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."
Bass, Cashner ditching 'Breakfast Club'
SAN DIEGO -- Injured Padres pitchers Anthony Bass and Andrew Cashner were both in the clubhouse before Monday's series opener against the Cubs, after spending much of the past few weeks with the Padres' infamous "Breakfast Club," the group of injured players so numerous that they had to come in early in the mornings to get work in before the rest of the healthy roster came in to prepare for games.That Bass and Cashner were afternoon arrivals is a sure sign of progress for the hurlers, who played catch before Monday's game and are scheduled for bullpen sessions Wednesday. Manager Bud Black called to Bass as he left the field after throwing to ask how the session went. Smiling, Bass replied "Pain free. ... I've graduated from the Breakfast Club!" Cashner felt the same way. "Felt good," Cashner said. "Getting to be around baseball again, getting to see everyone, it's been good." Cashner's return to afternoon baseball with the Padres corresponds to the Petco Park return of the man he was acquired for, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In his first season with the Padres, Cashner is 3-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 30 games (three starts), and was stretching into a starter after a stint in the bullpen before he landed on the DL on July 4 with a strained right lat. Bass is on the DL retroactive to June 21 with right shoulder inflammation. He, like Cashner, was stretched into a starter this season after a 2011 campaign spent predominantly in the San Diego bullpen. He is 2-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) in 2012. According to Black, Monday was a good step for both as they look to return to the club before the end of the season. "[Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley] mentioned that both those guys looked very good," Black said. "He said they both threw the ball free and easy." Black added that if Wednesday's bullpen sessions go well, there is a good chance that both Bass and Cashner could be headed to Peoria, Ariz., to join the Padres' Arizona League affiliate.
Heart of the order producing
SAN DIEGO -- Sunday's 7-3 win over the Mets saw the Padres rip nine extra-base hits, the most they've recorded at Petco Park since its opening in 2004. Five of those hits came from the heart of the San Diego order -- Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso -- who have been producing like prototypical 3-5 hitters of late.All three homered Sunday, and each drove in two runs. That's the kind of production the Padres thought might result from the addition of Quentin this offseason, though it hadn't come to consistent fruition thanks to some early-season struggles from Headley, Quentin's injury and the growing pains of rookie Alonso over the first few months. But now Headley has homered in back-to-back games, Quentin is healthy and Alonso is settling in at the plate in a big way, emerging as the Major League rookie leader in doubles while hitting .390 over his last 10 games. According to manager Bud Black, Headley's power surge and Alonso's improvement can be directly traced to the way they and Quentin complement each other in the middle of the lineup. "Players are linked together based on what they can do. ... You don't want to pitch around Chase to get to 'Q', and I think Alonso does a nice job with the way he's swinging now to ensure that 'Q' gets his pitches, too," Black said. "They all make our lineup look a lot better than it did six weeks ago."
Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.