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Slugging 1B Rizzo reaches bigs with Padres

CBSSports.com wire reports
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SAN DIEGO -- Anthony Rizzo will get to play at Fenway Park after all, even if it's not with the team that drafted him.

The slugging first baseman was called up by the San Diego Padres on Thursday and was scheduled to make his big league debut against Livan Hernandez and the Washington Nationals, playing first base and batting seventh.

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Rizzo was one of three prospects obtained from the Boston Red Sox for All-Star slugger Adrian Gonzalez in December.

The 21-year-old tore up the Pacific Coast League to the point that he basically forced the Padres to bring him up.

The timing couldn't have been better.

"You know, when I got traded, I saw that we were playing the Red Sox in a couple of weeks and I was like, 'Hey, I want to be up there before that,' " Rizzo said Thursday. "I would love to play in Fenway. I always dreamed about playing in Fenway when I got drafted. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be there. I set goals at the beginning of the year and it was to be here before this time, but that was obviously an unrealistic goal at the time, I felt like. But here I am, fortunate enough to be here."

The Padres play at Boston from June 20-22.

Rizzo was a sixth-round pick by the Red Sox in 2007. He and two other prospects, along with outfielder Eric Patterson -- who was designated for assignment Thursday to make room for Rizzo -- were acquired for Gonzalez. The Padres dealt the three-time All-Star because they said they wouldn't be able to afford to keep him once he was eligible for free agency.

The Padres didn't expect Rizzo to make it to the bigs until perhaps September or even next season.

But he began dominating the PCL, and at the time of his callup was batting .365 with a .715 slugging percentage, .444 on-base percentage, 16 home runs and 63 RBI at Tucson.

Fans have been clamoring for Rizzo's promotion for weeks.

"I expect a lot out of myself," Rizzo said. "I'm not saying I'm going to be doing what I was doing in Tucson. This is the big leagues and everyone is top of their game up here. But I'm a competitor. I'm going to come out and compete every day and just try to get better."

Rizzo seems to have the right approach for playing at spacious Petco Park.

"Hit doubles, play good defense," he said. "I try to hit a double every time I get into the box. Hopefully it will be with runners on base. Just try to hit doubles, whatever the situation."

The Padres didn't want to rush Rizzo.

"I didn't want to call him up to be the savior," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "When we struggled earlier, I was really reluctant to do it because I didn't feel like it was fair to him. We were struggling as an offense and that's not fair to expect him to change that. Now he is coming up at a time when we're playing better."

Rizzo said he was shocked when he was included in the trade, in part because he beat limited stage classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma three years ago while he was a Red Sox farmhand.

"The Red Sox helped me with a lot throughout my life, I could say," he said. "If it wasn't for them and the doctors who helped me through my sickness, I really don't think I would be here today. They caught it early, we treated it, and they supported me the whole way. I was definitely shocked but this opportunity is, you know, I'm in the big leagues. That's been my dream forever. I love it here. I love San Diego."

He also watches Gonzalez "all the time. He's the game's top first baseman. He's having a great year."

Patterson was designated for assignment to get Rizzo on 25- and 40-man rosters.

The Padres also recalled outfielder Will Venable from Tucson, optioned outfielder Aaron Cunningham to Triple-A, placed reliever Luke Gregerson on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his side, retroactive to Tuesday, and recalled right-handed pitcher Evan Scribner from Tucson.

Rizzo said he flew 15 to 20 family members and friends to San Diego for his debut, including his parents.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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