Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo faces the Cubs for the first time since the trade

Minneapolis – Eleven years ago, the San Diego Padres prematurely introduced Anthony Rizzo to Major League Baseball. The newly acquired potential player in Triple A started whipping Padres fans into a frenzy and led the 21-year-old to get a quick promotion to the major leagues.

Rizzo Mania arrived at Petco Park on June 9, 2011.

Although he debuted with a three-and-a-half in four matches, Rizzo struggled to strike. Over the next six weeks and again in September, the New York Yankees footballer looked over-the-top.

But Rizzo’s response convinced the Cubs that he was a player they could build around and they traded him for that off-season. Rizzo struggled again at times in 2012 and 2013, but eventually his racket took off and the Cubs had their first block.

On Friday, Rizzo plays the Cubs for the first time since they traded him with the Yankees last July.

This week, the longtime number one base officer reflected on his MLB debut, those first few seasons and all the special moments in between, including the 2016 World Championship title.

“You’ll never be forgotten,” said Rizzo. “And the best part is when you look back at all the fun and special times, it’s that. The World Championship is the ultimate goal and the prize, but the stories that are within that World Series, when we look at that ring or cup, goes far beyond what we did. It’s the bond that we created. together.

“And that’s why every time you see the players you’ve played with, not even on the championship teams, because daily strife is hard in anything you do in life. It’s what makes you go through this every day. It’s the friendships and camaraderie that you build at the club that makes Everything too much – all the rewards are much better.”

Anthony Rizzo has been a fixture at Wrigley Field for the better part of a decade. (Associated Press/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Rizzo’s willingness to adapt after a grueling 2011 campaign was all the Cubs Chief of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer needed to believe the young hitter would improve. Then Padres’ general manager, Heuer, recalls how Rizzo dealt with failures in the major tournaments.

Rizzo was euphoric when he joined the Padres in June and ice cold afterward. Coming off the strong 2010 campaign in Double A, Rizzo turned the dial on Triple-A Tucson. Played in the Pacific Coast Friendlies, Rizzo hit 0.365/.444/.715 with 16 times in his first 232 games.

Meanwhile, the Baders were unable to strike.

Fans demanded a promotion for Rizzo, who was acquired along with promotion prospect Casey Kelly and two others in a December 2010 deal that shipped Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. With Gonzalez’s replacement, Brad Haupt, not striking, the fan base’s desire only intensified as Rizzo’s productions rose.

While Rizzo’s debut was a success, there was nothing else.

Rizzo had a 0.547 OPS and hit 36 ​​times in 98 at-bats between his debut and demotion on July 21. After a trip back to Tucson, the Rizzo had a .445 OPS and got out 10 times in 36 rides in September.

After the season ended, Padres sat down with Rizzo to talk about offensive tweaks.

“It was really unfair,” Hoyer said. “It felt like he had a 1100 OPS in Tucson – he was crazy. It was a good lesson. We didn’t think he was ready at that point. We raised him and he really struggled. Swinging him at that point long was kind of a bit daunting. We sat him down at the end of the year and said You’re going to struggle with speed until you shorten your swing. He went out and did it.”

Rizzo just did it for the Cubs instead.

Shortly after Cubs hired Theo Epstein in October 2011, Hoyer and Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod were given the go-ahead to join him in Chicago as Padres promoted Josh Byrnes to GM.

One of Burns’ first moves was to exchange bowler Matt Latos with Cincinnati for catcher Yasmane Grandall and first baseman Yonder Alonso in December. Knowing that the Padres had a sudden predicament on first base and that they might be able to buy low, Hoyer suggested to Cubs inquiring about Rizzo availability.

A month later, Rizzo was acquired by bowler Andrew Cashner, resulting in the production of Rizzo Mania 2.0.

The process of rebuilding the cubs was barely underway. Rizzo opened the season in Triple-A Iowa. Similar to Tucson the previous year, Rizzo tore off the cover for the ball, hitting .342/.405/.697 with 23 home runs in 284 games.

To say that Cubs fans were demanding a promotion to the first main man to the major leagues would be an understatement.

