Cubs have a focused, slimmed down Anthony Rizzo leading the charge

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

After dropping more than 25 pounds, Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo is ready to go.

Many of us found ourselves in the same situation as Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo this spring, as large swatches of the country went into quarantine due to the coronavirus. We could try to make the best of the situation and focus on ourselves – or we could eat and drink our way through the lockdown.

Thankfully for Rizzo and the team, he chose the former option, dropping 25 pounds in a dramatic transformation along with Cubs coach and former big leaguer Mike Napoli. This week, Rizzo arrived to Summer Camp along with his teammates – looking better than at any point in his big league career.

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"“I looked myself in the mirror when I got home,” Rizzo told, “and I go, ‘I’m either going to gain 50 pounds or I’m going to get back into amazing shape.'”"

That he did. Now, just weeks from Opening Day, the 30-year-old slugger looks rested, rejuvenated and ready to help the Cubs return to the winning ways we’ve all grown accustomed to in recent years.

It looks like we’ll see Rizzo hitting in the two spot behind teammate Kris Bryant more often than not this season. On paper, at least, that duo could give Chicago the best one-two punch we’ve seen in some time.

Dexter Fowler was the answer to the team’s leadoff woes in 2015 and 2016. But since he left to join the rival Cardinals, the lineup has just been missing something. First-year skipper David Ross has the right idea, though – find regular roles, pencil guys in and move forward.

The mix-and-match approach we saw from Joe Maddon grew stale, especially last year as he seemed desperate at times to fix what was a fundamentally flawed roster. Ross seems far more willing to stick with a traditional mindset with his lineup card – which could help guys be more comfortable this season.

Rizzo is just a year-and-a-half from free agency. No one knows if he’ll spend the rest of his career on the North Side. But he’s shown time and time again that he’ll do what it takes to help the Cubs succeed – his working out six days a week to get ready for the season is just the latest example.

Even with COVID-19 hanging over the season, Rizzo isn’t worried about his health as baseball ramps up in the weeks ahead.

"“I get a regular check-up once a year from my oncologist,” Rizzo said. “I get a regular check-up once a year from the Cubs. And I’m technically cured, thankfully, and it’s so far behind me now. I still think of it, but as far as my body, the immune system and everything is up to par, if not stronger, than when I was 18.”"

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Don’t be shocked if the three-time All-Star turns in one of the best performances of his career this summer. A healthier, focused Rizzo can empty the tank in a 60-game sprint – and hopefully help Chicago return to the postseason for one more run with this core.