PITTSBURGH -- The selections for the National and American leagues in the All-Star Game are 3 1/2 weeks away.
Rizzo, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles Tuesday night in a 7-3 win at Pittsburgh, raised his batting average to .284. But Rizzo is tied with Paul Goldschmidt with 13 home runs, ahead of the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard and Freddie Freeman.
The Cubs' relative lack of offense has hurt Rizzo, as evidenced by his 36 RBIs that aren't close to being among the league leaders. But he has a chance to close the gap.
“I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to Riz being one of them," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Rizzo's candidacy. "Or any number of pitchers or position players.
"They’re all All-Stars for me."
The latter comment drew a laugh from a reporter, but a closer look at Rizzo's numbers validates his candidacy for now.
Rizzo's biggest improvement has been his production against left-handers. Last season, Rizzo batted only .189 against left-handers. But his home run against formidable Francisco Liriano in the first inning raised his batting average against lefties to .341 (21 for 61) with five home runs and 15 RBIs.
“At any level, this is the best I’ve ever felt (against left-handers),” Rizzo said. "With tough lefties coming in late, where they get paid to get you out, getting hits off them, you just keep riding the momentum and keep going with it."
Rizzo says his production stems from confidence.
"I feel very confident, and that’s everything in this game," Rizzo said. "I don’t care what anyone says. No matter if your mechanics are good or bad. If you’re feeling good at the plate, it makes a huge difference."
Rizzo has stuck with a "take what the pitcher gives you" approach without sacrificing his power.
“You can’t think about hitting a home run ever," Rizzo said. "At times when I’m trying to, I get big (with my swing) and tend to miss my pitches, miss good pitches to hit. I just stay within myself and let the game come to me and still be aggressive at the same time. That’s the formula right now."
Rizzo realizes there's plenty of strong competition at first base for the All-Star game at Minneapolis on July 15.
"If I make it, great," Rizzo said. "You grow up dreaming of being an All-Star. It’s a ways away, and I will keep my head down until the All-Star break. If I make it, great. If not, I’ll take the time off."
Meanwhile, Renteria remained protective of rookie third baseman Mike Olt, who struck out twice and was 0 for 18 before he was lifted for pinch hitter Luis Valbuena, who hit a two-run double that snapped a 3-3 tie in the sixth.
“If Liriano had still been in there, Olt still would have been in there,' Renteria explained. "We’re still trying to give him opportunities to feel good on a daily basis for ourselves, for the team, for him. It was the right thing to do."
The Cubs also came away impressed with Gregory Polanco, the Pirates' top prospect who went 1 for 5 with a single and strikeout in his major league debut.
Renteria said the 6-foot-4, 170-pound Polanco had a swing path reminiscent of Ken Griffey Jr.
"It looks like he’s got some potential," Wood said. "He’s a big kid. He’s got an idea up there, for sure."