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Rizzo wins third Gold Glove Award

@MLBastian
November 3, 2019

CHICAGO -- After making a highlight-reel grab, the Cubs' infielders know they just have to get the baseball into the vicinity of first base most of the time. Anthony Rizzo will take care of the rest. Rizzo's skills as a defender paid off again on Sunday night, when he was

CHICAGO -- After making a highlight-reel grab, the Cubs' infielders know they just have to get the baseball into the vicinity of first base most of the time. Anthony Rizzo will take care of the rest.

Rizzo's skills as a defender paid off again on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award for first base in the National League. It marked the third Gold Glove of Rizzo's career and his second in a row.

"They mean a lot, they really do," Rizzo said during the Gold Glove Awards show on ESPN2. "Especially to my mom and dad. My dad, especially. He is the biggest critic of my defense. The hitting comes and goes, but defense is pretty much the one thing that you can control every single day. And if I ever make an error ... he's mad, and he'll talk to me about it."

2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners

Rizzo said his childhood home would sometimes have holes in the living room wall -- the result of indoor defensive work gone wrong. John Rizzo would chip golf balls to his boy, and young Anthony would try his best to corral them.

"That's exactly why I had to get better," Rizzo said with a laugh on Sunday, "to make sure we didn't get yelled at for hitting balls in the house."

These days, Rizzo knows an error will lead to some tough words from his dad, and the yelling will be coming from the fans in the Wrigley Field stands. Fortunately for the first baseman, he has avoided some of that by developing into one of the Major League's elite defenders at his position.

Last season, Rizzo collected three Defensive Runs Saved at first in 146 games, posting a .996 fielding percentage that was tied for first among qualified NL first basemen. His 2.9 Ultimate Zone Rating/150 led the NL, and Rizzo ranked second with 123 assists.

In September, when Rizzo was sidelined for a handful of games with a right ankle injury, former manager Joe Maddon said the impact of losing the first baseman was not only felt for the lineup. With Rizzo on the field, the Cubs could employ certain defensive strategies due to his abilities at the position.

"He's known for his hitting, and people recognize his defense," Maddon said in September. "He fields his position so well. He throws really well as a first baseman also. He's a fearless thrower. So we can do things on defense with him that we can't do with somebody else out there. There's different little nuanced things that we do that are a little more difficult when he's not playing first."

Rizzo, who also took home NL Gold Gloves at first in 2016 and '18, said he takes the most pride in bailing out the other players around the infield for the Cubs.

"[When] they make a really nice diving play," Rizzo said, "and they get up and throw the ball into the dirt, or high or wide, and I make that play for them, that's by far ... what I pride myself on. Because those guys are busting their tail, making nice plays and it's on me to make sure they have the confidence to throw the ball across the diamond, knowing I'm going to catch the ball no matter what."

As one of the NL’s nine Gold Glove winners, Rizzo is now eligible for the Platinum Glove Award, which is given to the best defensive player from each league. Voting for the award, which was established in 2011, is open at Rawlings.com and will continue until 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday. The two league winners will be announced on Friday.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.