Cubs manager Dale Sveum had a bona fide No. 3 hitter, and Rizzo produced. The first baseman won National League Rookie of the Month honors in July, batting .330 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs. The seven homers tied a Cubs rookie record for the month. Rizzo also provided clutch hitting, which had been missing, and delivered three game-winning RBI in his first five games.
He's come a long way since the 2011 debut, when Rizzo batted .141 in 49 games with the Padres. It was disappointing, and also motivating.
"It's in my head all the time," Rizzo said. "It's hard to get it out of my mind. As much as I try, I think it takes time. It was a big part of my life and it was catastrophic how bad that was. It's just about staying positive and keep going every day."
Rizzo's first stint with the Cubs was positive, and he is a nominee for the Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards as the top rookie in baseball.
Major League Baseball's A-listers will take home 2012 GIBBYs trophies -- the ultimate honors of the sport's awards season -- based on votes by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni, fans at MLB.com and the Society for American Baseball Research.
This year's GIBBY Awards feature nominees in 21 categories. Individual honors will go to the MLB MVP, in addition to the year's best starting pitcher, hitter, closer, setup man, rookie, breakout hitter, breakout pitcher, comeback player, defensive player, manager, executive and postseason performer.
GIBBY trophies also will be awarded for the year's top play, storyline, hitting performance, pitching performance, oddity, walk-off, Cut4 topic and postseason moment, from MLB.com's Must C highlight reels.
In the past four years, you the fans have cast more than 40 million votes across the various GIBBYs categories, none of which were restricted to individual League affiliation.
You can vote as many times as you want until fan balloting closes Sunday, Dec. 2, at 10:59 p.m. CT.
Winners will be presented their GIBBY trophies at the MLB.com Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards extravaganza during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Besides Rizzo, the Cubs have other GIBBY nominees. Second baseman Darwin Barney, who won his first Gold Glove Award, was nominated for top defensive player, and shortstop Starlin Castro's amazing acrobatic catch in the Cubs' June 20 Interleague game against the White Sox was nominated for top defensive play. Castro caught Alejandro De Aza's popup while running out to shallow left in the fifth inning. Asked how he did it, Castro smiled and said: "I don't know."
The Cubs also were nominated twice in the Cut4 Topic. During the July 31 game at Wrigley Field, a woman was not in her seat when the scoreboard flashed the message, "Erica, will you marry me?" Her boyfriend was upset, but when she returned, he dropped to one knee and proposed.
The second Cut4 Topic nominee was when the Giants and Cubs went retro for a game in June, turning the clock back to 1912. Both teams wore replica uniforms and the Giants were even referred to as the "New York Giants." AT&T Park featured a vintage scoreboard without videos and there were roving barbershop quartets.
Back to Rizzo. He finished the season batting .285 with 15 doubles and 15 home runs in 87 games with the Cubs. Among his season highlights were his first walk-off home run in the 10th inning July 29 against the Cardinals.
"As soon as he got here, the lineup got deeper and got better," pitcher Paul Maholm said of Rizzo. "He's not up there just hacking. He's working the counts and goes the other way and just hitting what they give him."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.