ATLANTA -- The faith manager Dale Sveum placed in Anthony Rizzo is paying off quickly.
When Rizzo was called up to the Cubs last week, general manager Jed Hoyer suggested that Rizzo could wind up moving around in the lineup until he settles into a spot. It’s not that Hoyer didn’t think that Rizzo wasn’t worthy of the No. 3 spot he just reasoned that there would probably be an adjustment period at the outset.
Sveum had a different idea, though, saying from the start that he was going to see what he had in Rizzo by batting him third from the first day.
All Rizzo did was collect the eventual game-winning RBIs in three of his first five games, the first time a Cubs player had ever done that. And that was before he hit a home run Monday, his second of the season.
“Obviously nothing has gone wrong yet,” Sveum said. “We’ve won a lot of games since he’s been here and he’s done everything you’re supposed to do in the three hole. Like I said when we made the decision, we could have done a lot of things, but you only hit third once in a lineup.”
In other words, rarely does the No. 3 hitter hit third in an inning after the first.
With Rizzo, it doesn’t seem to matter. He has a solid plate approach and is starting to turn some heads, including that of Atlanta Braves hitting coach Greg Walker, who admitted that he was impressed with what he saw from Rizzo after one night.
Sveum got an entire spring of Rizzo and while it took some time for him to be called up, the new manager was confident with what he had in his young slugger.
“I think you have to obviously have the talent to hit third, fourth and fifth, but there is a mental edge you have to have to hit in those spots too,” Sveum said. “Those spots are RBI spots. It’s not that you’re a good hitter, it’s that you can smell and taste RBIs and you find a way to get them in.”
There are plenty of reasons the Cubs entered play Tuesday having won six of their last seven games, from starting pitching to a revitalized Carlos Marmol to the production at the bottom of the order from Luis Valbuena. But Rizzo’s contributions have been front and center.
“You don’t want to put everything on somebody’s shoulders but I don’t believe in coincidences either,” Sveum said. “We lost a lot of one-run games because we didn’t put anything on the board: 3-2, 2-1, 1-0 whatever it was.
“There are times when certain people change the dynamics of a lineup and a team. Not only that, but his defense is going to be top-notch. It’s already top-notch. When you have a two-way player it’s huge in a lineup. You can already tell defensively what he’s saved and offensively what he’s done. There’s nothing like having a two-way player.”