Anthony Rizzo flopped in a 49-game debut with the Padres last year, but he’s now crushing Triple-A pitching for the second straight season and the Cubs are starting to think about calling him up.
Rizzo, whom the Cubs acquired from the Padres for Andrew Cashner in January, is hitting .346 with 14 homers and a 1.106 OPS in 41 games at Triple-A after hitting .331 with 26 homers and a 1.056 OPS in 93 games at Triple-A last season.
In other words, there isn’t much left for the 22-year-old to prove in the minors at this point.
One issue is that Rizzo is a first baseman and Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair has been one of the league’s best hitters so far. LaHair also has some experience in left field and told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago that he’d be fine switching positions to make room in the lineup, although the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his giant contract there right now.
According to Levine no one has approached LaHair about a position switch yet and he hasn’t been getting any work in the outfield, which suggests a move isn’t imminent. It would seemingly make sense to promote Rizzo for the interleague series in Minnesota that begins on June 8, as that would allow the Cubs to use the designated hitter before deciding whether they want to shift LaHair to the outfield full time.
Meanwhile, manager Dave Sveum admitted that calling up Rizzo “is definitely going to be talked about” because “he’s done everything he can down there.”
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.