Cubs injury update: Anthony Rizzo's MRI confirms rib inflammation

Cubs injury update: Anthony Rizzo's MRI confirms rib inflammation

The results of Anthony Rizzo’s MRI Tuesday were in line with what the Cubs expected: rib inflammation on his left side, around where the rib attaches to the spine.

That’s what has given him back spasms this Summer Camp, the team announced Wednesday. Rizzo has become familiar with that symptom in recent years.

But as familiar as the discomfort was, Rizzo described this season’s back issues as, "frustrating just because of how physically in-shape I felt I was. Just can’t control the flareups."

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Rizzo shed about 25 pounds during the months long MLB shutdown.

“I feel really good for this year and for this sprint,” Rizzo said at the beginning of Summer Camp.

Now, Rizzo said he doesn’t expect to start the season on the injured list, but his back injury has dampened his certainty.

“I’ll do everything I can to stay off of it, obviously,” Rizzo said. “… Every game’s important. So, we’ve got to get off to a good start and hopefully I’m out there with the guys. I plan on it, but you can’t control it and you’ve got to be smart.”

If an IL stint is necessary, Rizzo would prefer it be for a few games early in the season, rather than extended time later. He’s done that kind of calculation before. In 2018 he missed eight games in April due to lower back tightness. But he said if the same injury had instead flared up late in the season, he would have played through the discomfort.

The calculation is a little different in a 60-game season.

“For me personally, I’m going to be pushing to get back as fast as I can and take the risk,” he said, “because the reward of being with the guys and playing alongside of them is worth it for me.”

For now, Rizzo is undergoing daily treatments. He said he isn’t hitting to limit the stress on his back as it heals, but he’s been tracking pitches to keep his timing sharp. On Wednesday, he tracked right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who started in the intrasquad scrimmage.

“Once these spasms break, it goes from severe pain to absolutely nothing,” Rizzo said. “So, I’m past the severe pain part. I’m not at the nothing stage.”

He’s somewhere in between.

Rizzo has been limited due to lower back tightness for a week. He showed signs of improvement on Sunday, when he took live batting practice without issue.

“Just didn’t recover the way I’d like it to,” Rizzo said.

So, he and the Cubs training staff shifted their focus back to strength and stability. The MRI will help them pinpoint Rizzo’s treatments.

The first baseman has a history of back injury, dating back to 2014. He left a game against the Reds in late August for lower back tightness and missed the next 18 games.

“I had little issues when I was younger,” Rizzo said, “but ‘14 was the first time I really missed time.” 

Since that season, when he played 140 games, Rizzo has only dropped below 150 games once. Last season he appeared in 146. Rizzo said he’s been happy with how the Cubs medical staff has worked with him to manage his back issues.

“Obviously twisting and pounding and playing every day doesn’t help,” he said. “But that’s what I love to do. And I feel like, yes, every year there’s a back tightness (injury), but to play 150-plus games every year is always the goal. And I feel like I hit that on a year-in, year-out basis.”


Cubs Talk Podcast: Will 4 days off help or hurt the Cubs?


Cubs Talk Podcast: Will 4 days off help or hurt the Cubs?

With the Cardinals being shutdown by MLB for a COVID-19 outbreak in the organization, the Cubs had an impromptu four days off after stringing together one of the best records in baseball so far. Will having the days off help or hurt them going forward?

David Kaplan and Gordon Wittenmyer discuss the Cubs' impromptu weekend off, Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger breaking protocol and going out in Chicago, and a 'what if' scenario that could have changed the Cubs getting Aroldis Chapman in 2016.

(1:20) - Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger breaking safety protocol to go out in Chicago

(7:09) - Cubs get four days off due to the Cardinals' coronavirus outbreak

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(9:30) - Is David Ross following in the steps of Joe Maddon with some of his methods?

(16:00) - How will MLB fix the missing games that teams will have at the end of the season?

