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Slumping Rizzo gets his first day off

ST. LOUIS -- After watching Anthony Rizzo go 0-for-4 Monday night, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum decided Tuesday would be a good time to give the first baseman his first day off this season.

“It’s just time to let him kick back and get a breather,” Sveum said before Tuesday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rizzo has not been very productive lately for the Cubs. He suffered his third hitless game in a row in the series opener against the Cardinals, extending his current slump to 0-for-10 following a three-hit game last Friday in New York.

He is hitting just .214 on the current road trip and in the first 15 games in June he hit just .157 with only two extra-base hits (both doubles) and three RBIs, which all came in the same game on June 5. He last homered on May 18.

Rizzo got the news after Monday night’s game.

“It’s nice to get a breather,” he said. “It will be good. Last year I had a couple of days off and came back. I’ve had good times and bad times, and this is just one of the down times for me, personally. It’s frustrating. The game is beating me up a little bit, so I think today is a good day to sit and enjoy the game.”

Rizzo, who is just eight days away from his anniversary of joining the Cubs on June 26 of last year, said he feels “close” to finding his swing but believes he has been guilty of trying to do too much lately.

“I’m going to continue to keep working and keep grinding,” he said. “I’m going to struggle, hopefully 30 more times in my career if I can play that long. I am going to get on hot streaks. Hopefully I will learn from these and minimize them and extend that even keel.”

His current slump has dropped Rizzo’s season average to .241.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform,” he said. “I’m a competitor, it doesn’t matter what I do I want to win. In baseball you fail most of the time so it’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game. I’ve been getting some pitches; I just haven’t been taking advantage of them.”

Cody Ransom started in Rizzo’s place at first base.

With Rizzo getting the day off, the only Cub to start in all 69 games this season is shortstop Starlin Castro. He is only 3-for-14 in his last three games and has only 11 hits in his last 73 at-bats, a .151 average.

Sveum said it is possible Castro also will get a day off in the near future.

“It’s one of those things you kind of think about and then not do,” Sveum said. “If it continues it might be one of those things where he needs to kick back and watch too.”

Sveum said he has not been surprised that both Rizzo and Castro have had recent offensive struggles.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “You go in knowing people are going to do this, but obviously you don’t want two of your core players doing it at the same time. Most hitters, besides the Hall of Famers, they sometimes have deep valleys. You know it’s going to happen. It’s a long season. The art of hitting is one of those things, where two, three, four-week slumps happen.”