PHOENIX -- For most Cubs players, walking off the plane to be greeted by the 110-degree Arizona summer weather was anything but enjoyable.
But for Cubs outfielder Joe Mather, who went to high school in the Phoenix suburb of Ahwatukee, it was home sweet home.
"Every time I get out of the plane and feel that heat, it feels like home," Mather said. "You don't get to come home very much in the summer playing baseball, so I actually like it."
With the Cubs enjoying an off-day Thursday, Mather got time to spend at home with his girlfriend, sister and father, who all live in the area.
"We didn't tell a lot of people we were coming in because it was an off-day and we wanted to get some sun," Mather said. "We kind of laid low, saw some close friends and treated it like it was just a regular day at home."
Signing straight out of Mountain Pointe High School, Mather takes pride in his relationship with the community he grew up in. His father used to coach at Mountain Pointe and last season, when the school won the baseball state championship, Mather bought the team a suite at a D-backs game.
"I have a really good connection with Mountain Pointe, they always let me come up and use the field," Mather said. "I've always done as much for the school as they've done for me. It's been an awesome relationship."
The 29-year-old was in the lineup on Friday night with friends and family watching, going 0-for-2 with a walk. Although his first game at Chase Field with the Cubs didn't go as planned, Mather does have a special memory at the ballpark.
In his first career at-bat against the D-backs in 2008, Mather hit a home run off of Randy Johnson.
Sveum pleased with Soriano's production
PHOENIX -- A week after fans booed Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano for not running out a hard-hit ball the veteran thought had been caught, manager Dale Sveum reflected on the 36-year-old's season to date.
"He's not doing anything we didn't expect," Sveum said. "Those kind of guys, if they get enough at-bats, end up putting up the numbers they are supposed to."
Through 65 games, Soriano is hitting .265 -- which would be his highest batting average for a season since 2008 -- with 13 homers and a team-leading 43 RBIs.
Soriano still has two years left on his eight-year, $136 million contract, but even though he's being paid like a young superstar, Sveum said it's unfair to think the outfielder should put up the same numbers he did at a younger age, especially when related to speed.
"When you get to that age, not many people are 40-40 [players] after 35 years old," Sveum said. "It's unrealistic to expect someone to do what they did at 25, especially what he did. We know the stolen bases and all that stuff is out of the question."
Anticipation for Rizzo's arrival builds
PHOENIX -- A coach with the Brewers when Ryan Braun made his long-awaited Major League debut, Cubs manager Dale Sveum knows the circus that can follow a highly-regarded prospect when he gets promoted.
But Sveum admitted on Saturday he has never experienced the sort of buildup going on now, as the team awaits the promotion of first baseman Anthony Rizzo from Triple-A Iowa.
"Braun didn't play that much in the Minor Leagues, and he didn't put up these huge numbers," Sveum said. "I don't think I've been around anybody that has had this much hype."
In 67 games this season, Rizzo is batting .355 with 62 RBIs and a Pacific Coast League-leading 23 home runs.
With all the excitement surrounding Rizzo's eventual promotion, which Sveum said is inevitable, the amount of pressure on the 22-year-old when he gets to the big leagues will be understandably high. The club, however, thinks its top prospect can handle it.
"Just being around him in Spring Training, he seemed to be a guy that's very ahead of the game, maturity-wise," Sveum said. "He has a lot of those leadership skills. I think we all have to be patient, though, and understand the game here is a lot different than Triple-A."
Sveum still doesn't have an exact date for when the team will call up Rizzo, but he and the other coaches are beginning to have conversations as to where the first baseman should hit in the lineup.
"We've talked about it, but we haven't come up with a solution," Sveum said. "It'd be nice to have a guy hitting behind him. Whenever you have somebody with that hype and that much ability, I think it always helps to have someone hit behind him.
"It would be nice to have some extra fire power in the lineup on an everyday basis. It's always nice to have guys that can hit a home run in any at-bat."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.