Rizzo: Cubs worthy of World Series

CHICAGO -- Not only didChicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo not back down from his end-of-season comments about the team making the playoffs in 2015, he upped the ante Thursday, declaring them World Series-worthy.

"It's [winning the NL Central] going to happen this year," Rizzo said at a Cubs caravan stop at Jacob Beidler Elementary School in Chicago. "It's what we're going to do. We're going to play and we're going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, we're going to do some things this year. That's what we're going to put our sights on and we're not going to accept anything else.

"It [winning the World Series] will be fun. Once we do, we're going to figure out how we're going to do it again. That's a long ways away. That's nine or 10 months away. Right now we're focused on the convention, then spring training, and becoming a team and going from there."

Rizzo got a head start on this weekend's fan convention -- a place where optimism reigns annually. And like a lot of fans, the players also are buying in for 2015. Right-hander Jake Arrieta spoke a few minutes later and didn't back down.

"I expect the guys to have that same sort of mindset," Arrieta said. "Especially starting with a clean slate. New season, a lot of new faces. Optimism is a good thing to have.

"I know in 'Back to the Future' we win it in 2015, which is kind of crazy, to say the least. We'll do our best to make sure that happens."

The Cubs still have many questions, including how their young players will develop, but Rizzo believes talent will overcome.

"The good thing, with the talent we have on this team, is one guy can go through a rut while the other 7-8 pick him up," he said.

The Cubs added star pitcher Jon Lester this winter along with catchers Miguel Montero and David Ross and a new manager, Joe Maddon.

Jason Motte joined the bullpen and Chris Denorfia will split time in left field. Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro made the All-Star team last season, and they have a group of talented young players ready to break out. But they haven't yet. And no one knows if they're ready for prime time. Players like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler might need more seasoning.

It's unknown if Rizzo was speaking from the heart or had his comments preplanned.

"I was saying this to my family when everything was going down with Lester and Maddon and signing the other guys, 'You know for the rest of my career I should be on a contending team now.' And that's exciting."

The Cubs believe they are getting closer and closer, while Rizzo thinks they're already there after five straight fifth-place finishes.

"After the [Jeff] Samardzija and [Jason] Hammel deal you kind of sensed as an organization that, that was it. Now it's time to start winning. Them putting the stamp on going out and getting Lester is huge. With Joe being our manager now it's going to be great for the talent that we have, utilizing the talent that we have."

Maybe Hollywood will get this one right.

"They're smart," Rizzo said. "'Back to the Future' said we're going to win in 2015. We're going to be a fun team."

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Jesse Rogers discusses Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo's declaration that the Cubs will win the NL Central in 2015 and are World Series-worthy.

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