Young stars Goldy, Rizzo face off in Cubs-D-backs tilt
Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo are two of top first basemen in baseball and two of the bright young stars in the game. They'll square off in a four-game series between the host D-backs and Cubs, starting Thursday in Phoenix.
Goldschmidt and Rizzo finished 1-2 in home runs and RBIs by National League first basemen last year. The D-backs star posted a .324 average; Rizzo batted .278. Goldschmidt is a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger winner; Rizzo has been selected to the All-Star Game twice. Goldschmidt finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting last year, Rizzo was fourth.
"I really enjoy watching him play," Rizzo said of Goldschmidt. "We're similar. He runs the bases, I try to run the bases, we both play defense and he hits. He plays all aspects of the game."
Goldschmidt, 28, is a favorite in the D-backs' clubhouse, too. He gave up a corner locker to Rickie Weeks Jr., a space usually dedicated to a veteran player.
"That's the thing that's good about him -- he's humble," Weeks said of Goldschmidt. "Sometimes you see guys in this league with a lot of ego, but when it comes down to it, we're all blessed to play this game and if you play it the right way and be humble, the game rewards you. That shows you what kind of guy he is."
Goldschmidt has his "Goldy's Fund 4 Kids" that benefits Phoenix Children's Hospital. Rizzo's charitable efforts are coordinated by the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million through its events to battle pediatric cancer.
"He is a great teammate," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Rizzo, 26. "This guy gives his time to everybody. This guy is positive to everybody he comes in contact with. He's absolutely about team. He's willing to carry the message of the organization and the group."
What to watch for
• John Lackey will make his Cubs debut Thursday night in the series opener against the D-backs. Lackey, who signed a two-year contract this offseason, appeared in three Cactus League games but also made two starts in the Minor League camp to tune up. Maddon, who knew Lackey when he was a rookie with the Angels, has been impressed with the right-hander's delivery this spring.
• Rubby De La Rosa will start for the D-backs. The right-hander had an uneven spring, and gave up 14 earned runs over 16 1/3 innings in his last three outings.
• On Thursday, the D-backs will pay tribute to the 1999 team that played in the National League Division Series and wear the alternate home vest uniform, which was worn from 1998-2006.