SAN DIEGO -- The last time the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo was in uniform at Petco Park, he was playing first base in a game between the Padres and the Cubs on Sept. 28, 2011. The 22-year-old, then with the Padres, went 0-for-3 in what turned out to be his last game of the season to finish a disappointing first taste of Major League action with a .141 batting average in 128 at-bats.
Flash forward to Monday, when Rizzo returned to Petco, playing first base in a Cubs-Padres game, though this time in Cubs colors. But more has changed than the jersey for the man named the National League's Rookie of the Month in July. Rizzo has a shorter swing, a high average and has sustained the success he simply could not find in San Diego.
"The ballpark could've been a T-ball field and I wouldn't have hit a ball," Rizzo said. "I just wasn't hitting the ball. I was not hitting the fastball -- or pretty much anything."
Rizzo owns a .310 average and nine home runs in 33 games with the Cubs. He hit .330 with seven home runs in 97 July at-bats and had the go-ahead hit in his Cubs' debut on June 28 to endear himself to the Wrigley Field faithful.
That kind of early success was something that eluded Rizzo when he was called up to the Padres, though he says having that experience in San Diego readied him to do better the second time around.
"The first time around here was crazy and it was a lot to take in. ... [It] obviously didn't go the way I wanted to," Rizzo said. "I was prepared more this time coming up, took things with a grain of salt and was more anxious to get on the field than anything."
Rizzo was traded this offseason for pitcher Andrew Cashner, who is currently on the disabled list with a strained right lat muscle. While Rizzo says he treasures the opportunity to play in front of the fans at Wrigley, he had mixed feelings about the trade.
"I made a lot of relationships here with the Padres," Rizzo said. "I was very grateful to be here; I loved playing here."
"[The Cubs] gave up Andrew Cashner, who is a very good pitcher, it's an honor to be traded for him," Rizzo added, "especially after my stint last year."