June 28, 2010

On Baseball: Rizzo's on the rise

Sea Dogs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has the tools to become a premier power hitter in the majors.

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Anthony Rizzo has already hit some tape-measure home runs for the Sea Dogs, and hitting coach Dave Joppie says more will come as he refines his swing. "When it comes together, it's going to be fun," said Joppie.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Just two years ago, Anthony Rizzo was undergoing treatment for cancer, but now he's healthy and moving quickly through the Red Sox farm system, reaching Double-A at age 20.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Rizzo bounced back. He batted .298 with nine home runs in 64 games with Greenville, then was promoted to advanced Class A Salem and hit .295 with three home runs.

Spring training in 2010 became special for a few reasons. His family and friends often made the two-hour trip across the state, on Alligator Alley, to see Rizzo in Fort Myers.

And Boston's major league staff took notice of Rizzo. During major league spring training games, minor leaguers are often added to the roster as fill-ins in the late innings. But Rizzo was given a start March 30 against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte. He went 3 for 5, including a home run off Rays closer Rafael Soriano, and played excellent defense, showing range while also scooping balls out of the dirt.

"Fun to see a kid hit a ball like that," Boston Manager Terry Francona said at the time. "He's got a real pretty swing and, defensively, he can handle himself."

Rizzo certainly enjoyed himself: "It was good to go up in front of the big league staff and do that. Whenever anyone goes up there and has a good game, it makes everyone down here (in the minors) happy."

'YOU CAN SEE THE POWER'

Rizzo began this season in Salem, but soon after Lars Anderson was promoted from Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket, Rizzo was summoned to the Sea Dogs.

The first thing fans in Hadlock Field likely noticed was Rizzo's effortless swing, which produces solid line drives and long home runs.

"The swing works without question," Sea Dogs hitting coach Dave Joppie said. "You can see the power. Watch him take batting practice and I don't think there is anybody in recent memory that can drive or hit the ball as far as he can, from center field over to the right-field line.

"He's definitely hit some monster shots in batting practice. It's going to be a process for that to transfer to the game. At times he does."

Twice, Rizzo has homered off the elevated video board in right-center, two of his five home runs with Portland.

Joppie breaks down swings in two halves. Rizzo's upper half works fine. The lower half, which involves a slight leg kick, needs refining.

"The constant struggle that we have is the consistency of rhythm, and getting his front foot down in time, which is the case with 99.9 percent of the guys here," Joppie said.

"The main thing is he's recognizing that and self-coaching it, and taking steps to correct it. It's just predicated on how well he controls his lower half.

"The remedy for that is repetition, repetition, repetition -- maybe 500 at-bats at this level; then at-bats at the next level.

"When it comes together, it's going to be fun. That's for sure."

Watching Rizzo develop is currently the pleasure of Hadlock Field customers. As he continues to pound the ball, and does it more consistently, he'll move on.

Today, the Hadlock video board. In the future, the Fenway triangle.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

 

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