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Levine: Rizzo On Way To Elite Status?

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Anthony Rizzo.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Anthony Rizzo. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Bruce Levine Bruce Levine
Bruce Levine covers both the Cubs and the White Sox for CBSChicago.co...
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By Bruce Levine-

WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) — Anthony Rizzo’s hot start has people asking what makes him tick and how far can his talent take him? Rizzo, who has struggled with consistent hand placement, looks like he has figured out a batting stroke that can be repeated successfully.

After signing a $44 million contract last spring, Rizzo continued to drive the ball but suffered in batting average, ending 2013 hitting .233. Enter hitting coaches Bill Mueller and Mike Brumley. Rizzo has enjoyed finding his way with the help of his new instructors.

“Bill has done it,” said Rizzo. “He won a batting championship. He knows how to calm me down in my approach and talk to me personally. He takes things beyond just the mechanical side and help with my mental look at things.”

Rizzo has had a fine start to the 2014 campaign. The first baseman has been on base in eight straight games entering play on Saturday. His .410 on-base percentage is the sixth best in the NL.

“We have worked with our hitters on having a consistent approach that is easy to repeat,” said Mueller. “Anthony has taken the pitch to left field against left handed pitchers very well. When he is in his groove the whole thing seems pretty effortless for him .”

On defense, Rizzo is near the top fielders at his position. He has not made an error in 54 games, dating back to Sept. 1, 2013. The only play he has had trouble with is the ball hit to him and how to decide a flip to the pitcher or running to the bag himself. Soft hands and good foot work around the bag make him a candidate for a Gold Glove in the near future.

“I am keeping my game as simple as possible,” Rizzo said. “All of our guys have a different approach and mind set.”

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