Posted on April 10, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs made official what has seemed inevitable for several days. The club has placed first baseman Anthony Rizzo on the 10-day DL because of back soreness. The issue caused Rizzo to miss Chicago’s home opener Tuesday afternoon against the Pirates. The Cubs have brought up 31-year old first baseman Efren Navarro to take Rizzo’s spot on the roster.
Rizzo has been battling back soreness for the past week. At times, he’s been able to play through it, but he’s been absent from Chicago’s last three games. Monday’s home opener was pushed back to Tuesday because of snow, giving Rizzo some hope that he’d be able to play. But the Cubs have decided not to rush him back onto the field.
“It stinks, especially to not be able to play the home opener,” says Rizzo. “I think if it was 80 degrees right now or 20, it doesn’t matter. It’s right to get it better for the long haul.”
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Back problems are not necessarily a new thing for Rizzo. However, they usually pop up later in the season and they’ve never forced him to the DL before. Perhaps more importantly, the tightness he’s experiencing is in a different part of his back than in the past.
“This is something that just grabbed. It’s usually upper (back); this is lower,” explains Rizzo. “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.”
When Rizzo has tried to play this season, it’s been obvious that something isn’t right. He has just three hits in 28 at-bats, with only one extra-base hit and seven strikeouts. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has also recognized that Rizzo isn’t in condition to play.
“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,” Maddon said Tuesday. “Let’s not rush it. I really believe he’ll be fine at the conclusion of this DL stint.”
While Rizzo is on the DL, the Cubs have a few different options to play first base. Backup catcher Victor Caratini has started three games this season in place of Rizzo. Ben Zobrist started Tuesday’s game and could see more time there based on his excellent start to the season offensively and Chicago’s crowded outfield. Navarro is another option, although he has never been a consistent offensive player in the big leagues.
At this point, the Cubs are optimistic that Rizzo will be back sooner rather than later and that he will come back fully healthy. He could be back as early as next Monday when the Cubs begin a series against the Cardinals. However, backs are notoriously fickle, especially if Rizzo is experiencing lower back pain when he’s more accustomed to discomfort in his upper back. The Cubs aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders offensively at the start of the season, so they need Rizzo to be back to full health and back in the lineup as soon as possible.