Rizzo is the key to more runs in 2013

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Cubs star Anthony Rizzo has had a busy spring. After arriving at Spring Training in mid-February, the 23-year-old spent the beginning of March with a totally different group of ballplayers wearing blue and white.

Representing Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the first baseman was called upon to be the lumber in the international squad’s lineup. Rizzo hit just .235 batting in the middle of the order for the European squad, but he also walked five times in 22 plate appearances. He drove in the eventual game-winning runs in the team’s opener against Mexico and propelled the underdog Italians into the second round.

Much like the Italian squad, the Cubs will be looking for Rizzo to provide the pop in the middle of the order in 2013. This year, the North Siders will be getting a full season of the phenom, who hit .285/.342/.463 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 15 homers, 15 doubles and 48 RBI after a late-June 2012 call-up. With a more selective Starlin Castro likely batting in front of him, Rizzo should get more RBI opportunities. And if projected cleanup hitter Alfonso Soriano posts numbers similar to those he put up in 2012, it may result in Rizzo getting better pitches to hit.

Rizzo will be in the lineup Tuesday as the Cubs host division rival Cincinnati in the team’s final night game at HoHoKam Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 CST, and fans can listen to the game live at Cubs.com. Jeff Samardzija will be on mound for the Cubs, opposite Reds ace Johnny Cueto. Here’s what manager Dale Sveum’s lineup will look like:

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Dave Sappelt
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
P Jeff Samardzija

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