Chicago Cubs: Now healthy, Rizzo will boost Cubs’ lineup

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Anthony Rizzo got off to a slow start in 2018. Now that he is healthy, the Chicago Cubs’ offense will receive a huge boost.

Anthony Rizzo is a veteran leader for the Chicago Cubs, a consistent performer offensively and a Gold Glove first baseman. Without Rizzo at first base, the Cubs are incomplete; he is and has been a key player in the Cubs’ success.

When Rizzo last played April 5, the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-0 to improve their record to 3-3. Rizzo went 0-for-5, extending his hitless streak to eight at-bats and “improving” his season totals to 3-for-28 overall.

Struggles started before injury

Rizzo clearly was not himself offensively and he missed the next three games before landing on the 10-day DL last Tuesday. In his absence, the Cubs have been an average ball club, going 4-4 without the veteran first baseman.

Of course, Rizzo struggled even before a back injury landed him on the disabled list. For the season, Rizzo has struck out seven times and walked just once to go along with his three hits.

In addition to his 0-for-8 stretch, Rizzo went a combined 1-for-13 (0-for-7, 1-for-6) in the Cubs’ second and third games of the season. He has not struck out in a game only once this season, an Easter Sunday affair against the Miami Marlins in which the Cubs lost 6-0.

And yet, even with these struggles, there is no replacing Rizzo. Four Cubs have appeared at first base in his absence, including 31-year-old journeyman Efren Navarro.

No replacing Rizzo at first base

Victor Caratini (7-for-20) has played admirably in four starts at first base since Rizzo went down. In the end, however, no tandem of Navarro, Caratini, Ben Zobrist and even Kris Bryant can replace Rizzo’s production.

Rizzo is far and away the most dangerous and best option for the Cubs at first, even in his coldest stretch of at-bats. One has to wonder if his early struggles are related to his back injury, which first popped up April 72 against the Cincinnati Reds.

If this is the case, then Rizzo played with the back ailment during his 0-for-8 stretch. This means that he went 3-for-20 before the back ailment popped up. Of course, one should not judge him on a single four-game series.

The Cubs need Rizzo in their lineup, there is no dodging it. They have played .500 baseball without him. In the end, he is the difference between their current record and being multiple games above .500.

Next: Zobrist earning playing time with his bat

With Navarro optioned back to Triple-A Iowa Sunday, it appears all stations go for Rizzo’s return to the lineup. Hopefully, his bat warms up when he makes his return Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.