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Joe Maddon expects Anthony Rizzo to start for Cubs on Monday against Cardinals

First baseman Anthony Rizzo is expected to start the Cardinals series. | John Minchillo/Associated Press

Manager Joe Maddon expects first baseman Anthony Rizzo to return from the 10-day disabled list and start Monday in the series opener against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. The team optioned Efren Navarro to Class AAA Iowa on Sunday.

Rizzo, who has been dealing with a stiff lower back, was put on the DL last week, retroactive to April 6. He has been taking swings in the batting cage since late last week, and Maddon said Rizzo is “feeling really well.”

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“I watched him work out in the gym over there, and he looks fine,” Maddon said. “So I try to trust the guys, I do trust the guys. I ask them questions. When the guys are honest with you, it makes the decision-making so much easier. Mind reading is really difficult.”

The forecast Monday calls for snow in the morning and a temperature of 30 degrees by first pitch at 6:05 p.m. Maddon wasn’t sure how the weather would affect Rizzo, but the Cubs won’t hesitate to sit him if his back flares up.

“If he’s ready to roll, we’ll probably play him, I would imagine, but probably watch him,” Maddon said. “[With] Anthony coming back in, [I’ll ask him] in the fifth inning, ‘How are you doing?’ Does he need to be brought back in slowly? I’m not sure. So we’ll just play that by ear.”

In Rizzo’s absence, Victor Caratini made four starts at first base, Ben Zobrist two and Kris Bryant one. Bryant would have started at first and batted third if the game Sunday had been played.

Here come the Cardinals

Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals arrive at Wrigley Field for a three-game series coming off a four-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati. The Cardinals look like a different team than the one that went 83-79 last season and missed the playoffs.

The most notable addition is outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who was acquired from the Marlins. Maddon said Ozuna is “one of the best hitters in the game.” But Maddon didn’t know what to make of the Cardinals’ pitching yet.

“I think from what I’m seeing, the teams on the field in this division are all pretty good,” Maddon said. “As always, it’s going to come down to pitching. Once we get to actually feel their pitching, I’ll know more about what I think about them, but I really like their team on the field.”

Jackie’s day

Sunday was the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Maddon, who addressed the media wearing a hoodie with Robinson’s No. 42, said Robinson added “so much life to the game.”

“I think people showed up just to see this guy play, regardless of skin color,” Maddon said. “This guy was just a good, energetic, entertaining baseball player. “Beyond that, he spoke. He spoke well, too.

“For all those reasons, gosh, he’s one of those guys you wish you had met.”

According to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, Wrigley Field is the only current major-league stadium in which Robinson played.

Contributing: Brian Sandalow