Rizzo wants consistency in 2nd full season

MESA, Ariz. -- He's heard all the criticism about his batting average, but Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo isn't conceding to a bad season in 2013. After all, he hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs while taking 76 walks. Plus, he was a Gold Glove finalist.

But there is one statistic related to his .233 average he'd like to change. He hit just .191 with runners in scoring position. He knows his RBI total skyrockets if that number was even just a little higher.

"Especially for someone like me," he said Thursday morning before spring workouts. "It was crazy last year. It was what it was."

When Rizzo says "especially for me" he means a middle-of-the order hitter who is being counted on to drive in runs. So will he sacrifice hitting the ball out of the park for a higher average?

"You can hit for a high average and high power too, it's just about staying consistent with your swing and letting it take care of itself," Rizzo said. "You can't dictate where the ball is going to go, you can only put a good swing on it."

There's a comfort factor for Rizzo now which he believes will help his game. After beating cancer and being traded twice before he turned 23, he's feeling like the best is yet to come for him and the Cubs.

"It's nice being in the same clubhouse for the third year in a row," he said. "I bounced around for a couple of years. It's nice to know where I'll be on Opening Day. No World Baseball Classic. I'm with the team the entire spring."

That familiarity should bring Rizzo the one thing that's eluded him.

"The biggest thing in going to the next level is consistency," Rizzo said. "I want to be consistent everyday. On offense, on defense, coming to the field everyday. Just be consistent.

"You have to learn how to hit home runs. I say that at the lower levels. When you hit a home run at 18 or 19 all you want to do is hit another one. It's not about hitting home runs. It's about putting a good swing on the ball. The home runs are a product of putting a good swing on the ball. I have to say that to myself sometimes."

Rizzo hit eight home runs in April, setting the Cubs record for that month by a left-handed hitter, but he batted just .224. In May he hit .295, but only two balls left the park. It's that kind of inconsistency he's trying to fix.

Rizzo claims the only mechanical change from offseason work will be with his hands, saying he wants them to be "quieter" at the plate, as in less movement. And he's not the type of player to analyze and break down too many statistics. For example, he doesn't know why he hit .278 last season when he swung at the first pitch and only .208 if he took it. He's more of "see the ball, hit the ball" type of guy. Plus, he doesn't consider 2013 all that bad.

"People will say this and that but you look at a lot of other people's years and I'm right up there with a lot of people," he said. "I took a lot of positives out of it."

Rizzo isn't comfortable talking about himself, good or bad. He'd rather discuss winning and losing, but it's been awhile since he's been on a winning team. That's his goal since nothing is worse than coming to the ballpark to play a game with no meaning in the standings.

"[New manager] Rick [Renteria] is preaching that feeling right now," Rizzo said. "From Game 1 to 162. Watching Derek Jeter [Wednesday], his biggest memory is winning. That's what every great player says and that's what we'll be preaching in this clubhouse."