1st in last: Rizzo to start vs. Twins

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY RUSSELL DORSEY, STAFF RE­PORTER rdorsey@sun­times.com | @Russ_Dorsey1

An­thony Rizzo is near­ing the fin­ish line. The three-time All-Star had been hop­ing to get back into game ac­tion be­fore the start of the sea­son, and he’ll get his wish. Man­ager David Ross an­nounced that he plans to have Rizzo in the start­ing lineup for the Cubs’ last ex­hi­bi­tion game Wed­nes­day against the Twins.

“Again, I don’t put the cart be­fore the horse,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Make sure he presents well to­mor­row when he wakes. He took some great swings and said he felt ready. Don’t think it’s go­ing to be an is­sue for the game to­mor­row. So the plan is to have him start at first base.”

Rizzo went through another full work­out Tues­day, in­clud­ing in­field drills, and faced live pitch­ing as he hit against right-han­der Tyler Chat­wood in a sim­u­lated game.

Get­ting into the team’s last ex­hi­bi­tion is a big fi­nal step for Rizzo, who has been deal­ing with lower-back tight­ness since July 7, and it should be the fi­nal hur­dle be­fore re­turn­ing for Open­ing Day on Friday. The ben­e­fit the Cubs have this sea­son is the ad­di­tion of the des­ig­nated hit­ter, al­low­ing Rizzo to work his way back be­fore play­ing the field ev­ery day.

“[We’ll] con­tinue to lis­ten to An­thony on that and how his body feels and the train­ing staff with that,” Ross said. “You don’t wanna take a plat­inum glove off first base, but if we have to, and he feels like he needs a day, we’ll ad­just.”

Stay­ing flex­i­ble

Ross is at­tempt­ing to give his play­ers a feel for what might lie ahead should the Cubs need some flex­i­bil­ity. He started Kris Bryant at first base in Mon­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion against the White Sox, and Nico Ho­erner, who be­gan the night at sec­ond base, moved to short­stop, then to cen­ter field.

“The main thing for me is, with all the un­cer­tainty with this sea­son, we could lose any­body at any minute,’’ Ross said. ‘‘You saw KB at first. Ob­vi­ously, some depth there. Mov­ing guys around, it’s go­ing to be im­por­tant. Nico is a piece that is com­fort­able at sec­ond, short and, you know, just a lit­tle bit of a depth piece at cen­ter. If any­thing were to hap­pen . . . mov­ing some guys around.

A change of start

“There’s no telling. You might lose a guy for an ex­tended pe­riod of time or even just a day. We’ve got to be pre­pared for any­thing this sea­son. And, like I said, we’ve got a lot of flex­i­bil­ity in this ros­ter, and we’ve got to take ad­van­tage of it.”

Right-han­der Alec Mills will throw live bat­ting prac­tice Wed­nes­day. He was sched­uled to be paired with Jon Lester ina tan­dem start against the Twins. Mills, 26, is in line to be the fifth starter.

He showed flashes dur­ing his stint with the Cubs in 2019, go­ing 1-0 with a 2.75 ERA in nine games (four starts).

Mills would be in line to face the Reds on Tues­day.

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