White Sox

The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs

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The decision: Rizzo talks about to heat up for Cubs

On some level, the Cubs think Anthony Rizzo can become their Paul Konerko, a thoughtful leader and a stabilizing force in the clubhouse.

Thats not to diminish the White Sox captain, who should one day get a statue outside U.S. Cellular Field. But with Rizzo, team officials feel like they will have first base covered for years to come, and a power bat they can build their lineup around.

Rizzo who keeps putting up monster numbers at Triple-A Iowa could bring a jolt right now. The Cubs woke up on Sunday ranked 12th in the National League in runs scored (149) and home runs (29), and 11th in slugging percentage (.379).

Manager Dale Sveum will bring up the issue with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Thats definitely going to be talked about, Sveum told reporters before Sundays game against the White Sox at Wrigley Field. Hes done everything he can down there. But once again, when you bring somebody up like that, hes got to play every day. Thats the million-dollar question: How do we get that playing time?

But its definitely something were going to talk about, probably around the beginning of June, interleague play, when we need the DH and those kind of things, too.

Cubs fans are obsessed with Rizzo, 22, whos been described as mature beyond his years after overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma as a prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization. Hes hitting .353 with 14 homers and 39 RBI through 40 games at Iowa.

Rizzo should become a major part of this crosstown rivalry. Its not unreasonable to think the top prospect could be there when the Cubs head to the South Side (June 18-20).

The Cubs will also need a designated hitter when they visit Target Field to face the Minnesota Twins (June 8-10) in interleague play.

Sveum said the Cubs arent going to move Rizzo, a very smooth left-handed first baseman, to another position.

This is a good problem to have: Bryan LaHair has run with this opportunity at first base and should be in the All-Star conversation this summer.

This is not: Alfonso Sorianos 136 million contract still runs through the end of the 2014 season. Epsteins front office will eventually have to decide when that truly is a sunk cost and move in another direction.

Rizzo and LaHair have talked about how they could do damage with their two left-handed bats in the middle of the Cubs lineup. LaHair has played the outfield before and doesnt think it would take long to get comfortable there again.

Hoyer brought Rizzo to the San Diego Padres in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and then re-acquired him in the Andrew Cashner trade last winter.

Hoyer has admitted that it was a mistake to rush Rizzo to the big leagues last season. Rizzo hit .141 and struck out 46 times in 128 at-bats. That experience seems to have colored the front offices thinking.

Near the beginning of spring training, Sveum said: Right now its a concrete plan to let Rizzo have another season in Triple-A, and let him be comfortable instead of moving him up and down.

That vote of confidence for LaHair left plenty of room for reinterpretation. When that comment was relayed to Rizzo minutes after he was told he was cut from big-league camp he showed some fire.

If thats concrete, I want to know who laid that down, Rizzo said. Nothings concrete in this business. Last year I was the future first baseman for the Padres and now Im the future first baseman for the Cubs. I cant control (it). If I go down and hit 1.000 with 40 home runs, who knows whats going to happen?

Im going to go down and just work hard and prepare myself for the next step.

Between this season and last, Rizzo entered Sunday with 40 homers and 140 RBI in 133 games at the Triple-A level. The cracks in the concrete are beginning to show.

Nick Madrigal won a minor league Gold Glove, backing up the defensive hype

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LAURA WOLFF/CHARLOTTE KNIGHTS

Nick Madrigal won a minor league Gold Glove, backing up the defensive hype

Whatever questions you might have about how Nick Madrigal will fare at the major league level, he's proving that the hype surrounding certain parts of his game was entirely warranted.

After striking out just 16 times all season, showing off his trademark outrageous contact skills, Madrigal's defense got some attention Monday, when he was awarded a minor league glove for his work at second base.

The White Sox wasted no time hyping Madrigal's defensive skills after drafting him, with then amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler talking on draft night about Madrigal as a Gold Glove caliber infielder.

Well, a year and a half later, Madrigal's got the Gold Glove to back it up.

As for the particulars, Madrigal had a .992 fielding percentage in his 108 games at three different minor league levels. He made just four errors on the season and was a part of 95 double-play turns.

Coincidentally, the White Sox might end up with Gold Glove second basemen at both the minor and major league level, if Yolmer Sanchez and his fantastic defensive season should receive the same honor Madrigal just did.

Madrigal's nearing ascent to the major league level could end up being part of the reason Sanchez, who's projected to receive a 2020 salary north of $6 million through the arbitration process, might be non-tendered by the team.

We'll see how that all plays out, but Madrigal is expected to be the White Sox starting second baseman for much of the 2020 season, general manager Rick Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. White Sox fans might have to wait a little longer than they do for Luis Robert, the top-ranked prospect in the organization expected to make his big league debut before the end of April, but Madrigal, who the team took with the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, shouldn't be too far behind.

And when he gets here, not only can fans expect the offensive skills that produced a .311 batting average and a .377 on-base percentage this season, but also the defensive skills that just won him a Gold Glove.

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Under Center Podcast: A big news day at Halas Hall

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: A big news day at Halas Hall

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis look at the difficult decision and impact of Kyle Long going on IR (1:48), and how Bilal Nichols' return to practice could help alleviate the difficulty of replacing Akiem Hicks for a while (8:25). Plus, Mitch Trubisky returned to practice on Monday (13:10) and the guys look at how Matt Nagy talked about how he spent his off week (17:55).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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