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Anthony Rizzo relishes greater expectations with Cubs

Anthony Rizzo welcomes the greater expectations heading into spring training.

MESA, Ariz. -- Slugger Anthony Rizzo noticed a change in the mood of the Chicago Cubs’ organization well before the hiring of manager Joe Maddon and before Rizzo predicted the Cubs would win the National League Central.

“I think when we made some trades last year, the whole sense of the organization kind of flipped and turned,” Rizzo said Thursday on the eve of the first workout for pitchers and catchers. “It’s our job now as players to keep changing the culture here, to keep a winning attitude. I never won before, but David Ross has, Jon Lester has, Jason Motte has.

“They have the winning ways, they’re older and been through the good times and bad times as well. We’re really going to rely on our older guys to show us the way. But at the same time, us young guys are going to really have our ups and downs, and we got to stay on an even keel. ‘’

Rizzo has taken on a greater role by setting an example for top prospects like Kris Bryant.

“I’m not trying to be anyone else,” Rizzo said. “I’m not trying to fill anyone else’s shoes or do anything like that. I’m just trying to work hard and set a good example and give my past experiences because three years ago, I was in (Bryant’s) shoes with everything that’s going on with the stuff that’s going to be written about him, whether he makes the team or not. And just (have) tunnel vision and play baseball. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to win games.’’

Rizzo said he’s heard from some of his teammates since predicting last January that the Cubs would win the division.

“Yeah, they were all wondering if I was going to say what if we finish in fourth place,” Rizzo quipped. “So everyone is very excited. It’s good. We’re coming in here, and we’re preparing to win. The biggest thing is to get everyone pulling together for each other and to become one unit, one team.

“We all got to pull for each other from the first man to the 25th man. Whoever it is in that spot, everyone is going to be able to be a hero every single day on our team. When someone is in that position to exceed, we all got to be pulling for him.’’

Rizzo was glad to hear that the Cubs were cleared to continue renovations at Wrigley Field.

“I know the rooftops have been part of the history now, but this is going to be new stuff. the new generation, the new era of things to come hopefully is starting now with the renovations of Wrigley,” Rizzo said. “It’s only going to help us players and help the fan experience a lot better with the tradition of the ballpark still there and the new stuff they’re adding, I think it’s great.’’

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