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Votto impressed by Rizzo's evolution into total package

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CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo may not rank among the top National League first basemen in All-Star balloting, but he got an endorsement from the Reds' Joey Votto.

"Anthony's made a big adjustment this year," Votto said. "He's always been a pretty excellent defender, and he's always had the potential. It seems to me like he's put it all together. He's played like -- he's probably going to be an All-Star this year. He's worthy of it."

Rizzo entered Tuesday leading all NL first basemen in home runs after hitting his 16th on Monday, and he trailed only Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen in walks, with 48.

"He's played really quite well, and I hope he continues it because he's set himself up this year for long-term success," Votto said. "And I think the Cubs are probably pretty happy, because they got him at a pretty fair price."

"I don't take pride in walking," Rizzo said Tuesday. "I don't want to walk -- I'd rather drive the ball in the gap. It just depends on the situation. It comes down to me swinging at my pitches. It's not about trying to walk at all -- that's not what I'm trying to do."

What the Cubs are happy to see is an improved approach at the plate. A year ago on June 24, Rizzo was batting .253. This year, he's hitting .281, including a .328 average against left-handed pitchers.

"He obviously came into the spring with an idea that he wanted to improve on using a little more of the field, having better at-bats, not chasing pitches off the plate," manager Rick Renteria said. "I think he's done a really nice job adjusting to doing that. I think he made a conscious effort on working on his approach."

Renteria watched Rizzo when the two were together with the Padres in 2011.

"You look at Riz and you could see the talent he had, and it was going to be as a young hitter developing a solid approach -- both against lefties and righties," Renteria said. "You knew he had the strength to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and obviously, experience plays a part in their development."

The Cubs do not have a position player in the top five in the latest All-Star balloting, but Rizzo ranks high among the NL first basemen. Would he like to make a trip to Minneapolis for the July 15 game at Target Field?

"If anyone says they don't care about being an All-Star -- that's something you dream about as a kid -- that and winning a World Series," Rizzo said. "When the time gets here [and he makes the team], it gets here. It's a long ways away, and there are a lot of other great players in this league."

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.

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