(18:40) - Cubs wanted Andrew Miller initially, not Aroldis Chapman in 2016

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast




Jason Kipnis enjoying 'fun ride' with Cubs, but 2016 World Series still stings

Jason Kipnis enjoying 'fun ride' with Cubs, but 2016 World Series still stings

A peppy voice shouted from offscreen, drawing Jason Kipnis’ attention away from the pregame Zoom setup in front of him. Kipnis chucked as he spotted Mike Napoli, his former Indians teammate and current Cubs quality assurance coach.

“Ask this guy about 2016,” Kipnis said to the reporters on Zoom as Napoli bobbed into frame.

“It was the greatest year of our lives,” Napoli shouted.

At least Kipnis had someone with him who knew what it was like to lose to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

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Kipnis returned to Progressive Field on Tuesday, for the first time since he signed with the Cubs as a free agent in February. In the Cubs’ 7-1 win against the Indians on Tuesday, Kipnis hit a double and scored a run on a wild pitch. It was his first time in a decade-long career facing Cleveland.

The Indians had drafted Kipnis in 2009. He’d made his major league debut with the club two years later. And he spent nine seasons in Cleveland.

A “homey vibe” hit him as the Cubs touched down in the airport Tuesday and drove to their hotel. Familiar views greeted him.

What was new was walking to the ballpark from the hotel, going through a different entrance.

“I'm actually being steered to probably a few hallways I didn't know existed,” Kipnis said.

He’d been to the visiting clubhouse before but never to the batting cages or weight room. He was seeing a new side of a building that he’d called home for so many years.

Plus, he was doing it in Cubbie blue. One of his most agonizing experiences at Progressive Field had come at the hands of the Cubs. His current teammates had made up the young core of that 2016 World Series Cubs team.

“I’ve already had Rizzo walking me through, ‘I celebrated here, I celebrated here,’" Kipnis said before the game. "I’m like, ‘Thanks, buddy. I get it.'”

Kipnis said there was never a real path for him to return to the Indians for this season.  Asked if the option was closed off on his end or the teams’, he said, “My phone never rang, I’ll put it that way.”

Instead Kipnis, a Northbrook native, joined his hometown team. Over the summer, Kipnis posted on Twitter that being a Cub was still a “mindf*ck” at times.

When he and the Indians lost World Series Game 7 at home, after blowing a 3-1 series lead, 99 percent of Kipnis was “absolutely crushed.”

But he said one percent could “look back at the field the last second be like, ‘Hey, at least it's the Cubs.’

If the Indians were going to lose, at least it was to a team with a 108-year World Series drought.

Kipnis likens his feelings about playing for his hometown team this year to that ratio. He’s overwhelmingly excited about representing Chicago and playing for his friends and family. One percent of him aches every time he sees the 2016 banners or World Series highlights, neither of which he can escape in Chicago.

“I have to keep reliving it,” Kipnis said. “… It sucks, but it was a fun time in ’16, and I don’t regret anything about it”

This year has been Kipnis’ first experience switching teams. He’s been locked in a position battle at second base with Nico Hoerner and has been efficient in limited at-bats. In seven games, Kipnis is batting .368, with five extra-base hits. He kept the ball from his first home run as a Cub.

“When you get back into that hunter mentality, it's fun,” Kipnis said, “because then you push yourself to stay at it. You might not feel great some days, and you normally might have taken a day off or something to rest the body, but now you just find a way to get something productive done that day.

“And I think especially coming here in Chicago, where I know now I have even more family and friends watching games, and friends of friends, everything, it's been like a little bit more motivation to stay on top of myself.”

The COVID-19 pandemic ensured that Kipnis would get to play his former team this season. Regular season schedules became regional, so the NL Central Cubs play the AL Central Indians four times this year.

But the pandemic also ensured that Kipnis wouldn’t be able to greet fans in person, or his former teammates and coaches how he’d like to – some of them with “bull-rush” hugs.

“I've invaded these guys personal spaces for about nine years,” Kipnis said. “I think I can take a day off from giving them a hug.”

The Indians played a tribute video for Kipnis before the game. Players and staff members applauded him. Kipnis stepped out and waved his hat at the empty stands.

Like much of this season, Kipnis’ return wasn’t anything like he could have imagined when he put pen to paper back in February. But at least publicly, you won’t hear any complaints from Kipnis.

“It's been such a fun ride here so far,” he said.