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Cubs move Rizzo to leadoff spot, and he homers

Maddon made move looking to spark his first baseman
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- Did Cubs manager Joe Maddon ask Anthony Rizzo if he wanted to lead off on Tuesday or tell the first baseman he was batting first?

"A little bit of both," Rizzo said. "He asked what I thought of it, and I said, 'Perfect.'"

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CHICAGO -- Did Cubs manager Joe Maddon ask Anthony Rizzo if he wanted to lead off on Tuesday or tell the first baseman he was batting first?

"A little bit of both," Rizzo said. "He asked what I thought of it, and I said, 'Perfect.'"

View Full Game Coverage

Maddon sent Rizzo a text Tuesday morning with the suggestion, the two talked, and for the first time this season, Rizzo is at the top of the order. It paid off immediately: The first baseman launched the first pitch from the Rockies' Jon Gray into the left-field bleachers for his second homer of the season, but that was all the Cubs' offense could muster in a 3-1 loss.

Video: COL@CHC: Rizzo leads off with an opposite-field smash

"I really thought we needed something like a 20-foot python, a magician or a break dancer in the clubhouse," Maddon said of his reasoning. "Instead, I chose to hit Rizzo leadoff. I thought it might pick the boys up a little bit."

The Cubs had won five in a row heading into Tuesday's game but Maddon wanted to try to get Rizzo on track plus give Albert Almora Jr. and Javier Baez, who have been batting one-two in all but one of the last 11 games, a breather. Rizzo finished 1-for-4, and the Cubs lost, 3-1, to the Rockies.

Rizzo, who ended April batting .149, the worst start of his career, has been taking extra batting practice the past two days at Wrigley Field.

"Leading off is leading off -- you're the first hitter in the game, you come up a lot, and I want all the at-bats I can get," Rizzo said.

Video: Anthony Rizzo discusses hitting from the leadoff spot

Maddon asked Rizzo to just try to hit singles up the middle -- and have some fun. Last year, Rizzo went 15-for-50 in 14 games in the leadoff spot with five home runs, two doubles and 12 RBIs. He belted leadoff homers in four of his seven games from June 13-20, then jokingly proclaimed himself the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

Rizzo did reach safely to start the game in his first seven contests as the leadoff man last year, and according to Elias, he was the only player in the past 60 seasons to do so in each of his first seven career games batting leadoff.

"He loves it. Riz digs it, he gets it," Maddon said. "He does like it, and that's a big part of it, and he is a big kid. He understands the fun part of the game."

Video: COL@CHC: Rizzo on leadoff homer, loss to Rockies

  And if Rizzo didn't want to lead off?

 

"If he wasn't [OK with it], I probably would've talked him into it anyway," Maddon said. "He was cool with it."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo