WELL, HELLO THERE, SLIM

RIZZO’S SUPREME CON­DI­TION AS CAMP OPENS COULD BE A SIGN OF HEAVY LIFT­ING TO COME

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS BEAT - BY STEVE GREEN­BERG sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @slgreen­berg

There’s no non-fawn­ing way to say it: An­thony Rizzo looks spec­tac­u­lar. Much like the im­pres­sion Kyle Sch­war­ber made when he re­shaped his physique a cou­ple of years back, Rizzo, 30, made eye­balls pop Fri­day on the first day of the Cubs’ “sum­mer camp” work­outs at Wrigley Field.

Good­bye, 240s. Hello, 220s. And maybe even less than that.

Along with Cubs qual­ity as­sur­ance coach Mike Napoli, Rizzo trained six times a week in Florida with per­for­mance coach Tom Flynn for much of base­ball’s coron­avirus shut­down. He got faster. He got more flex­i­ble. By the looks of it, he took a bunch of miles off the ol’ en­gine.

“I looked my­self in the mir­ror when I got home [from spring train­ing in March] and said, ‘I’m ei­ther go­ing to gain 50 pounds or I’m go­ing to get back into amaz­ing shape,’ ” Rizzo said. “I was in re­ally good shape com­ing into the spring . . . .

“I think it has paid off. I feel re­ally good for this year and for this sprint.”

The “sprint” is a 60-game reg­u­lar sea­son that gives the Cubs and ev­ery other team, Rizzo fig­ures, a shot at win­ning in 2020. All eyes will be on su­per­stars Kris Bryant and Javy Baez, who may or may not be in the Cubs’ long-range plans, but Rizzo has been known to carry the load be­fore. He sure looks like he could do it as read­ily as any­one in Au­gust and Septem­ber.

“Rizzo does look phe­nom­e­nal,” team­mate Ian Happ said. “He looks great in all cloth­ing. We’re locker [neigh­bors], so I was watch­ing him try on smaller clothes to­day be­cause ev­ery­thing he had was a lit­tle large. So, very nice to see him down­siz­ing. He looks ab­so­lutely won­der­ful.”

And an­other sweet morsel from Happ about the first base­man’s home run power.

“I think his pop right now — I don’t want to over­sell it — but his pop right now, he’s strong,” Happ said. “Very strong.”

Rizzo hit 27 home runs last year and 25 the year be­fore that af­ter top­ping 30 four sea­sons in a row. He won’t hit 30 in 60 games. He al­most cer­tainly won’t hit 20. He’d set­tle for mak­ing hard con­tact from start to fin­ish. Then again, who wouldn’t?

Be­fore Fri­day’s prac­tice, Cubs play­ers sat in the stands down the first-base line and had a meet­ing. Rizzo was more than happy to be back and was “blown away” by the view — a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of the ball­park he has called home for nearly his en­tire ca­reer.

“I’m go­ing to ap­ply for sea­son tick­ets there ASAP,” he said. “That view of Wrigley Field, I’ve never seen the view from that an­gle be­fore.”

It was far prefer­able to the view he had of nasty ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the play­ers’ union and the league as the sides tried for weeks to agree on a restart deal. Rizzo called it “flat-out em­bar­rass­ing for me” that he learned new in­for­ma­tion about the ne­go­ti­a­tions on Twitter.

“There were a lot of leaks on the MLB side, and it seemed like there were leaks when­ever [play­ers] sent in a pro­posal, to a point where it kind of turned into a joke with the media bat­tle,” he said. “I just think that when we’re go­ing through a pan­demic and you have the bil­lion­aires fight­ing with the mil­lion­aires, it’s not a good look.

“But when it’s all said and done, and base­ball’s on the field and we play with our emo­tion like we know how to do, that’s how we’re go­ing to cap­ture a new fan base through this tough time.”

Rizzo doesn’t just feel the part. He looks it. It could make a real dif­fer­ence. ✶

GETTY IMAGES

An­thony Rizzo looked at least 20 pounds lighter as the Cubs kicked off work­outs at Wrigley Field.

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