On milestone birthday, Cubs cornerstone Anthony Rizzo mulls future in ‘cutthroat’ biz
Rizzo, who celebrated his birthday with a multi-hit game Thursday night, wants a multiyear contract extension but downplays any sense of urgency. “Winning cures all of that,” he said.
CINCINNATI — A huge “Happy 30th Birthday” poster with a graduation photo and childhood snapshots, including a grade-school shot with a mullet, greeted first baseman Anthony Rizzo when he got to the clubhouse Thursday at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s kind of cool,” he said of reaching the milestone age. “I had a great 20s. I’m sure my 30s will be great.”
Rizzo said he feels young and his body “feels great.” Then he delivered a run-scoring double and a single in the first two at-bats of his 30s.
But the birthday also was a gentle reminder that in an era when youth never has been more valued, even the Cubs’ young core of hitters isn’t as young as it sometimes seems.
It’s also a reminder that big decisions loom as soon as this winter with some of that core, especially the first cornerstone piece.
The Cubs hold $16.5 million options each of the next two winters on the seven-year, $41 million deal Rizzo signed during his first full season in the majors six years ago.
The three-time All-Star has made no secret of the fact he’d like another multiyear deal but isn’t so sure he’ll approach the club about it.
“I could. I don’t have to. I’m set, financially,” he said. “I do want to stay here. I do want to be a Cub.
“But this is a business, and it’s as cutthroat as ever, right now especially. All sports, not just baseball.”
Slow-moving free-agent markets the last two years have chilled pending free agents and their representatives.
“It’s not like we don’t have a good relationship to talk and engage and see where we’re at,” Rizzo said of the front office. “We’ve spoken before a little bit, kind of picked each other’s brains here and there. But there’s not much urgency to get it done. Would I like to? Of course. Who wouldn’t?
‘‘But winning cures all of that. Let’s figure out ways to win, keep building on this [division] lead and have a good road trip.”
Lucroy in action
Manager Joe Maddon wasted little time getting newly acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy into action, starting him Thursday to catch former Rangers batterymate Cole Hamels.
Hamels didn’t fare so well, lasting just three innings. And Lucroy’s catcher’s interference allowed the final run to score in the Reds’ four-run third.
But he also singled and doubled home a run in his Cubs debut and, perhaps most importantly, said he’s completely healthy a month after suffering a concussion and broken nose in a collision at the plate.
“In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that severe,” Lucroy said of his third diagnosed concussion and second in the majors.
After initial fatigue, he said he felt normal within four or five days. And he said he could handle whatever workload the Cubs might need.
Former World Series MVP Ben Zobrist homered in his second at-bat for advanced Class A Myrtle Beach on Thursday night as he resumed his spring-like game schedule in an effort to return from a lengthy personal leave. Zobrist, who played three games for low Class A South Bend last weekend, was the designated hitter in his fourth minor-league game.