How Cubs plan to cover loss of Anthony Rizzo during first DL stint
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The Cubs survived their series against the Brewers with star first baseman Anthony Rizzo sidelined, winning two of the three games he missed last weekend.
That wasn’t the case in their home opener Tuesday, when the Cubs played from behind most of the day, could muster little against Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova and lost 8-5 in their first game after Rizzo officially went on the 10-day disabled list.
‘‘It stinks, especially not being able to play the home opener,’’ said Rizzo, whose sore lower back put him on the DL for the first time in his career. ‘‘But it’s a long season, and you’ve got to be smart. It’s just a matter of getting it right for the long haul.’’
The decision to put Rizzo on the DL was made so the Cubs could take advantage of the maximum-allowed five days to backdate such a move. He will be eligible to return Monday against the Cardinals.
‘‘It felt good [Monday]; it feels good today,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘We’ll test it out probably more over the weekend and really ramp it up. The plan for me is hopefully to be back on Monday.’’
The Cubs have missed Rizzo’s presence in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, even though he was off to a 3-for-28 start with only one home run.
Manager Joe Maddon said not having Rizzo means less protection for No. 2 hitter Kris Bryant and creates a domino effect by forcing him to move pieces around to compensate.
‘‘Everything’s impacted,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Plus, he’s so good at first, we can’t run all of our defenses without him. It’s almost like missing your quarterback or your middle linebacker.
‘‘I talked to him [Monday] in the training room, and he was going through this myriad of exercises that you could see he wasn’t 100 percent comfortable yet. I really believe he’s going to be fine at the conclusion of this DL stint. But [with the cold] weather and he’s not 100 percent — let’s not push it.’’
The Cubs selected the contract of first baseman Efren Navarro, 31, from Class AAA Iowa to replace Rizzo on the roster. Navarro, who was signed as a minor-league free agent in January, had played parts of five seasons with the Angels and Tigers. He made his Cubs debut as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning and reached on an infield single.
Rizzo typically has dealt with tightness in his upper back once or twice a year, but it usually costs him no more than two days. This time it was the lower back, and he said it locked up worse early last week.
He said he first felt pain April 2 in Cincinnati, then felt well enough after two days off to play through lingering soreness Thursday in Milwaukee. But it worsened overnight.
Rizzo and Navarro have known each other since they were Class AAA foes in 2011 in the Pacific Coast League. Rizzo greeted Navarro on Tuesday by shouting, ‘‘Navi!’’ and giving him a big hug.
‘‘I was able to see him grow and become the man he is now,’’ said Navarro, who added he tries to emulate the younger Rizzo on and off the field.