Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo nearing return to lineup


After taking cuts in the batting cage and fielding ground balls in recent days, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo could soon be set to return to the club’s lineup as the season’s final half-month rolls on.

More from Chicago Cubs News

According to the Chicago Tribune, Rizzo himself was hoping for a weekend return against the Pirates, but manager Ricky Renteria was more cautious about his slugging first baseman returning that quickly.

"“We all have to be mindful for the long-term benefits of having him as a position player for us,” Renteria said. “We’re going to take it slow and easy and make sure if he does happen to get back, he’s good to go.”"

 Rizzo, 25, hit a career-high 30 home runs this season in just 129 games for the Cubs, and he also leads the club with 71 RBIs. After struggling to a .233/.323/.419 line in 2013 – a major step backwards after a promising 2012 debut with Chicago – he has rebounded nicely to bat .278/.375/.514. Perhaps the most noticeable change in Rizzo’s approach at the dish is his work against left-handers.

Last year against southpaws, the young slugger was confounded, batting just .189/.282/.342 in 216 plate appearances. Then-manager Dale Sveum often held Rizzo out of the lineup against left-handers due to his struggles. Despite having over 250 fewer plate appearances against lefties than right-handers, Rizzo struck out at an alarming rate of 20.4 percent when facing southpaws – (as opposed to 17.5 percent against right-handers). Rizzo also struggled on the road last season, hitting just .215 in 80 games, although ten of his 23 home runs did come outside of Wrigley Field.

This season has been a very different story for the Cubs’ franchise cornerstone, who is under contract through the 2020 campaign, as he has actually been better against left-handed pitching than right-handers. He’s batting .303/.411/.515 against southpaws in 87 games, while still posting a respectable .268/.361/.414 mark against righties. His power, however has been primarily found against right-handers, as 22 of his 30 long-balls have come in that fashion. This can be largely attributed to the fact that he has shortened his swing and focused on using all fields to make contact and get on base.

After light work this week, Rizzo appears close to returning to the lineup – at least if he has his way. But one thing is for sure – even if he doesn’t make it back on the field for the Cubs in 2014, he’s made tremendous progress at the plate this season.

"“It feels good,” Rizzo said. “It’s the first time I’m pushing it since I was shut down. We’ll see how it responds.”"