7/23/2014 8:49 P.M. ET
Rizzo comes through for courageous young fan
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- When Anthony Rizzo crossed home plate after hitting his 24th, and then his 25th home run, he touched his fingers to his lips and then pointed to the sky. It was a message to a 22-year-old cancer patient whom the Cubs first baseman had met earlier in the day.
On Tuesday, Rizzo made his monthly visit to the cancer ward at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, and met one of the patients, Mike, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Mike is a "huge Cubs fan," Rizzo said Wednesday, and the first baseman didn't exactly promise he would hit a home run, but said he'd try.
Rizzo not only hit one, but notched his seventh career multi-homer game, and third this year, and has set a career high in homers this season, topping the old mark of 23, set last year.
Meeting Mike brought back some memories for Rizzo, 24, who was diagnosed in 2008 with Hodgkins lymphoma, and battled back.
"This one hit more at home for me," Rizzo said about meeting Mike, his mother, and his girlfriend. "I usually don't get flashbacks, but I did this time."
Soler, Almora earn Minor League promotions
CHICAGO -- Jorge Soler told the Cubs he's on a mission to get to the big leagues, and the Cuban outfielder is now one step closer to fulfilling that.
The Cubs promoted Soler, 22, to Triple-A Iowa late Tuesday. He was batting .415 at Double-A Tennessee after going 2-for-3 on Tuesday with a triple. The outfielder was limited early this season because of leg injuries.
He wasn't the only top prospect to get a promotion. Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, who hit his seventh home run on Tuesday and was batting .283 with 50 RBIs, was bumped up from Class A Daytona to Tennessee.
"There was no grand plan to do it in concert -- it just made sense," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of the timing.
Soler played 55 games last season at Daytona after sustaining a left shin fracture in June. This year, he was bothered by hamstring injuries, and was injured after his first at-bat in April. He played seven games in April and May combined. Since coming off the disabled list, he was had a slash line of .463/.538/1.000 in 15 games in July, and has hit six home runs with 15 RBIs.
"With Soler, we talked about how he looked like he was on a mission," Epstein said. "He came off the [disabled list] without missing a beat. It was remarkable for him to not show any signs of rust. He said, 'Now is my time.' He made a statement."
And it's not just the impressive offensive numbers but the quality of at-bats that have impressed the Cubs. Soler has been hitting more balls in the air, and most have gone out of the ballparks.
"When you're as strong as he is, and you hit the ball as hard as he does, and can manage an at-bat like he does, hitting the ball in the air is a good thing and the results are going to come," Epstein said.
Almora has been hitting with more authority and more power, Epstein said.
"He's the type of player who plays up to the level of competition and rises to a challenge," Epstein said. "He's played with guys older than he is his entire career -- amateur and professional career. We think this is a nice challenge for him."
Olt sent to Triple-A to work on hitting stroke
CHICAGO -- Mike Olt told Cubs officials he got into some bad habits at the plate, and on Wednesday, he was headed to Triple-A Iowa to try to get back on track.
Olt was sent down to the Minor Leagues after the Cubs' game on Tuesday, in which he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. That game happened to mark the one-year anniversary of the Cubs acquiring the third baseman from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal.
Olt was batting .139 in 72 games, but did lead all National League rookies with 12 home runs. He also has struck out 84 times in 187 at-bats.
"He acknowledged he's gotten into a few bad habits at the plate, and bad habits that he couldn't break out of at the big league level," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Wednesday. "I think playing every day down there will be good for him.
"We think he has a chance to right himself just by playing every day and being more relaxed and taking some of the things he's practicing in the cage into the game with him and right himself and get back up here," Epstein said. "I think it was the appropriate move at the appropriate time."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria also met with Olt.
"He wants to get back on track," Renteria said. "I think he felt pretty comfortable about what we were going to try to do and get him as many at-bats as we possibly can."
The Cubs have top prospect Kris Bryant at third base at Iowa, and Olt will play first and also be the designated hitter. He was driving from Chicago to Des Moines on Wednesday, and expected to play Thursday.
"He wants to get down there and work," Renteria said. "He wants to get better."
• Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Iowa, struck out two of the three batters he faced Wednesday. Fujikawa, who had Tommy John surgery in June 2013, threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes, in his second outing with the team.
• Manny Ramirez, a player/coach at Triple-A Iowa, was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a right calf strain. Ramirez pinch-hit on Wednesday and was batting .176 (6-for-34) in 11 games with the Minor League team.
• With Olt optioned to Triple-A Iowa, Luis Valbuena will get the majority of playing time at third base, manager Rick Renteria said. Valbuena made his 51st start at third on Wednesday; Olt had started 47 games at third.
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.