he’s got to carry everything on his shoulders right now.”
So far, Rizzo has handled the hype of last year, the expectations of this year, and the contract of last month as well as could be expected.
Trout thinks he had it a little easier than Rizzo in terms of superstar veterans around him. “I probably would agree with him,” Rizzo said. “But it doesn’t take credit away from the player. You can only take so much knowledge from so many people. You learn from experiences.”
Trout and Rizzo have gotten to know each other some, through occasional contact in spring training. A mutual admiration seems to be there.
And Rizzo definitely has made a point to watch Trout’s progress — especially after Trout struggled his first time up in ’11 before breaking out last year, a similar path to Rizzo’s.
“He came up with a ton of hype, same with Bryce Harper,” Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s good to see them having success, because they were under a microscope since they got drafted, and that’s not easy to do. They’re both great guys too.”