Anthony Rizzo takes his job seriously

Anthony Rizzo helped Team Italy advance farther than expected in the WBC. Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports

MESA, Ariz. -- Signing autographs for 20 minutes before the game on Saturday? Just part of the responsibility of being a young Chicago Cubs leader, according to Anthony Rizzo.

“Putting on this jersey with the nationwide fanfare we have is a big responsibility no matter who you are,” Rizzo said. “I am aware I represent the Ricketts family, our front office and the terrific fan base every time I am out in public.”

Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija are the faces of the future for the rebuilding Cubs. The 24-year-old first baseman is entering his first full year in the major leagues with expectations of stardom.

“I believe that everything you work at and want in life is a great challenge,” he said. “I will respect the limits of my experience but that won’t stop me from trying to lead by example of my work. Being a good teammate and picking them up on and off the field is a simple goal of mine.”

The expectations for Rizzo are based on a sample size -- the 87 games he played for the Cubs after a June call-up last season. Rizzo helped ignite a listless offense on a team that was buried in the standings from the beginning of the year. He collected 15 home runs and 48 RBIs in 257 at-bats after lighting up the Pacific Coast League in the first two months of the season.

Rizzo added to his resume this spring by playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

“I don’t believe a player is ever a finished product. Every day there is something new you are working on. It is a challenge every day and that is what makes this game so great.”

Rizzo was an abject bust in his first experience as a big leaguer in San Diego . He struck out 46 times in 128 at bats, hitting .141. The Cubs lowered his hands and helped him learn to use the opposite field in early 2012.

“I hate losing or failing at anything, so you let your competitive instincts take over and use your baseball intellect to try and get better,” Rizzo said.