MINNEAPOLIS — It was only 15 months ago that then-Cubs manager Dale Sveum threatened to send struggling Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to the minors.
"No one wants to go down to the minor leagues," Rizzo said that day. "Whatever happens happens."
What happened was Rizzo and Castro endured subpar seasons, Sveum was fired at season's end, and now the two players are representing the Cubs in Tuesday's All-Star Game at Target Field.
Redemption never felt so good.
"Oh, yeah, after that bad year I had last year, it's going to be a good one," Castro said. "A perfect one, because now I've got that confidence back to keep going every year."
Castro, voted in by players, will appear in his third game, while Rizzo is making his All-Star debut after being voted in by fans in the National League Final Vote.
"A lot of people write you off so quickly in this game," Rizzo said. "It's not unfair, but it is what it is. Castro, I'm really happy for him. We're both happy to be here and happy to be here together too."
Sveum was let go in part because of his tough-love managing style, particularly toward Castro. New manager Rick Renteria has seemingly had a positive effect on the shortstop, who chafed under Sveum's criticism.
"We talk a lot," Castro said of Renteria and his staff. "They've got confidence in us, they trust us, they're letting us play baseball and that's the kind of thing you want. You have your talent. You know who you can be, and that's what you need - people that trust you and let you play."
Before meeting with the media Monday, Rizzo made sure to say hello to Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. He said their feud during Thursday's game at Great American Ball Park is officially history.
"It's over with now," Rizzo said. "This experience isn't about that. This is about enjoying the week."
Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco may have to be the middleman, just in case.
"I'm sure it will be fine here, with it being the All-Star Game and us being on the same team," Mesoraco said. "I wouldn't expect any problems."
The feud began when Chapman buzzed Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz twice in the same at-bat. Rizzo yelled at Chapman from the dugout rail, then went over to challenge the Reds dugout the next inning after some Reds players were chirping at him.
"Aroldis lost a couple of pitches and they were up by (Schierholtz's) head," Mesoraco said. "Which, you know, anybody is going to take (umbrage) and they're not going to be happy with that.
"Rizzo was sticking up for his guys, which, as a leader, is what your teammates would like to see. So it's part of baseball at this point."
Rizzo agreed with Mesoraco's assessment.
"That's all it was," Rizzo said. "We were on our fifth game in four days, and they had kind of had our number for the first four games. Tempers flared and, obviously, when you settle down and dissect it..."
The incident also took place during the final minutes of the Final Vote balloting for the NL All-Star squad. Rizzo joked he had an ulterior motive.
"I needed the final votes," he said with a laugh.