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Rizzo: Cubs will win NL Central in 2015

Starlin Castro #13 of the Chicago Cubs high-fives teammate Anthony Rizzo #44 after Rizzo hit a two-run home run scoring Javier Baez during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on August 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

The Cubs’ hype machine got moving in earnest last week when Sporting News picked the North Siders to win the 2015 World Series.

The machine rolls on this week, with Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo declaring that the team will win the National League Central in 2015.

Rizzo wasn’t so bold as to project a World Series, but a division title would still be a tremendous leap for a squad that went 73-89 in 2014.

“It’s going to happen this year,” Rizzo told CBS radio. “It’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play, we’re going to win the NL Central. Quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, they’re just as good talent wise, but we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re expecting. That’s what we’re putting our sights on. We’re not going to accept anything else.”

The Cubs have hired manager Joe Maddon, added ace pitcher Jon Lester and several smaller pieces to the mix for the coming season. The club is also in the first stage of a $575 million renovation of Wrigley Field.

“Joe expects to win,” Rizzo told CBS. “He’s coming from an organization (Tampa Bay) where they were in the AL East, in the battle of the AL East competing with very high-market teams, high-payroll teams. And they win there. He’s done it. And he’s not going to accept anything else.

“I’m going to say it now — our goal is to make the playoffs. And once you make the playoffs, the ultimate goal is the World Series. That’s our goal every single year.”