In extremely relieving news for the playoff-contending Cubs, star first baseman Anthony Rizzo is already returning from an injury that looked as if it would prematurely end his regular season. Rizzo’s leading off for the Cubs on Thursday in their crucial matchup against the NL Central-leading Cardinals, Chicago announced. The Cubs also activated shortstop Addison Russell from the seven-day concussion injured list, as Jordan Bastian of MLB.com was among those to report.
Rizzo, who hasn’t played since Sept. 15, is back from an ankle sprain that initially limited him to a walking boot. The fact that he’s back this soon is an enormous boon for the Cubs, who will fall a half-game behind the Brewers for the wild card if Milwaukee hangs on to the late-game lead it boasts over the Padres as of this writing.
Overtaking the Brew Crew (or the Cardinals, who lead the Cubs by three games) obviously would have been all the more difficult without the accomplished Rizzo, who has posted yet another impressive campaign in 2019. The 30-year-old has slashed .289/.404/.516 with 26 home runs in 592 plate appearances. The Cubs used catchers Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini at first base during Rizzo’s absence, but they’re now back to full strength at the position as the regular season nears a conclusion.
Russell hasn’t played since Sept. 8, and injuries to him and standout shortstop Javier Baez led the Cubs to promote high-end prospect Nico Hoerner from the minors. The 22-year-old Hoerner has more than held his own since his debut, and he – not Russell – will man short on Thursday as a result. Russell, 25, was amid yet another subpar season at the plate before his IL placement, and between that and his off-field issues, his Cubs tenure may be winding down.