BOSTON -- Anthony Rizzo's dream had been to play in Fenway Park, from the time he was drafted on the sixth round of the 2007 draft by the Red Sox.
Less than two months before his 22nd birthday, he has already arrived, surviving a battle with cancer along the way and another unexpected detour last winter, when he was traded to the San Diego Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. Rizzo was in the starting lineup for the Padres in the first game of a three-game series Monday night, playing first base and batting eighth.
He said he doesn't spend much time contemplating how his life would look without the trade.
“No, I haven’t really thought about that,” Rizzo said Monday afternoon. “If things didn’t change over the winter, I don’t know where I’d be. This is a great opportunity with the Padres, so it’s awesome.”
Not that he doesn’t miss being with Boston. Rizzo went through a lot with the organization, especially after the diagnosis of Hodgkin's lymphoma, which was treated with chemotherapy every other week for a period of five months. The Sox played a vital role in his recovery, Rizzo said.
Rizzo was “shocked,” he said, to learn he had been traded last fall.
"I think it was a win-win for everybody,'' manager Terry Francona said. "To get Gonzie, we had to give up some special people, and he certainly is, and has the chance to be, not just as a player but as a person.
“He’s a wonderful kid. That being said, I hope he goes 0-for-10.”
Gonzalez, whose massive shoes Rizzo is attempting to fill in San Diego, also praised the young first baseman. Gonzalez met the 21-year-old while rehabbing from shoulder surgery in San Diego over the offseason.
“He’s a great player, going to have a great future in the game,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve heard everything about his character, battling cancer. I was really impressed when I got to meet him and talk to him a little bit and everybody in San Diego is saying the same thing.”
Rizzo was supposed to have spent this season in the minors, but he hit .365 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs in just 52 games for Triple-A Tucson, and GM Jed Hoyer, a Theo Epstein protege, made the decision to call him up. He tripled off Washington's Livan Hernandez in his major-league debut on June 9, doubled in his next game, and homered in his third.
Since then, however, Rizzo has struggled, collecting only one hit in his last 20 at-bats, and was batting .148 entering play Monday night. The left-handed-hitting Rizzo, whose former minor-league manager, John Boles, said Rizzo reminded him of a young version of Gonzalez, went 1-for-4 Monday, the hit a booming double to center that knocked left-hander Andrew Miller out of the game.
“It’s awesome,” Rizzo said. “I’m amped up every at-bat [being in] big league parks, so it’s a lot of fun.”