Cubs

Cubs exercising caution with Anthony Rizzo's lower back tightness

Cubs exercising caution with Anthony Rizzo's lower back tightness

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (lower back) is day-to-day, manager David Ross said Wednesday.

Rizzo, who’s missed time in recent seasons with back issues, sat out Summer Camp activities on Tuesday and Wednesday with lower back tightness.

“He came in yesterday, felt a little stiffness in some similar areas that he’s been sore before and [we’re] just getting ahead of it,” Ross told reporters in Wednesday’s Zoom session. “We had a light day yesterday with just the 2 1/2 innings and then a really light day of just live BP today.

“He's day-to-day but I just wanted to make sure at this time in the schedule that we use caution."

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Rizzo entered Summer Camp in great shape, having lost 25 pounds during baseball's shutdown while training with Cubs quality assurance coach Mike Napoli.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Should Cubs play Cardinals this week after St. Louis' outbreak?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Should Cubs play Cardinals this week after St. Louis' outbreak?

The Cubs have the second best record in baseball, but the biggest story is that a second team has had a COVID-19 outbreak in the Cardinals, who the Cubs play this weekend.

David Kaplan is joined by the NBCS Chicago Cubs coverage team of Gordon Wittenmyer, Maddie Lee and Tim Stebbins as they discuss the Cardinals outbreak and what MLB is doing to combat it. Later on, they discuss the Cubs hot start and if their record is a result of a soft early schedule.

(1:30) - 13 Cardinals contract the coronavirus

(6:29) - MLB's response to a second team's outbreak

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(12:30) - How real is the Cubs record?

(19:30) - Is there something more to the Cubs core than we thought?

(26:40) - Is Rizzo the face of the Cubs?

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Theo Epstein: Cubs manager David Ross won't 'turn his back' on Craig Kimbrel

Theo Epstein: Cubs manager David Ross won't 'turn his back' on Craig Kimbrel

The guitar riff from Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine,” serenated the empty stands of Wrigley Field, and Craig Kimbrel emerged from the bullpen Tuesday night, for the first time in days.

“Craig’s been making some strides in the bullpen,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “And I wanted to get him some work, hopefully with the lead, and we were able to do that tonight.”

In what turned into a 5-4 win against the Royals, it was clear that Kimbrel still had work to do. The seven-time All-Star closer has been battling what Ross and the Cubs front office have identified as mechanical issues. After walking four in his first outing and giving up two home runs in his second, Kimbrel has been working behind the scenes. He did not appear in any of the Cubs’ past three games, all of which were decided by two runs or less

“He hasn’t been through this much before but we’re proud of the way he’s handling it,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said before Tuesday’s game. “He’s tackling it head on, putting in a ton of work in side sessions and pouring over video and data and mechanical analysis to get the right answers so he can get the right feel and make the right adjustments.

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“Rossy’s got his back and he’s not going to turn his back on him while he goes through this. He’s going to get the ball, he’s going try to pick the right situations for him as he works through these adjustments.”

Ross said he didn’t pre-schedule Kimbrel’s save opportunity Tuesday. But by the eighth inning, when the Cubs had a two-run lead, Kimbrel was warming up in the bullpen and set to pitch the next inning. Then Willson Contreras hit a solo homer to give Kimbrel a three-run cushion.

“We really need Craig Kimbrel to be a big part of this bullpen,” Ross said. “And we have to throw him, we have to get him innings and continue to judge where he’s at according to what the hitters do.”

The first hitter Kimbrel faced was Salvador Pérez. He hit a sharp ground ball into left field. Then he struck out Franchy Cordero, firing a high fastball by him for strike three. So far, an improvement.

Then Adalberto Mondesi stepped up to the plate. He hit a line drive so hard off the ivy that the ball bounced off the right field wall. Mondesi cruised into second base and Pérez into third.

Ross headed to the mound to pull Kimbrel.

“His misses right now are into a good spot for (Alex) Gordon,” Ross said, “and I just didn’t see that playing out for that benefit. I liked the matchup with Kyle Ryan better, so I had to make that decision.”

Ryan got Gordon to ground out in two pitches and allowed an RBI single. Both of the runs Ryan inherited from Kimbrel scored. Ryan needed a diving stop by third baseman Kris Bryant to get the save. He got just that.

Kimbrel has yet to blow a save this season, but he’s come close.

“Craig is elite at what he does and has tremendous mentally toughness,” Epstein said. “He is not someone to back down from a challenge, so this is a new type of challenge for him.”

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