ST. LOUIS — The New York Yankees opened their first interleague series at Busch Stadium since 2014 without slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was scratched from the starting lineup against the St. Louis Cardinals because of lower-back tightness.
The Yankees pulled Rizzo less than a half-hour before the first pitch of their 4-3 loss. Rizzo missed four games July 5-8 while dealing with lower-back tightness/soreness. Two of those games were against another NL Central team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the other two vs. the Boston Red Sox.
“Him and Timmy [Tim Lentych, head athletic trainer] came into my office right before and just felt like they didn’t want to push through,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He felt something a little bit in batting practice, so we’ll see what we have.”
Boone didn’t seem to think the injury would keep Rizzo out for an extended period.
“I think last time he knew it was very similar to what he’s had sometimes in the past, where he knew it was going to be a few days,” Boone said. “He didn’t seem to think that was the case when he came in right before.”
Rizzo, who spent a decade with the Cardinals’ divisional archrival Chicago Cubs, has good career numbers against St. Louis, with 22 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .278 batting average in 154 games.
When he dealt with similar stiffness in early July, the first baseman described it as a type of lower-back spasm that has been a recurring issue in his career.
“I’ve dealt with this in years past, and I just feel like we’ve been ahead of it big time,” Rizzo said, explaining that the spasms tends to resolve themselves in 6-8 days. “I went on the IL for it once… that was in April [of 2018] to be super cautious just because it was April. Back pain is the worst, but the progress we’ve made with the treatment is great.”
When Rizzo missed those four games last month due to lower-back issues, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that if they had come at a crucial point in the season the first baseman would have undoubtedly been in the starting lineup, and that the team was taking advantage of having the best record in baseball.
“The good thing is we have put ourselves in a really nice position that we don’t have to worry about the emergencies and things like that,” Rizzo said at Fenway Park on July 8. “Not saying that we’re not going to keep putting the full foot to the throttle. But when you do have cases like this, it’s definitely a little easier than that stressful, every-game mentality.”