Dale Sveum hopes Anthony Rizzo will fill Cubs’ RBI void
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com July 26, 2013 11:22PM
Updated: July 27, 2013 1:58AM
SAN FRANCISCO — If there was a time for Anthony Rizzo to take the next step as a young core player for the Cubs, it’s now, in the wake of this week’s trade of cleanup hitter Alfonso Soriano.
Team president Theo Epstein said he didn’t consider the trade of the Cubs’ last mega-deal free agent as a “watershed moment or a transformative moment” for the franchise, as some have suggested.
But it could mark a watershed moment for Rizzo as the Cubs seek middle-of-the-order bats to step into the big-swinging void — and leadership void — left by Soriano.
“It’s with [men in] scoring position. We need those RBIs to get picked up,” manager Dale Sveum said. “And I think [Rizzo is] at that stage where he kind of understands about those people’s jobs in the three, four and five holes. A lot of people get carried away thinking about the home runs. But finding a way to drive runs in — that’s your job.”
Rizzo is batting .237 after going 0-for-4 with a walk on Friday night against the San Francisco Giants in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory by the Cubs. With two outs in the ninth and the Cubs trailing 2-1, Rizzo ripped a line drive off Sergio Romo that went through the legs of first baseman Brandon Belt and was ruled an error. Two runs scored on the play. Kevin Gregg worked a scoreless ninth to record his 20th save.
Rizzo is only 6-for-31 through eight games on this trip. Coming into Friday’s game, he was hitting just .181 with runners in scoring position with more strikeouts (26) than hits (19).
Sveum said when former Milwaukee hitting pupil Prince Fielder started thinking less about home runs and more about singles with men in scoring position and game situations, “that’s when he started taking off.
“These guys are going to get so many plate appearances they’re going to hit home runs. It’s what you do in the 150 chances you get with men in scoring position that dictate the season.”
Sveum on whether he gets to exhale now that Matt Garza and Soriano have been traded: “I’m not exhaling yet. I don’t see anything else happening, but until that 11th hour [Wednesday], I don’t think you relax.”
◆ The Cubs brought up right-hander Eduardo Sanchez from Class AAA Iowa to bolster a taxed bullpen and take Soriano’s vacated roster spot through at least Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers.
◆ The Cubs made a minor deal with the Giants before Friday’s game, trading Class AAA right-hander Guillermo Moscoso for cash or a player to be named later.