Rizzo eager to join Team Italy, prepare for Classic

MESA, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo received a few text messages from family members in Italian after he was named to Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic. The Cubs first baseman should be able to reply with more than "buon giorno" after his stint with the international squad.

Rizzo's last game with the Cubs was Sunday. He will practice with the Italian team Monday, and play two exhibition games Tuesday and Wednesday before first-round action Thursday against Team Mexico at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

"I'm going to be competing on an international level, which is going to be cool," Rizzo said. "From what I've heard, the Italian team is pretty good. Hopefully we can shock some people and play good baseball."

Rizzo talked to Cubs manager Dale Sveum before agreeing to play in the World Baseball Classic.

"Obviously, [Sveum] wants me in camp, and I want to be in camp, we want to build as a team," Rizzo said. "For the short time I'll be gone, I don't think it'll be much of a distraction at all."

Sveum wasn't too worried.

"He'd be playing here -- it's baseball," Sveum said. "He'd be doing the same thing here that he'll be doing over there. He's in good shape and his legs are good and everything is fine. He'd be playing here just as much."

The next time Rizzo competes in international competition, he'd like to do so for the U.S.

"If the opportunity ever arose, I think that would be one of the best honors I think I could do for this country, especially for all the troops overseas fighting for us allowing us to be here in Spring Training every day and playing every day," he said. "It would be an honor to represent the country."

Team Italy is the underdog in its pool. It will play the Canadian team on Friday and the U.S. squad next Saturday. Rizzo's father will be in Scottsdale to watch the first-round action, and the first baseman is already looking forward to having more of his Florida based family for the second round.

"When we make it to the second round, it's in Miami and I'm sure everyone will be there for that," Rizzo said, with an emphatic "when."