ATLANTA - After watching his team surge toward the All-Star break since promoting Anthony Rizzo from the minors, Cubs manager Dale Sveum can't help but wonder how life might have been different this year if he'd taken Rizzo north with the team from spring training.
``I'd be lying if I said I didn't,'' Sveum said before Thursday's series finale against the Atlanta Braves.
Instead, Sveum was the guy who echoed the team's position during the spring by saying, ``It's a concrete plan to let Rizzo have another season in Triple-A instead of moving him up and down.''
Woulda, coulda, shoulda? The Cubs went 25-48 without Rizzo - and they're 6-3 since he joined the lineup last week, even with Thursday's loss. He's hitting .314 with three homers and a .990 OPS in his first nine games as a Cub.
``We have more balance in the lineup,'' said Cubs home run leader Alfonso Soriano, ``and what I see from Rizzo so far, I'm impressed. He's showing that he's got the talent [for the majors], and hopefully he continues.''
Not that Rizzo would have done this all year if he opened in the big leagues - and not that he would have fixed the Cubs' bullpen problems even if he did.
But, said Sveum, ``I mean, it's obviously a more dynamic offensive team, especially so far in his eight games. So sure, you think about it. And you think about if [Luis] Valbuena was here all year and being able to produce like he has and play defense like he has.
``But unfortunately, that's not the way the game works sometimes.''