FORT MYERS, Fla. — Anthony Rizzo and the Yankees are downplaying a past problem that they barely consider a past problem.
A day after Rizzo’s back felt “cranky,” according to manager Aaron Boone, and caused him to miss a short road trip, the Yankees first baseman went to batting practice in Tampa and said he felt “good”.
Rizzo, who has dealt with back issues for the past few seasons, also acknowledged that any trace of a back problem can set off alarm bells.
“I know it’s always going to cause concern whenever [people hear] a tight back,” Rizzo said Monday at the Yankees facility, “but not really to worry about right now.
Rizzo said he received back treatment, which kept him from joining the Yankees on a two-game road trip to Fort Myers. The bus ride would have taken a few hours which would not be ideal for a back with any kind of problem.
“There’s really no point in doing anything in spring training to push yourself in that aspect,” Rizzo, 33, said. “Just be smart.”
Boone said if Rizzo does well in practice, he’ll play the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday.
Rizzo’s back problem worsened as the season progressed last year, when he needed an epidural in September, which led to complications and a move to the injured list.
Rizzo, who re-signed to a two-year, $40 million deal this offseason, said he will have to manage his back throughout this season.
Deivi Garcia looked “really good,” Boone said, in 3 ¹/₃ relief innings in what was a rebound for the young right-hander.
“It’s been encouraging to see how good his stuff has been since the start of camp,” Boone said after the Yankees lost to the Twins, 1-0, at Hammond Stadium.
Garcia allowed two hits and walked two while allowing a run, on a Max Kepler homer. He gave up two runs in 7 ¹/₃ innings of the Grapefruit League.
“As far as things go, he just got so much cleaner,” Boone said of Garcia. “He’s throwing fastballs through guys right now, and it’s good to see.”
Garcia’s speed is up, and he also credited an improving cutter for his success.
Garcia arrived in the majors at just 21 with a big curve ball, which is an offer he says is still in the arsenal but clearly hasn’t been the focus.
Garcia has struggled significantly over the past two seasons, which have mostly been in the minor leagues.
“To get left-handers out, [the curveball] was giving me problems,” Garcia said.
Aaron Hicks started in the center of the field a day after unlisted guest Rafael Ortega started in the center. Boone said both are legitimate options on the spot with Harrison Bader injured.
– Additional reporting by Jon Heyman in Tampa