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Rizzo finally makes his debut at Fenway

Ex-Sox prospect happy as a Padre

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / June 21, 2011

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He was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 amateur draft and developed by the Red Sox. When he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma four years ago as an 18-year-old prospect in Single A Greenville (S.C.), the Sox helped shepherd him through his chemotherapy treatments to a cancer-free diagnosis.

So, when he dug in for his first plate appearance at Fenway Park, Anthony Rizzo fully expected to do it as a member of the Red Sox.

Not as a member of the San Diego Padres.

Rizzo, the 21-year-old first baseman, was one of three minor league prospects (in addition to a player named) the Sox parted with to acquire Adrian Gonzalez last December.

“I had dreams of playing in the big league and here I am in Fenway Park, it’s so historical,’’ said Rizzo, who entered last night’s game mired in a 1-for-17 slump and hitting .143.

He struck out and flied to left in his first two at-bats against lefthander Andrew Miller before tagging a towering double to straightaway center that chased Miller in the sixth. He finished 1 for 4.

Rizzo acknowledged he was stunned when he was traded — along with righthander Casey Kelley, his best friend in the Sox system, and outfielders Reymond Fuentes and Eric Patterson (the player to be named).

“It was shocking, just because, like I said, coming up with the Red Sox and getting developed by them and them helping me through my sickness,’’ Rizzo said. “But I was with Casey when we got traded. After it all got settled in, it was such a great opportunity for us and here I am in the big leagues today.’’

Rizzo fit the profile of the player with which Padres general manager Jed Hoyer wanted to replenish San Diego’s ranks.

But Hoyer counseled Rizzo not to think he had to replace Gonzalez when he was called up from Triple A Tucson, where he hit. 365 (73 for 200) with 42 runs, 20 doubles, 1 triple, 16 home runs, and 63 RBIs in 52 games.

“Adrian Gonzalez at 21 years old was toiling in Triple A,’’ Hoyer said. “It took Adrian a number of years before he established himself as a major league player. He got traded and kicked around a bit before he got established with his third team, so I told him don’t feel like you have to replace Adrian Gonzalez. Just be yourself.’’

At no time, however, has Rizzo ever wondered what would have happened if he remained a Red Sox.

“No, I really hadn’t thought about that,’’ he said. “If things hadn’t changed, I’d probably be in Double A now, so I got a great opportunity over there — I’m sorry — I mean the Padres.’’

Returning hero The crowd treated Padres first base coach Dave Roberts to a hearty ovation. Red Sox fans have not forgotten his historic ninth-inning stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.

“If it weren’t for Dave, you’d be talking to somebody else,’’ said manager Terry Francona, who pinch ran Roberts for Kevin Millar.

“We had a special group,’’ Roberts said. “That’s the thing people always talk about, our ‘04 team, and what it meant for the people in New England and Boston. The group was still tight. All of us are still tight. We still reminisce about ‘04 and the group we had.’’

Roberts, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins’ lymphoma last March, has been cancer-free since last September. Yesterday he underwent a scan at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which confirmed he was still cancer-free.

“Winning a World Series here and then to get diagnosed with cancer, it was kind of a big blow to you and your family,’’ said Roberts. “But today I got cleared, at Dana-Farber, so I’m just happy to be here.’’

Beckett a scratch Francona said Josh Beckett, who was scheduled to start tonight, “hadn’t felt good the last couple of days,’’ prompting the manager to scratch him. Alfredo Aceves will get the start. When asked when Miller would make his next start, Francona said he was not certain. “He was going to pitch Saturday, I believe,’’ Francona said of Miller. “But we’re going to have to go through this tomorrow and see how Beckett’s doing and slide him in somewhere and I just don’t where that is.’’ . . . Shortstop Jed Lowrie will fly to Los Angeles today to meet with Dr. Lewis Yocum tomorrow. Lowrie was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Friday with a left shoulder strain.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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