Yankees' Anthony Rizzo rounds the bases on his three-run home run...

Yankees' Anthony Rizzo rounds the bases on his three-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

BOSTON — Almost from the time Anthony Rizzo arrived in the Yankees' clubhouse after the 2021 trade deadline, he was a perfect fit.

Sure, the lefthanded-hitting first baseman diversified a Yankees lineup desperately needing diversification, and the four-time Gold Glover was an immediate upgrade defensively at a position the club desperately needed to upgrade.

But Rizzo brought a certain gravitas to his new clubhouse as well, the result of his being a World Series winner in 2016 with the Cubs and his status as one of the leaders on that club.

It didn’t take long for Rizzo to join Aaron Judge as the two de facto leaders in the  clubhouse, which has continued  this season. The pair, very much 1a and 1b when it comes to leaders in the room, seemed to instantly bond last year, and a day doesn’t go by when they’re not seen talking to each other, whether in the clubhouse or on the field during pregame work or in the dugout during games.

That Rizzo, a Cub from 2012 until he was dealt to the Yankees in 2021, made such an immediate impact surprised no one in Chicago, including one of Rizzo’s best friends.

“I saw it the last couple of years when I was there in Chicago; he really kind of took that to heart to speak up in certain matters and was kind of our voice,” said Jon Lester, who spent the first nine years of his career with the Red Sox but was a Cub from 2015-20 and a member of the 2016 championship team. “And when you do that, you take on a lot of responsibility. He’s consistent with what he says, he's consistent what he does, and you need that in a leader, and you need that from somebody, not only vocally but by action as well, and he does a good job of toeing that line.”

Lester, who went 200-117 with a 3.66 ERA in his 16-year big-league career, spoke on the field at Fenway Park before Saturday night’s 3-2 Yankees victory and used “consistent” a healthy number of times in describing Rizzo and his attributes.  

It is a word, incidentally, that Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter used perhaps more than any other in describing his game-to-game, season-to-season goals during his 20-year career.

Joe Maddon,  who managed Rizzo for most of his career in Chicago, told Newsday early last September that when he heard Rizzo had been dealt to the Yankees, his initial reaction was “that he’s perfect for it.”

"He’s got a really good way about him, a very calm way about him," said Maddon, who was fired as Angels manager earlier this season and replaced by Phil Nevin, formerly the Yankees' third-base coach. "He comes to play every day, he’s able to file away a bad moment. He accepts criticism really well. He’s always seeking advice and a better way to do things. He’s not an I-know-everything kind of guy at all. He’s a great listener. The [complete package]."

For Lester, it all comes back to his go-to word when describing Rizzo.

“He’s consistent,” he said. “I think that, honestly, it’s hard not to be emotional when you play for the Red Sox or Yankees.”

The lefthander then quoted another longtime teammate, this one from his Red Sox days, Dustin Pedroia.

“I think Pedroia said it best when we were here together. He said it’s 162 single-game seasons [how the fans and media react to each game],” Lester said. “It really is, and it’s hard not to buy into that when you’re playing. You ride the emotional roller coaster with the fans, and that's really, really hard to do as a player because you have to try to figure out a way to do this from February to hopefully the end of October and not lose your mind . . . I think that’s a hard thing to do, especially in this game, is to be consistent, and Rizz definitely does a good job of that. I think the genuine side of him just resonates for him as a teammate, him as a player. I can't speak highly enough of that, of being consistent. I can't emphasize that enough. That's a hard thing to do in this game, and he does such a good job with it.”

More Yankees headlines