Anthony Rizzo finds out that he can go home again

SAN FRANCISCO — Anthony Rizzo strolled into the visitors’ clubhouse Sunday wearing a Navy blue Yankees sweatsuit with the rest of his teammates, something that provided comfort similar to the moments he and his former Cubs teammates enjoyed at the end of multiple-city trips.

Playing for the best team in the American League has its perks, especially while enduring an extended offensive malaise.

Rizzo’s recent struggles, which have included no home runs since May 10, have been overshadowed by the brilliance of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto and a dependable rotation.

“It’s all about winning right now,” Rizzo said before going hitless in five at-bats in a 7-5 comeback win against the Giants, highlighted by Soto’s two home runs. “I just want to be a part of it, get good at-bats.”

Rizzo, who will turn 35 on Aug. 8, is hardly in danger of losing playing time at first base. He has displayed a knack for getting hot during the summer months, as was the case when he helped lead the Cubs to four consecutive National League playoff appearances (2015-18).

“Traditionally, as it warms up, so do I,” Rizzo said.

As Rizzo stated several times, it’s a long season. But he didn’t hesitate when asked if he knew the significance of Sept. 6.

“We’re going back to Wrigley,” Rizzo said with a confident smile.

It will mark the first time Rizzo returns to Wrigley Field as a player since July 29, 2021, when he was traded from the Cubs — with whom he developed into a four-time Gold Glover and three-time All-Star and became a massive fan favorite for his production and charity work that he has continued in New York and South Florida.

“It will be fun, it will be special,” Rizzo said. “We’re still trying to win a playoff berth and should be in a great position, health-wise. But it’s a long ways away.”

At least Rizzo will have more time to reunite with the city that embraced him after coming over in a four-player trade with the Padres before the 2012 season. It was one of the first moves by Theo Epstein after taking over as president of baseball operations, and Rizzo’s growth as a player and popularity helped change the Cubs’ culture, culminating in a 2016 World Series title — the franchise’s first since 1908.

The trade of Rizzo — for dazzling outfield prospect Kevin Alcantara and since-departed pitching prospect Alexander Vizcaino — happened as the Cubs and Rizzo never came close to crystallizing an extension while the Cubs were in the midst of a 91-loss season and faced with the prospect of trading fellow impending free agents Javy Baez and Kris Bryant (each of whom was dealt less than 24 hours after Rizzo).

Nevertheless, the impact of the trade hit Rizzo, who leaned into the outfield ivy with his family members and his dog Kevin while surveying Wrigley before addressing reporters and waving to a group of fans waiting outside for a couple of hours after he was traded.

“Having a day off [before the Cubs series] will be nice,” Rizzo said. “It will be fun to go back, but it’s so far away. To think about that is crazy.”

According to Rizzo, it’s also crazy to believe it’s more than a coincidence that the Cubs have struggled for consistent full-time production at first base since he was traded, with the mercurial production of trade acquisition Michael Busch causing manager Craig Counsell to consider playing center fielder Cody Bellinger at first more often.

Since the start of the 2022 season, Alfonso Rivas — who was waived before the 2023 season — has started more games at first (73) than any other Cubs player.

“I hope the organization does well,” Rizzo said after a brief pause. “I had great years there. I love it here [in New York]. It’s been a lot of fun for me, to be in another organization and how much the clubhouse and city has embraced me.

“But nothing here will ever take away my time in Chicago. It’s two different stories.”

And times have changed for Rizzo, Baez and Bryant, especially for the latter two. In Rizzo’s first full season with the Yankees in 2022, he produced 32 home runs and an .817 OPS — his highest in three seasons.

But a collision with Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. wasn’t diagnosed as post-concussion syndrome until slightly more than two months later and caused him to miss the final two months of the season.

Rizzo emphatically said that the symptoms are in the past and that he has felt “100% healthy,” despite his slow start.

As for the woes of Baez (entering Friday, he was batting .223 with 27 home runs and a .609 OPS since signing a six-year, $140 million contact with the Tigers) and the injury-prone Bryant (.715 OPS in only 146 games with the Rockies), Rizzo declined to examine their stunning failures.

“I love Javy, I love Kris,” Rizzo said. “I love our time there. I just worry about playing here and love being on a team that has a lot of fun every day and brings a lot of energy.”

After reaching a team zenith in 2016, Rizzo recognizes that every opportunity to advance through the playoffs is precious. He advanced to the postseason in his first two years with the Yankees, batting .276 with two home runs and eight RBI in nine playoffs games in 2022.

The Yankees’ robust offense has more than compensated for Rizzo’s recent skid, during which he’s 7-for-52 (.178) with a .173 slugging percentage in the last 14 games entering Friday.

The Giants did him no favors Sunday, as 2023 National League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell struck him out twice and lefty relievers Erik Miller and Taylor Rogers retired him on routine grounders to lower his season batting average against lefties to .197 with one extra-base hit and one RBI in 61 at-bats.

Despite his recent funk, Rizzo insists he has a lot to offer. He’s in the second year of a two-year, $40 million contract that includes a $17 million team option/$6 million buyout.

But money might go only so far, even for the Yankees. Soto will become a free agent after this season and could command one of the biggest contacts in MLB history.

As the Yankees continue to win, Rizzo’s desire to continue playing remains firm.

“There’s a lot left in the tank,” Rizzo said. “We play 162 games a season for a reason.

“As long as the wheels don’t fall off. I feel great, my body feels great, and my mind feels great. Just need to take it one day at a time.”

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