LaHair in right a prelude to Rizzo's arrival

LaHair in right a prelude to Rizzo's arrival

LaHair in right a prelude to Rizzo's arrival
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum called Bryan LaHair Monday morning to give him a heads up. LaHair was going to start in right field for the first time this season, which means first baseman Anthony Rizzo's arrival may be soon.

Rizzo was batting .364 and leading the Pacific Coast League with 23 home runs at Triple-A Iowa, hitting a two-run shot in the seventh inning on Sunday. The Cubs have said they don't want to rush Rizzo and they are sticking to a plan, but Sveum keeps checking his e-mail to get daily updates on the young first baseman.

"Obviously, LaHair playing right field is something that might eventually happen," Sveum said. "There's a day when Rizzo is going to be here, so this is getting him acclimated to the outfield, too."

When? Neither Sveum nor Cubs president Theo Epstein will say. Last year, Rizzo was batting .365 with 16 home runs at Triple-A Tucson when he was promoted to the Padres, and he struggled, batting .143. He's made some adjustments this year, which include lowering his hands, and has wowed everyone who sees him.

"I got to see Rizzo hit like four [homers]," said Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, back from a rehab assignment at Iowa. "He was destroying it down there. He's got some pop. He's doing it right there. He's coming along pretty good. He slid into the wall one day, and he's playing aggressive. It's good to see."

Epstein wants to make sure the timing is right.

"You have to look at what happened last year," Epstein said Monday. "He had great numbers and was rushed a little bit and came up and struggled, so it's important to put players in position to succeed, and always put your Major League club in position to succeed. You see with the lineup tonight we might be taking a look at players in different positions to allow the team to be in a position to succeed when we do potentially make a move. Those things you don't want to rush into, there's more to development than numbers."

LaHair has only played first this year and played outfield last season. He didn't think it would be a major adjustment to switch, saying the work he did in Spring Training will pay off.

"I think in the back of my mind there was always the thought of me moving to the outfield at some point," LaHair said. "It was more of a surprise last year when the only thing I played was the outfield. This will be a new challenge and I'll be working defensively in a different spot. It's all fun."

Sveum and the Cubs could use some pop. The team was batting .246 and ranked 13th in the National League in slugging percentage at .380. Sveum has checked the video to monitor Rizzo's progress this season. Has he seen improvement?

"He's been pretty good the whole year," Sveum said. "He's one you go to the computer every day to see what he did and I think yesterday he hit one of the longest home runs in Iowa history. He's having one of those years and he had it last year, too, in Triple-A. I think lowering his hands had a lot to do with it and confidence."

Right now, Rizzo is staying in Iowa.

"We had a plan to start with, so there's no early arrival or anything like that" Epstein said. "We knew he had to develop and we had a game plan and we were going to stick to it."