Count Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler as one of many inspired by Anthony Rizzo’s stunning return to the starting lineup on Thursday.
Kintzler was nursing a mild left oblique strain that had kept him out of action since Sept. 10. While Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that the plan was for the 35-year-old to throw a bullpen session either Friday or Saturday, that soon changed.
“Yeah, I mean Rizzo inspired me,” Kintzler said with a smile on Friday. “I can’t sit here and worry about [an] oblique and this guy’s got one leg.”
Make no mistake, many MLB players aren’t feeling 100 percent come September each season. The Cubs are witnessing this firsthand, as Kris Bryant (knee) Javier Báez (thumb) and Rizzo (ankle) are among those dealing with injuries right now. Kintzler is no exception to this fact.
“It’s September,” he said with a laugh on Friday. “We’ll leave it all out there and see what happens.”
Granted, Kintzler did say that Friday he felt good. However, if it were earlier in the season, you can bet he’d throw a bullpen session, at the least, before returning to game action.
The Cubs bullpen has been stellar this month despite Kintzler’s nine-game absence. Entering Friday’s game, Cubs relievers have posted a 2.32 ERA, No. 1 in baseball by a comfortable margin over the second-ranked Rays (2.68). Kintzler and his 2.82 ERA should only help this cause.
Still, with the Cardinals in town and time running out for the Cubs to put a strangle hold on a postseason spot, it’s all hands on deck for the North Siders.
“These are important games, and I want to be a part of it,” Kintzler said. “I’ve been waiting all year to pitch in important games at Wrigley in September, so I’m not gonna waste a bullpen on it.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.