Anthony Rizzo: San Diego Padres' Hot Prospect Expected to Make Debut Thursday

Todd HawkinsCorrespondent IJune 9, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 17:  Manager Bud Black of the San Diego Padres watches from the dugout during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Help is finally on the way, Padre fans.

Hot-hitting Anthony Rizzo landed in San Diego on Wednesday morning to get his bruised left thumb evaluated by a hand specialist at Scripps Clinic after colliding with an umpire on May 31. The 21-year-old first basemen had missed four of the last 10 games for Triple-A Tucson due to the injury.

As it turns out, the medical visit was the final procedure before joining the big league club.

The Padres avoided calling up the 2008 non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor in May to avoid an early start to his arbitration years and save money, something the Royals surprisingly didn't do with Eric Hosmer.

Rizzo was an integral piece of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston and if he reaches his ceiling, Gonzalez could be a distant memory.

The sweet-swinging left-hander didn't give the organization much of a choice after batting .365 with a .444 on-base percentage, .715 slugging percentage, 16 home runs and 63 RBI for Tucson. His slugging percentage and RBI total led all of minor league baseball.

It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts from the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League to the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park.

Before the season started, I don't think anyone around the Padres organization could have predicted this.

"We wanted him to get some seasoning," general manager Jed Hoyer said after the Padres' 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

"This is frankly ahead of the schedule we had imagined when we acquired him. We thought he was a guy that if he pushed it he could be a September call-up and could help us in 2012. He's played so well in spring training and this year that he really forced us and pushed the clock. Going into the season this wasn't the timing we expected. I'm proud of him to force us to make the move earlier."

Hoyer originally planned on calling Rizzo up for a stretch of interleague play starting June 17 at Minnesota, but manager Bud Black talked him into making the move earlier.

Rizzo is expected to start against the Washington Nationals on Thursday night hitting somewhere between fifth and seventh in the order, according to Black.

Veteran right-hander Livan Hernandez will be on the hill for the Nats.