Cubs Notes: Welcome Back, Anthony Rizzo

Never leave us again.

Anthony Rizzo, who missed 18 games with a back injury, hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Reds 1-0 on Monday. On a pitching-dominated night, Rizzo blasted a 1-0 pitch to straight-away center for his 31st homer on the season.

A glimpse of things to come? With Rizzo returning and Jorge Soler back from celebrating the birth of his son, Monday night was the first time we were treated to Rizzo, Soler and Javier Baez all in the same lineup. Sure beats a Valbuena-Castillo-Valaika middle of the order, doesn’t it?

The three players combined to go 3-for-11 on Monday. Hopefully we’ll be able to see Starlin Castro join the fun before the year is finished.

And let’s not forget about Arismendy Alcantara. In the top of the eighth, Alcantara made an excellent catch in center field, crashing into the hard bricks behind the Wrigley Field ivy.

He was shaking his hand after the catch, but stayed in the game and seemed to be OK. Let’s remember that center field isn’t Alcantara’s natural position. He’s making it look easy right now.

Other notes

* The Cubs have named Kris Bryant and right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng their Player and Pitcher of the Year. Just another day at the off-season office for Bryant, who is really good at winning awards. He’s also really good at hitting, bashing 43 home runs with an OPS of 1.098 between Double-A and Triple-A.

Tseng was a huge part of the Kane County Cougars’ championship team. He had an ERA of 2.40 and 0.867 WHIP, and walked only 15 batters in 105 innings. Oh — and he’s only 19 years old.

Both players will accept their awards at Wrigley Field before Wednesday’s game.

* GM Jed Hoyer met with the media before Monday’s game and said Kris Bryant may play some outfield in Spring Training. While not shocking news, it begins the discussion we all will be having until Bryant is called up to the Cubs: Can Bryant stick at third? Is he too tall? Will he be forced to the outfield once (if) Addison Russell is called up (and Baez or Castro aren’t traded)?

* Manager Rick Renteria told Jesse Rogers that Edwin Jackson may get a couple spot starts before the end of the season. This may be a bit of a last chance for Jackson. I think it’s going to be very tough for him to stick in the rotation next year.

* I mentioned last week that the Cubs may not renew their agreement with the Daytona (High-A) minor league affiliate. Well, in addition to Daytona, the Cubs allowed the contracts with Kane County (full season Low-A) and Boise (short season Low-A) to expire. Bruce Miles reports it’s a 50/50 chance that the agreement with Kane County is renewed. Miles speculates the Cubs could go with the South Bend Silver Hawks for their Low-A affiliate.

* Anthony Rizzo is the NL Central representative for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which recognizes the achievements of a player on the field and in the community. Rizzo has raised a lot of money to help support cancer research this year. He’s a good dude.

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