If you’ve checked out over the past few days, here’s your five-second catch-up: On Friday, April 6, Anthony Rizzo was a scratch from the Cubs lineup, as he began/continued dealing with some lower-back tightness.
Given that he’s dealt with back soreness in every one of his big league seasons and that no one (Joe Maddon, Rizzo, etc.) seemed too worried, we were not too concerned and expected him back quickly.
However, when he was held out of the lineup on Saturday, Sunday, and, ultimately, Monday (before the snow-out), I think we all knew something was up. It turns out that Rizzo’s lower back soreness is a slightly different breed that what he was used to experiencing with his upper back in years past, so he ultimately hit the disabled list, retroactive to last Friday. Which brings us to today.
Addressing the Media at Wrigley Field (Cubs.com, ESPN, Chicago Tribune, among them), Rizzo expressed frustration over not being able to appear in the home opener, but understands that this is a long season and pushing it now isn’t really worth it. Especially because, as he explains it, he’s used to dealing with this sort of stuff later in the season: “Usually it’s July, August, September. You mentally grind through it, and as long as you can move, you can play. This is one of those things where we talked and I don’t want to be locked up for the entire year.”
Smart of Rizzo to be extra cautious, especially if it’s affecting his *current* performance at the plate.
Unfortunately, while I’m searching for an optimistic signal from either Rizzo or Joe Maddon, I’m not getting much from either.
“I talked to [Rizzo] yesterday in the training room, and he’s going through a myriad of exercises and you could see he wasn’t 100 percent comfortable,” manager Joe Maddon said, per reports. “Let’s not rush it.” Maddon still believes Rizzo will be ready when he’s eligible to come off the DL (which would be in time for the start of the Cardinals series on Monday), but still, it doesn’t sound like he’s just getting extra rest.
For what it’s worth, Maddon kinda wants Rizzo to do exactly that, remarking that he believes hitters take too many swings as they prepare for games. Maddon would like to see Rizzo taking even fewer swings so that he doesn’t exacerbate any back issues. Maddon, of course, is famously opposed to excessive batting practice, so it’s no surprise that he also doesn’t love to see lots of swings in the cages before games.
I’m still cautiously optimistic that Rizzo will be OK by Monday – and in the meantime, Ben Zobrist and Victor Caratini can fill in at first base – but I will be anxious to learn that he’s coming off the DL as scheduled. We’ve all experienced it over the past few years, where the initial diagnosis and projected time away seems to come back a little lighter and a little shorter than it ultimately winds up. So, I guess: fingers crossed.