Rizzo excited to return to Boston

Rizzo excited to return to Boston

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a whirlwind 10-day stretch for Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the 21-year-old prospect who has experienced a little of everything that the Major Leagues have to offer.

He has experienced success, reaching base three times in his Major League debut on June 9 against the Nationals. Two days later, Rizzo hit his first big league home run.

He has also experienced humility. Heading into Sunday's series finale against the Twins, Rizzo had one hit in his last 20 at-bats over a six-game stretch.

On Monday, Rizzo will land in the spotlight, one that figures to be much brighter than the one he walked into when he first arrived in San Diego 10 days ago.

On Monday, Rizzo and the Padres will visit Fenway Park for the first of three games with the Red Sox, the organization that drafted Rizzo in 2007 and the one that also traded him away in December as part of the deal that helped the Red Sox land Adrian Gonzalez.

"It will be cool going back there with everything they [Red Sox] helped me with," Rizzo said before Sunday's game. "They helped me coming up so much. I'm definitely looking forward to playing there."

Rizzo and good friend, pitcher Casey Kelly, were half of the package of players that the Padres received from the Red Sox for Gonzalez, who will get the chance to play against his former team, one he played for from 2006-10.

Rizzo said his return to Boston will represent something of a homecoming, even though he never played a game for the Red Sox.

This has more to do with the support he received during his first year of professional ball in 2008, when he was diagnosed with limited stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"The doctors I had in Boston were great and were so assuring that I was going to beat it. I knew that I would," said Rizzo, who after six months of chemotherapy in 2008 was able to resume his playing career in 2009.

It wasn't just the doctors in Boston who had faith in Rizzo. He received encouragement and support from the Red Sox organization and the devoted fan base known as Red Sox Nation.

"They helped me through the hardest times in my life," Rizzo said. "I was part of that organization for four years. I know of people over there [that] still follow me and are wishing me luck."

Rizzo, who got his first start off on Sunday against the Twins, has hit .148 in his first 27 Major League at-bats with eight walks and 11 strikeouts.

"It's just going about what you do and trusting yourself," Rizzo said. "Obviously I would like to be doing better and helping the team out. But I'm taking good swings and I'm just missing balls. Maybe I'm trying a little too hard ... but I don't think that's it.

"You've just got to relax."