First baseman Efren Navarro was recalled from Class AAA Iowa to replace Anthony Rizzo, who was put on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday after dealing with a sore lower back since early last week.
When Navarro first saw Rizzo Tuesday, Rizzo yelled “Navi” and gave him a big hug. Immediately, Rizzo went right to work with Navarro sharing some plays he runs on first base and allowed Navarro pick his brain.
That’s part of the reason why Navarro, 31, looks up and tries to emulate Rizzo, 28.
“I’m nothing compared to him,” Navarro said. “He’s just way better than I am. It’s unfortunate to see him go down.”
Navarro and Rizzo actually go way back to Class AAA baseball in 2011. At the time, Rizzo was playing with the Padres organization and Navarro was with the Angels minor-league system. The two played each other several times.
“I know Anthony very well,” Navarro said. “I’ve played against him a lot. I truly respect him as a human and as a person and player. I admire the way he plays.”
“I was able to see him grow and become the man he is now.”
The Cubs replaced Rizzo on first base with Ben Zobrist. Manager Joe Maddon said Navarro won’t start for the Cubs Wednesday against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.
Navarro played in 153 games over parts of five seasons with the Angels and Tigers, hitting .230 with three home runs.
Not his first go-around
This wasn’t Navarro’s first home opener. He previously was with the Angels for theirs in 2015.
But just because Navarro’s been a part of an American League home opener doesn’t make being a part of the Cubs’ less exciting.
“For me, it’s more the history that the Cubs have in Chicago,” Navarro said. “Being with them in spring training, the chemistry and tightness that the team has, the unity, all that is a big plus for me. And to be a part of this and the home opener, it’s a big accomplishment for me and I’m very excited.”