WELL, HELLO THERE, SLIM
RIZZO’S SUPREME CONDITION AS CAMP OPENS COULD BE A SIGN OF HEAVY LIFTING TO COME
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. ✶
Anthony Rizzo looked at least 20 pounds lighter as the Cubs kicked off workouts at Wrigley Field.