Cubs

Cubs injury updates: Rizzo, Russell, Kimbrel, Baez

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USA TODAY

Cubs injury updates: Rizzo, Russell, Kimbrel, Baez

If the Cubs are going to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central, overtake the Nationals in the Wild-Card race or hold off the Brewers, they're going to have to do so without the help of some key players down the stretch.

The Cubs were already feeling the effects of those injuries even before Anthony Rizzo went down with a nasty-looking ankle injury Sunday afternoon.

The good news is Rizzo appears to have avoided a fracture, as initial X-rays were negative. However, he will have an MRI Monday to determine the severity of his sprained ankle and will likely be sidelined for at least a few days, if not longer.

Rizzo's absence is huge, both offensively and defensively, as he remains the cornerstone of their infield with his Gold Glove work at first base. He also recently stepped into the leadoff role and completely changed the complexion of a Cubs lineup that has been waiting for consistent production out of the top spot all season.

Beyond Rizzo, the Cubs are also still unsure when they're going to see Javy Baez (fractured left thumb), Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) or Addison Russell (concussion) back on the field.

Baez suffered his thumb injury while sliding headfirst into second base on Sept. 1. An MRI on Sept. 9 showed the hairline fracture and he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.

The Cubs don't yet have a timeline for Baez's return, but are holding out hope he can help the team in some way if they make it to October. He has been at home recovering in recent days, but will rejoin his teammates in Chicago at some point this week.

The Cubs have also been without Kimbrel since Sept. 1, but he threw a 20-pitch bullpen Sunday morning and came away from it feeling good. If he responds/recovers well Monday, he will face hitters in some capacity mid-week, likely in a simulated game.

Russell was placed on the 7-day IL Sunday due to a concussion he suffered last weekend in Milwaukee when he was hit in the face with a 94 mph fastball. The IL move is retroactive to Sept. 12, meaning he cannot play until at least Thursday, Sept. 19 (though even that is in doubt since head injuries do not carry clear timelines for recovery).

Rookie Nico Hoerner will remain as the Cubs shortstop in the interim.

Kris Bryant has also been dealing with right knee inflammation that has forced him out of action at various points over the last couple months, including Sept. 8 and 9. But Bryant received a cortisone shot in his knee early last week and has been on a tear since, with 5 home runs in 6 games since returning to the lineup. Bryant went 3-for-5 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI in Sunday's game.

"It's just a more assertive approach," Joe Maddon said. "There's no tentativeness attached to it. That's what I'm seeing. There's no guardedness. Whether it's that, 'my knee's gonna hurt' or 'I'm just trying to put the ball in play' - those two thoughts are out."

After wrapping up a three-game sweep of the Pirates at Wrigley Field, the Cubs will host the Cincinnati Reds from Monday through Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Cardinals will square off in St. Louis while the Brewers get set to host the Padres at Miller Park.

 

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Cubs Talk Podcast: John Baker on getting mentally prepared for baseball

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: John Baker on getting mentally prepared for baseball

Former Cub and now Cubs mental skills coach  John Baker joins the podcast with David Kaplan and Gordon Wittenmyer to discuss the mental aspect players are going through in the return to play. They dive into keeping players focused, how the lessons of late Cubs psychologist Ken Ravizza still impacts the team and how the Cubs are operating under the new guidelines.

(2:23) - Biggest mental challenges Cubs players are dealing with

(10:55) - Ken Ravizza's lessons still impact the Cubs

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(19:46) - Getting Cubs players to be in the moment when playing

(25:00) - Kaplan and Baker exchange tattoo stories

(30:30) - Not having fans around has been tough

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

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USA TODAY

Cubs' Adbert Alzolay complains about South Bend conditions but comments misleading

Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay made waves on Thursday tweeting (now deleted) about the conditions for players at the club’s alternate training site, hosted at the South Bend Cubs facility.

Alzolay and the 10 other players in South Bend are eligible for this season but will remain inactive unless need arises on the big league roster. He tweeted the players make $18 a day — or $10, when accounting for “dues” the players owe, while possibly tipping clubhouse attendants.

Whether it was a miscommunication by someone with Alzolay, the actual amount the players get is $25 and no dues are deducted from that. The option to tip clubhouse attendants is up to players individually. Through Summer Camp, the 11 Cubs in South Bend will also receive two packaged meals a day at the complex.

Once the regular season starts (July 23, per MLB’s arrangement for the 60-game campaign), the alternate site Cubs will receive $50 a day in meal money, instead of what was originally proposed because the Cubs proposed higher daily meal money.

Players will receive full salaries beginning July 23, per MLB’s agreement, and minor leaguers are being paid in the meantime. Six of the 11 Cubs in South Bend are not on the 40-man roster, and they will continue receiving $400 a week. Those on the 40-man (including Alzolay) received advanced salaries, per MLB’s agreement with the MLBPA in March.

Alzolay received $30,000 from that agreement.

Additional important context is the South Bend facility is one of the best in minor league baseball — with housing for the players nearby. The players are residing at new apartments that opened in December right outside the ballpark. They aren’t being charged for those apartments through Summer Camp, and the Cubs will subsidize many of the players in South Bend once the regular season starts. 

MORE: Where Cubs could find position of strength in 2020: South Bend

Alzolay later tweeted an update on the matter.

In wake of José Quintana’s thumb injury, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday the Cubs haven’t decided if Alzolay will join the Wrigley Field training group.

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