MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs and ex-Cubs are having a much more successful run representing Italy in the World Baseball Classic than Chicago in the National League.
Team Italy is the early surprise of the tournament, upsetting Mexico Thursday with a ninth-inning rally in the pool play opener and then trouncing Team Canada 14-4 on Friday in a game called in the eight because of the WBC's "mercy" rule.
Italy plays the United States Saturday, already with a strong chance to advance to the second round in Miami regardless of that result.
Cubs first baseman, who know appears to have extended his leave from the team for at least another week, drove in the tying and go-ahead runs against Mexico with a ninth-inning double in and out of former spring training and AAA teammate Edgar Gonzalez.
It made his cancer research charity several thousands of dollars richer.
"We all said if they won a game we'd give him 500 bucks for his charity," manager Dale Sveum said of the handful of Italia skeptics razzing Rizzo on his way to the tourney. "I wanted to go back and look at the video to make sure we didn't say $500 for every win."
Rizzo was in on the scoring again Friday, and is 2-for-8 with a pair of walks and three RBIs in the two games.
Longtime Cubs farmhand Alex Maestri earned the victory over Canada. And even an almost-Cub - reliever Jason Grilli, who turned down a free agent offer from the Cubs this winter - earned the save Thursday.
Does Sveum regret giving Rizzo the OK to play in the tournament now that it likes he'll lose his first baseman for at least another week of camp - along with that $500?
"No. He'd still be playing anyway,'' Sveum said. "You don't get to have that feeling he got [Thursday] to be that big an underdog and to win a game like that.
``He said his second baseman said, `Man, I'm going to have a heart attack out here.' "