Cubs

Manny Ramirez is still trying to make it as a player

Manny Ramirez is still trying to make it as a player

Manny Ramirez is trying to pull a Julio Franco and play until he's into his 50s.

Franco played in the MLB through age 48 in 2007 before joining the Mexican League in 2008 and then returning to the Independent League in 2014 at age 55.

Now Ramirez is looking to follow suit.

In the latest edition of "Manny Being Manny," the former Cubs coach has signed a contract with the Kochi Fighting Dogs in Japan's Independent Shikoku Island League.

Ramirez will be 45 in May and last played in the big leagues in 2011 at age 39 when he tallied 17 at-bats with the Tampa Bay Rays. He also appeared in 24 games with the White Sox at the end of 2010.

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Cubs president Theo Epstein signed Ramirez to a deal as a player-coach in 2014, allowing the decorated MLB player to appear in 24 games with Triple-A Iowa while also mentoring young hitters like Javy Baez and Kris Bryant.

Ramirez also played in the Dominican Winter League in late 2014, posting a .920 OPS in 41 games.

Ramirez served as a hitting consultant with the Cubs organization for the 2015-16 campaigns.

He played more than 2,300 games in the big leagues, tallying 555 homers, 1,831 RBI and a .996 OPS.

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs entered play Sunday 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central with exactly five weeks of action to play. 

So now would be an awful time for the Cubs to lose one of their best players and a key to their offense for an extended period of time.

But the organization wasn't overly concerned about Anthony Rizzo's back prior to Sunday's series finale with the Nationals at Wrigley Field, a game in which he was not in the lineup (Ian Happ started at first base instead).

Rizzo was forced out of Saturday's game in the fifth inning with mid-back tightness and this is far from the first time the All-Star first baseman has dealt with back issues. He missed four games in mid-May with a back problem and needed a trip to the injured list in April of last season for the same reason.

But this instance isn't necessarily related to the others.

"A little bit different spot, he said, so we're not as concerned," Joe Maddon relayed Sunday morning. "It's normally in just a little bit of a different spot. When I talked to him [Saturday], Anthony was pretty optimistic. I'll just wait and see what [trainers] say."

Maddon also said Rizzo was still pretty sore/stiff Sunday morning before receiving treatment from the Cubs medical staff. Barring a "miracle cure," the manager didn't see any way he would insert Rizzo into Sunday's game, even as a pinch-hitter.

The Cubs only had three position players on the bench for the last week as they rolled nine deep in the bullpen. That left them in a bit of a pickle for Saturday's game when Rizzo exited early, but to make up for it Sunday, they called David Bote back up to the big leagues and put reliever Derek Holland on the 10-day IL with a left wrist contusion.

Rizzo and the Cubs have the benefit of an off-day Monday to help aid his recovery. But this inconsistent lineup could really use his bat every day, especially over the next week with three games against the Mets in New York (against Marcus Stroman, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard) before the Brewers come into Wrigley for a four-game set.

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

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USA TODAY

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

David Bote's minor league stint didn't last long.

After demoting the 26-year-old to Triple-A Iowa on Monday, the Cubs recalled Bote on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team placed Derek Holland (left wrist contusion) on the 10-day injured list.

Bote's return comes on the heels of Anthony Rizzo exiting Saturday's game due to mid-back tightness. Rizzo has dealt with back issues at various points in his career, missing four games in May this season with a similar ailment. 

The Cubs activated Steve Cishek off the injured list Tuesday, with the reliever filling Bote's vacancy on the 25-man roster. Thus, the Cubs had been playing with 14 pitchers and 11 position players for much of this week. Had they not recalled Bote, they Cubs would've had to play Sunday's game with just Victor Caratini and Tony Kemp available off the bench.

A similar situation occurred Saturday, as Rizzo exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. To save the Cubs from running out of position players, reliever Kyle Ryan took his at-bat in the sixth inning. Although he drew a walk, Ryan was thrown out attempting to take third base on a pitch that got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Holland was hit by a comebacker in Tuesday's game against the Giants. Him landing on the injured list leaves Ryan as the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen. The former holds a 5.74 ERA this season in 43 overall games between the Cubs and Giants, though that number is a more respectable 4.66 in 12 appearances with the Cubs.

Bote is hitting .257/.352/.429 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 106 games (268 at-bats) this season. 

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