It’s only been 24 hours since pitchers and catchers officially reported to spring training, and Anthony Rizzo is already worried about making a bad first impression on his new manager.
“I told him I wanted to be like Travis Wood when he was here with [Jon] Lester,” Rizzo said from his locker at Sloan Park. “Like, I’m never going to leave your side. He was in his office and he walked down and I just, like, followed him for a little. I told him if I annoy him, let me know.”
Rizzo and “Rossy’s” relationship was well documented back when Ross played in Chicago for the final two years of his career. The two have stayed close ever since, which comes in handy as the team looks to move past the wildly-successful Joe Maddon era. Skepticism around the Ross hire will continue to exist until the Cubs start winning, but Rizzo, at least, is confident that they found the right guy.
“It’s good – it’s exciting. I hear him talk, hear how passionate he is,” he said. “He’s just talking about all the meetings they’ve had – they’ve had a lot of meetings – and how fired up he gets. It’s good to see, it’s great to just be a part of that.
“The energy he brings into a room uplifts it right away. Without him even saying hello. He’s so good at getting the best out of you. It’s in a good way, it’s the right way, and it’s fun.”
Not all of the new coaches share such a … familiar … relationship with the Cubs’ first baseman. First base coach Craig Driver and bench coach Andy Green are new to the organization, and these early days of spring training are crucial for getting to know some of the less-publicized hires. The Cubs are insistent that these behind-the-scenes changes are what’s going to bring the team back into relevance, which gives an added weight to getting off on the right foot.
“I talked to some friends around the league who’ve changed organizations, who have been through a couple managers,” he said. “Just that new bench coach, couple new coaches – you just want to sort of establish yourself with them. They hear a lot about the Cubs, and the brand, and everything we’ve done, and we want to show them why.”
Interestingly enough, when it comes to the on-field stuff, Rizzo took a slightly different tone than some of the other players who’ve chatted with the media over the last few days. His ankle is fine – he doesn't expect any restrictions – and the way he spent the last week of the season watching from the dugout left a bad taste in his mouth. Reporters have tripped over themselves trying to get players to talk about how big those Chips on their Shoulders are, but Rizzo wouldn’t bite.
“Chip on our shoulder? I mean, I don’t see why we even deserve a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t make the playoffs this year. We’ve got to go out and earn it. I think it’s on us to be the best team this year.”