Cubs get first base ready for Tony Rizzo’s arrival
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 18, 2012 11:39PM
Geovany Soto of the Cubs (center right) is cragratulated in teh dugout after hitting a home run in the sixth inning at U.S. Cellular Field Monday, June 18, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: July 20, 2012 6:30AM
Will Anthony Rizzo join the Cubs in Arizona this weekend or make his Cubs debut when the team returns home Monday against the New York Mets?
That’s about the only question left when it comes to the worst-kept secret weapon in the Cubs’ system now that they’ve officially cleared first base for their top prospect.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum called big-league first baseman Bryan LaHair early Monday to let him know he’d be playing right field against the White Sox.
‘‘Just trying to get him a heads up to not be in complete shock when he got to the park,’’ Sveum said.
The interleague series on the South Side allowed Sveum the luxury of using the designated hitter (Alfonso Soriano) to get LaHair into right and slide David DeJesus to center. They’ll play in those spots when Rizzo arrives.
‘‘You obviously don’t know what day that’s going to be, but if he gets here, that’s basically what’s going to happen in the lineup,’’ said Sveum, who has a pretty good idea what day that’s going to be.
Rizzo, who hit his 23rd home run for the Class AAA I-Cubs on Sunday night, probably has been ready to join the big-league club for weeks, if not months, but because of service time with the San Diego Padres last year, he would become eligible for free agency one year sooner if he were to stick after a recall before Saturday.
LaHair, who played in the outfield at Iowa much of the last two years, has said repeatedly this season that he doesn’t view the move from first base much of a position change for him.
If Monday was any indication, the move has a chance to be seamless. LaHair opened the game with a long, running catch near the wall for the second out of the first inning and homered in another multi-hit game.
‘Happy’ for Rocket
Soriano, who spent his first 3½ seasons in the big leagues as a New York Yankees teammate of Roger Clemens, learned during pregame work of Clemens’ acquittal on charges of obstruction and lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs.
‘‘I’m happy for him because I played with him,’’ Soriano said, ‘‘and he was a nice guy to me.’’
Soto back with a blast
Geovany Soto wasted no time showing his newfound good health when he returned from the DL (knee) to deliver one of four home runs for the Cubs, his fourth of the season.
The Cubs decided against keeping three catchers with Soto’s return and sent Welington Castillo back to Class AAA so he could play every day and continue to develop.