The Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo missed his third straight game of the spring with a stiff back. The Cubs and Joe Maddon don’t seem all that concerned about it, but should they?
On Saturday, the Chicago Cubs‘ Anthony Rizzo sat out for the third straight day with a stiff lower back. It’s an issue that he’s had in the past few years, missing a few games due to it but never anything serious. Clearly, it’s just Spring Training. If this was a game in July or August, Rizzo would probably be in the lineup. But is this something the Cubs need to be mindful of going forward?
Last season, Miguel Montero suffered from back stiffness but said he didn’t expect to land on the DL because of it. Just one day later, that’s exactly where the veteran backstop ended up. That’s not to say Rizzo and Montero are the same person or have the same problems. It’s just that back issues can go from an inconvenience to a crippling issue rather quickly. Just ask Tiger Woods. It didn’t take long for his back issues to completely alter his direction in golf.
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Now, Woods is more of a “worst case” scenario. But Montero is one that offers a potential lesson to Joe Maddon. Since 2013 Rizzo has played in 615 of the Cubs regular season contests. That’s out of a possible 647 official games. Rizzo wants to be on the field. He wants to get his at-bats. But with the talent the Cubs have–and their versatility–it would be in Maddon’s best interest to rest Rizzo more often.
Deeper than most teams
This Cubs team has the depth to get through most injuries, minor or otherwise. Losing Kyle Schwarber last year–at the time–seemed like an insurmountable task. But Maddon made the right moves with the right players and made it work. There’s not a time that you want to see Rizzo out of the lineup. But it might be a case where Maddon will need to get him the rest to keep his back healthy.
Maddon would have several options available to him if needed. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras would be the first two on the list. Javier Baez and Schwarber would be next, but less likely. Schwarber hasn’t played any first base in his major or minor league career. But Maddon once considered him for third base in the playoffs. He was game for it–although he had never done it before in his life.
Baez would simply be taking one of the best defensive fielders in the game away from his spot. There’s no doubt he could do the job at first base. But we’ve all seen how good he is everywhere else on the diamond. The best solution would be to let the other half of “Bryzzo” slide over and play first. This would allow Maddon the chance to mix and match the rest of the left side of the field with Ben Zobrist, Baez, Schwarber, Contreras and Jon Jay.
While it’s not serious now, you can’t afford to let it get to that point in the future. Get Rizzo his rest when you can, and keep him healthy for the long haul.