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Rizzo another core player struggling this season

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NATIONALS AT CUBS

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The starters: Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 1.85 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.69).

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:41AM



Starlin Castro gets blasted on a regular basis, but the Cubs’ other building-block young infielder with a seven-year contract somehow has managed to escape the heat despite just as miserable an offensive season as Castro in many ways.

Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 65 RBI and 59 walks.

But he also ranks second from the bottom among National League first basemen in OPS and ranks last in the majors in hitting with men in scoring position (minimum 100 at-bats) — numbers that look even worse in the context of a player to whom the club has committed the No. 3 spot in the order.

His 0-for-4 night dropped his season average below .230 for the first time since the first week of May.

What does he need to do to get on track with six weeks left?

“Well, if we knew that answer we’d correct it every day,” said manager Dale Sveum, attributing some of it to growing pains and adjustments the second time around the league. “Confidence is obviously a key factor here to all of this.”

Meanwhile, Rizzo left four more men on base in his first three at-bats in a 4-2 loss Tuesday to the Washington Nationals, watching his numbers with men in scoring position tumble to .173 (22-for-127).

Sveum said he preferred to look at Rizzo’s struggles as a “detour” more than a “setback.” Call it what you want, but it’s not inspiring a lot more confidence in the Wrigley faithful about their “core” first baseman than they have in their “core” shortstop.

“Most of these guys, when it happens, you don’t know,” Sveum said. “Even Castro, they’re all
going to look back and want to throw one year out of their career. Unfortunately, it’ll probably be this one.

“You don’t want any more of them. But that’s the nature of the business. Unfortunately, it’s a very humbling game.”

Schier production

Nate Schierholtz might be the top value signing of last offseason, considering the outfielder’s power, run production and .850-plus OPS all season.

Making $2.25 million on a one-year deal, Schierholtz is under club control for one more season as an arbitration-eligible player. And the Cubs might have an interesting decision to make in the winter about whether to try to sell high and trade him or possibly give him even more at-bats next season, depending on what the rest of their outfield landscape looks like.

“He’s been our most consistent hitter,” said Sveum, who has platooned Schierholtz against right-handers all season despite decent career numbers against left-handers (.274).

Sveum said he could see using Schierholtz as an every-day player.

“Obviously, we had [right-handed] Scott Hairston in the beginning [of the season], and then you just lost all those at-bats and experience off lefties, and then it gets even tougher to face them,” he said. “He’ll give you an at-bat anyway. … I think he probably could if you didn’t have any platoon situations.”

Notes

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney (rib) plans to make the upcoming trip with the Cubs to the West Coast, then travel to Arizona for a few games at the team’s complex before being activated from the disabled list when rosters expand Sept. 1.

Chris Rusin didn’t get much to show for it, but the left-hander turned in another strong performance Tuesday against the Nationals. He missed a quality start by one out, going 52/3 innings and allowing two runs despite 10 hits.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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