Ex-Sox farmhand Rizzo lives up to hype in Cubs debut

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Ex-Sox farmhand Rizzo lives up to hype in Cubs debut

By Patrick MooneyCSN Chicago
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo still had shaving cream inside his left ear, and across the gold chain hanging around his neck and the blue collar of his Cubs T-shirt.

The former Red Sox farmhand -- traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal and subsequently dealt to the Cubs -- got the warning through his headset and heard Matt Garzas footsteps before the pie-in-the-face routine interrupted the postgame television interview by the dugout.

Inside the clubhouse late Tuesday night, the media pack surrounded Rizzo and spilled over into Ryan Dempsters locker. Dempster stood there in a towel and joked: If its going to be like this every day, Im going to have to switch lockers.

The Cubs expect the hype to fade at some point, but Rizzo lived up to it throughout a 5-3 win over the New York Mets in front of 34,064 fans at Wrigley Field.

The guys welcomed me with open arms, Rizzo said. I couldnt imagine a better start.

Making his debut in a Cubs uniform, Rizzo went 2-for-4 with an RBI double that showed some heads-up hustle. There was the groundball to first base that advanced two runners in the third inning, and the noise from the crowd when he blasted a ball to the warning track in right field in the seventh. His uniform was covered in dirt.

He didnt act like much of a kid, manager Dale Sveum said afterward. You cant teach the way he is at first base, the mannerisms (and) all that. Thats pretty impressive. You cant teach no panic.

On Monday afternoon, Rizzo got the word Cubs fans and the Chicago media were waiting on for weeks, if not months. After hitting .342 with 23 homers and 62 RBI in 70 games at Triple-A Iowa, he drove to Chicago, where there are great expectations.

Oh yeah, this is the best, Rizzo said. Pressure comes with every sport, and being in such a big market its even better. You have to perform and thats what its all about. But in order to perform, you have to prepare every day like it could be your last.

There will be no return trip to Des Moines. The executives in charge at Clark and Addison Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have known Rizzo since he was a high school kid in Florida and chose him in the sixth round of the 2007 draft with the Red Sox.

Im here to stay, Rizzo said. Im just going to work hard every day and learn, get better and go through the ups and downs of being a baseball player, the nicks and bruises. Thats about it.

That professional attitude and the perspective that comes from having beat Hodgkins lymphoma as a prospect in the Red Sox system has impressed the front office.

The 22-year-old Rizzo did exactly what was asked at Iowa lowering his hands, shortening his swing, developing a routine and improving his mental focus.

Hoyer regretted rushing Rizzo to the big leagues last season when he was the San Diego Padres general manager. But now that Hoyer has the same title with the Cubs, he feels like Rizzo is in a better place because of that experience (.141 average, one homer in 49 games).

Last year is going to be really good for him, Hoyer said. He struggled in the big leagues and had to get through that. He had to spend an offseason frustrated because he didnt do what he wanted to do.

Thats part of growing as a player and I think it probably gives him good perspective coming up here. It probably makes him a little bit hungrier as well, knowing he wants to prove some people wrong and get it right this time.

Maybe its because this is a 26-48 team, or because there are some solid veterans in the room, or because of the way Rizzo carries himself, or because the top prospect already made fast friends from their time together in Iowa, or some combination of all those factors. But there was no resentment you could sense in the clubhouse.

We were so happy today to see him in the lineup and see what he did, Alfonso Soriano said. I hope that he can do that more often.

Randy Wells could go only go three-plus innings, Scott Maine got his first career win and Carlos Marmol notched his 100th career save. But the big story once again was Rizzo. At least this time you could actually lay your eyes on him and not just the reports Sveum admitted he looked forward to getting in his e-mail inbox.

Rizzo gave Wrigley Field a thumbs-up review awesome and said it reminded him of the movie Rookie of the Year. He said he toned it down from the 20 or so guests he invited for his big-league debut last year with San Diego and this time just had close family in the stands.

Rizzo projected confidence and acted like he belonged. Around Chicago, he went almost unrecognized Monday night into Tuesday afternoon, except for the standard autograph seekers at the hotel.

All that is about to change, because Rizzo is now a billboard for The Cubs Way, and runaway expectations.

I was the savior last year in San Diego, too, Rizzo said. Hopefully, this is just a building block for whats to come here in this city and the organization. Thats all I can say about that. I think theres a lot of good things to come and maybe we can look back and this is one of the first steps.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'capable of more' vs. lefties

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'capable of more' vs. lefties

CHICAGO -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 4-1 loss to Chicago:

 

QUOTES:

"He's rarely in the middle of the plate. He pitches to the edge very effectively. He's got a number of different looks he can give you.'' - John Farrell on White Sox starter Jose Quintana.

"We have such a heavily righthand-hitting lineup, you would think that our guys would be able to handle the off-side pitching coming at them. . . We're capable of more.'' - Farrell on the Sox 0-3 record against lefty starters.

"He's done everything that we could have asked, to get deep into games and low run situations -- and not just this year. This goes back to when he was in the rotation last year.'' - Farrell on tough-luck loser Steven Wright.

"That's what I'm working for every time.'' - Carson Smith on his scoreless inning in his Red Sox debut.

"It is what it is. Keep working and try to be ready on whatever opportunities come. That's all I can say about that.'' - Chris Young, on the infrequency of lefty starters.

"A little frustrated with the walks. I gave them the second run with the walks. When I'm out there throwing 20 pitches an inning, it's hard to get into a rhythm.'' - Steven Wright.

 

NOTES

* The Red Sox have faced three lefty starters this season and are 0-3. They've managed two runs in 23 innings and hit just .108 (8-for-74) against them.

* When the opposition scores first, the Red Sox are 5-6 this season.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to nine games with a sixth-inning single.

* Dating back to last season, Steven Wright hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in his last nine starts.

* Hanley Ramirez's homer in the fifth was his first since April 6, covering 96 at-bats.

 

STARS

1) Jose Quintana

Chicago's starter was brilliant, allowing a single run in eight innings on just four hits without issuing a walk.

2) Jose Abreu

The White Sox first baseman drove in three of the four White Sox runs with a first-inning triple and a two-run double in the eighth.

3) Steven Wright

Once again, the knuckballer got almost no run support and was stuck with the loss despite allowing just two runs in six innings.