NEW YORK -- New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo is scheduled to start baseball activities on Sunday after getting a blood patch to aid in his recovery from an epidural injection to treat his ailing lower back.
The slugging first baseman received the epidural injection on Thursday to help with his chronic lower-back tightness, which led him to miss four games in early July and another five games in early August. Nonetheless, Rizzo was not placed on the injured list until Sept. 6 (retroactive to Sept. 3) after he was unable to engage in baseball activities due to migraines that stemmed from the epidural.
"He had a blood patch yesterday [Friday], which so far has been deemed really successful," manager Aaron Boone said before Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. "Immediately, they had him moving around and walking, and I think it freed him up right away. Headaches are gone so far. And if he's still in this position tomorrow [Sunday], we'll start ramping up. But he's really excited about how good he feels."
A blood patch would have consisted of injecting Rizzo's own blood into the epidural space near his spine to help seal off any leaks after the earlier injection.
Boone said he was hopeful to have Rizzo back in the lineup toward the end of their upcoming five-game road trip, which starts Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox.
"We'll see," Boone said when asked about a timeline for Rizzo. "He's been basically laying down for a while. At the back end of the trip it may be possible. But it'll kind of depend on how the ramp-up goes. Hopefully, we've gotten through what we need to, and now we can start building that process. We'll just pay attention to how he's doing and how long it takes him to get rolling."
Since the Yankees had to designate first baseman Ronald Guzmán for assignment after activating Josh Donaldson off the paternity list to make room in their 40-man roster, the backup at first base will be rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, with DJ LeMahieu still not doing baseball activities due to a lingering right toe injury for which he was placed on the IL on Sept. 8 (retroactive to Sept. 5).
Cabrera, a natural shortstop, has experience in all infield positions except first base, but he has been taking grounders at first for a few days and has gotten a vote of confidence from Yankees infield and first-base coach Travis Chapman.
Additionally, Giancarlo Stanton was back in New York's starting lineup at DH after leaving Monday's game due to an injury scare after fouling multiple balls off his foot and ankle. X-rays came back negative, but the Yankees had kept Stanton out of the starting lineup to be careful with him; he missed over a month of games with left Achilles tendinitis.
Boone said previously that there isn't a plan in place to have Stanton work in the outfield for the time being, but Harrison Bader might also soon be an option for the Yankees. The center fielder has been on the injured list with plantar fasciitis since he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for starter Jordan Montgomery.
"He's going to DH tomorrow," said Boone of the plan to play Bader with the Somerset Patriots, the club's Double-A affiliate. "[The Patriots] have an off-day Monday, and then [he'll] start building up there. So it'll probably be at least a week. If we get through that week, and the buildup is going fine, he could be in play then when we start the homestand."
"It's really just a matter of getting on a baseball field, checking off boxes in terms of feeling comfortable physically at game speed, and once those are checked, I'm going to go and be a winning player for this team," Bader said Saturday. "The reality is, where I'm at right now, [the plantar fasciitis] is not going to get worse. I'm just really happy to come back and battle through whatever I battled through, but I couldn't be more excited. I can't wait to be in pinstripes finally. It's been so long."
The Yankees will have quite a few other members of the big league pitching staff rehabbing with Somerset alongside Bader this week, with relievers Aroldis Chapman (leg infection), Miguel Castro (shoulder strain) and Zack Britton (UCL surgery) also throwing in their scheduled game against the Hartford Yard Goats on Sunday in Connecticut.
Chapman and Castro are expected to rejoin the team when they return to the South Bronx for their second-to-last regular season homestand, which starts Sept. 20 with a two-game interleague series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Luis Severino (right lat strain) is also scheduled to make another rehab start next Thursday and Scott Effross (shoulder strain) is expected to ramp up his rehab this week, as the Yankees expect to activate both right-handed pitchers during the Pittsburgh series.
Boone said Severino is ready to go but explained that with the Yankees' upcoming road trip being back-ended by off-days, it would be hard to insert him into the rotation immediately. Boone also announced that Domingo Germán would pitch on short rest Sunday to close out the Tampa Bay series.