Although the Cubs waited two and a half weeks longer than Padres, Rizzo made his debut on June 26, 2012. He sorted, doubled, and led on a four-trip tour to the board.

Unlike his tenure in San Diego, this time Rizzo was more prepared. He lowered his strike rate from 30 percent in 2011 to 16.8 percent in 2012. He achieved an improved average and used his power. Rizzo finished the season hitting .285/ .342/ .463 with 15 homers in 368 runs for the Cubs.

However, he felt there was work to be done.

Rizzo earned 0.899 OPS against right bowlers but only 0.599 against left in 2012. The following season, Rizzo’s total OPS dropped 63 points from the previous year to .742 as he continued to adjust to the major league pitching for the club losing 96 games.

Rizzo isn’t sure he would have been given the chance to sort things out had he not played for a rebuilding club.

“I’m always grateful for that,” said Rizzo. “If you join a team like the Yankees and you are bearable and you are not hitting with your right or left hand a certain way, your leash will be a little shorter because there is a win. We do what it takes to win (now) to where I was on a team that lost 100 games where I was able to train and take my mind off. “.

The cubs continued to feel good about their little girls.

Hoyer, McLeod and Epstein have known Rizzo since they used a sixth-round pick to pick him out of high school in the 2007 draft. A year later, Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Through his recovery, the trio knew the character and makeup that Rizzo had and believed that he would find success on the field.

“He was willing to work at it and make changes,” Hoyer said. “That was probably one of Anthony’s greatest skills, is he willing to fix things. He never felt like he figured it out. He never felt like, ‘This is what I do and I’m going to do.’ … We were looking for the building blocks of a certain center player. We’ve known him since He was 17 and we felt it was a great place to start. This was our first step into the building to bring him in and it obviously couldn’t do better.”

Four years later, the Cubs reached their peak, winning their first World Championship title since 1908. They did so by orchestrating an epic comeback, recovering from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat Cleveland in seven games. Rizzo finished the series with 1,084 OPS. He also managed to win the final, taking a third throw to baseman Chris Bryant after rebounding Michael Martinez, and joined in a long-awaited championship celebration down the hill.

Although the Cubs reached the postseason three more times in the next four seasons, they did not make it past the National League Championship Series in 2017.

While Rizzo sought a long-term extension to end his career with Cubs, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement in early 2021. With Cubs out of the feud that summer, Rizzo traded alongside fellow builders Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in late July.

Unlike Báez and Bryant, who played for the Cubs last season, Friday will be Rizzo’s first meeting with his old team. He is in good standing with the Yankees, who re-signed him on a one-year deal with the club’s option in mid-March. Although the atmosphere in New York is much different than the one he experienced with the Cubs, Rizzo appreciates the contrast.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Yankees play an incredible type of baseball, starting at 41-16.

“We have an established group of stars,” Rizzo said. “Look around, the guys are the ones who have done a lot of special things in this game. I think the look we have here, when we look each other in the eyes and go out on the field, we know we’re going to do something special out there. It was a lot of fun. You make what you want out of the gold standard for the Yankees. This has been fun thanks to all the 26 players here. We make the environment. We create the environment every day. So no matter what happens out of doors on any team, you have to enjoy the ride.” .

Heuer looks forward to his reunion with his old friend in New York. He was planning to travel Friday morning and join the Cubs for a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. Even if their business relationship didn’t end the way Rizzo hoped, Hoyer is looking to continue a personal relationship with a player he has taught him so much over the years.

“I learned a lot of lessons from watching his suffering up close in San Diego and realizing what happens in the first 200 games that, in the end, that’s more a man can learn from him than he knows a player,” Hoyer said. “I’m excited about (the trip). We have a lot of history in common and we’ve been through a lot. We’ll always talk. We’ve been in three organizations together. I think he knows how much I have believed in him over the years. He’s clearly proven to me time and time again. I’m excited to see him.”

“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Obviously we talked about extensions last year and it didn’t pay off and we made the trade. But nothing is going to make me feel about him as a player or as a person.”

(Photo: Jessica Alsheh/USA Today)

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