MESA, Ariz. – Seven winless games into spring training, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo isn’t standing so firmly behind that January prediction of a National League Central title.
“I’m not going to answer that question,” he said Wednesday morning, smirking at the muck-stirring writer who brought it up.
Don’t even bother asking about their Cactus League hopes.
“We’re in a hole,” he said, smiling bigger.
Jokes and laughs aside, the Cubs 0-6-1 start to this hype-charged spring isn’t completely meaningless to some of the guys who have openly talked about competing for a playoff spot for the first time in four managerial regimes – especially given the sloppy baseball they’ve produced the first week of exhibition play.
It’s something that new manager Joe Maddon has addressed twice during the winless week, albeit keeping the outrage level far below the Piniella Line.
“It is spring training, yes. Does it matter we lost? No,” Rizzo said. “We should be winning, though. Granted, there’s a lot of moving factors, but it’s the same for teams all around spring training.”
What’s not the same for everybody else: the 12 errors. Nobody in the National League has more this spring. Seven of them have come in the last two games.
That doesn’t count several mental mistakes in the field and on the bases that don’t show up in the stats.
“It’s something we need to clean up,” Rizzo said, “and come April 5, we need to play perfect baseball. If we lose playing perfect baseball, OK. But if we lose being sloppy like we have in the past, that’s OK.
“That’s why say we need to do the little things every day, just as far as how we catch a fly ball, how we field a ground ball, how we make our throws, our footwork – all those little things pay off in the long run.”
As for the big things, the Cubs look like they’re on track, from $155 million newcomer Jon Lester’s new flawless spring debut (he starts again Wednesday against the Dodgers) to the headline-grabbing consecutive home runs Tuesday by the organization’s top three slugging prospects: Jorge Soler, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant.
Nothing amazes me with anyone in this camp, to be honest, with the talent we have,” Rizzo said.
“It’s great. And [the prospects] are handling themselves really well. Everyone in this camp’s handling himself really well. It’s just excitement. Everyone’s excited about it – so are we.”
Rizzo was excited enough to apparently photo-bomb Dexter Fowler’s selfie with Tuesday’s three home run stars, poking his head into the frame just as Fowler clicked.
“Photo-bombing what?” he said, sheepishly.
“I’m just trying to be part of the team.”