Rizzo knows the pitfalls of high expectations
MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo knows all about the great expectations people place on young players. He went through that when he was first called up to the Padres in 2011.
Now, the Cubs' top prospects -- Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and others -- are dealing with the hype. Rizzo will try to ease some of the pressure.
"[The media] is going to crown them the next Babe Ruth," Rizzo said Tuesday. "People did for me, and it's part of the game, and they're going to have to deal with that so-called pressure of coming up. They're going to have fun, and we'll make sure we have fun."
Did all the attention affect the Cubs' first baseman?
"I put my own expectations for what I do on myself," Rizzo said. "What other people say doesn't affect me."
The Cubs have been adamant that Baez, MLB.com's No. 7 prospect, will open the 2014 season at Triple-A Iowa. Fans are giddy at seeing the young potential impact players now.
"You say you don't want to rush them too fast and make sure they can get the right amount of at-bats, but they've shown they can handle every level," Rizzo said. "The biggest learning process is up here [in the Major Leagues] -- that's where you learn the most. Adding that third deck of the stadium is huge. You can't prepare for that."
Rizzo's transition wasn't smooth. He was promoted to the Padres in June 2011, and batted .143 in his first 35 games before getting sent back to Triple-A. Called up again in September that year, he hit .133 in 14 games.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria was on the Padres' coaching staff at that time and made a point of talking to Rizzo when he was sent down.
"I wanted to make sure he understood at that particular time it wasn't indicative of what he would ultimately be as a Major Leaguer," Renteria said. "That being said, you have to continue to work extremely hard at your craft ,and everybody obviously believes in the ability he had and this was just a little blip. Just keep your head up and keep grinding and keep playing."
That's the advice Renteria will give to the prospects as well.