Preps Talk

Why did Rizzo struggle in San Diego?


Why did Rizzo struggle in San Diego?

Anthony Rizzos success in the major leagues with the San Diego Padres in 2011 was short-lived.

The Cubs prospect -- who is expected to make his Chicago debut on Tuesday night -- joined the Padres last June 9 to much fanfare and got out to a fantastic start as he had three hits in seven at-bats in his first series against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park.

But from there Rizzo -- who was traded to the Cubs in a four-player deal in January -- endured struggles he later admitted were more difficult than he had previously experienced in a six-year professional career.

Whether it was Petco Park, which plays extremely tough on left-handed pull hitters like Rizzo, or a swing that got long, the first baseman never got back on track.

After he hit .365 with 16 homers in his first 52 games at Triple-A Tucson in 2011, Rizzo saw his strikeout rate increase and average dip in the majors. He struck out 46 times in 128 at-bats for the Padres and he hit .141.

Even so, Rizzo told the North County Times last September that while his confidence might have wavered, it hadnt disappeared. Rizzo, a sixth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 draft, said he believed the slump would make him mentally stronger for his next chance in the majors.

Ive never struggled like that, Rizzo said. I handled it the best I could. I mean theres times where I was on the verge of snapping or blowing up, but its baseball and Im not as bad as Ive showed. And I know that. I got my feet wet. I gave me good confidence up here. I belong here.

The telltale sign for Cubs general manager Jed Hoye -- then with the Padres -- was how Rizzo constantly missed pitches he had crushed at Tucson. Rizzo struggled with fastballs and ended up with only one home run for the Padres.

The Padres acquired Yonder Alonso from the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason and chose him over Rizzo because they felt Alonsos line-drive approach was better suited for Petco Park than Rizzo, who is more of a flyball hitter.

Rizzo thought the mechanics of his swing were part of the problem.

Once his swing got long, Rizzo admits his head was his own worst enemy.

I didnt see that coming at all, Rizzo said. But it happened. The big thing is instead of worrying about getting hits, youve got to see the ball and hit the ball. When I was here earlier I was so worried about, Ive got to get a hit that I forgot to see the ball. I was just trying too hard. You try harder in this game youre going to get crushed.

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. 

Week 9 is “Bubble Week” for many teams fighting to stay on the right side of the postseason bubble. Who moves on? Whose bubble will burst? Will Wauconda advance to the playoffs after finishing 2-7 last year? Or will Grant end their season on a winning note? Schaumburg and Fremd both stand at 4-4. The winner goes to the postseason. The winner stays home for November. Zion-Benton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. A win over Libertyville gets them there. But for the Wildcats, this ‘is’ their playoff game. Who wins in the North Suburban conference? We’ll send our cameras to one of the following:

Grant at Wauconda, 7:15 p.m.

Schaumburg at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

Libertyville at Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked


White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.