Anthony Rizzo’s IL move for two-month-old injury puts Yankees in dock

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There was a noticeable concern as Anthony Rizzo‘s promising performance in 2023 suddenly declined over the past two months, leaving Yankees fans wondering about the reason behind it. Now, the likely explanation has surfaced, revealing that an injury had gone unnoticed for a significant period. The team manager’s insistence that there were no physical issues only added to the skepticism. This situation has raised serious questions about the competence of the Yankees’ medical team.

On Wednesday and during the series opener against the Houston Astros on Thursday, the Yankees’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, was notably absent from the lineup. According to manager Aaron Boone, Anthony Rizzo was placed on the 10-day injured list due to post-concussion syndrome, as reported by the media on Thursday. The injury can be traced back to a specific incident on May 28, where San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. accidentally collided with Rizzo’s head while attempting to return to first base on a pickoff play.

According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, Boone confirmed that Anthony Rizzo had undergone the standard concussion protocol immediately after the May 28 incident and had passed all required tests at that time. However, recently, Rizzo informed the team’s medical staff about experiencing “fogginess,” leading to a more thorough examination, which revealed “signs of cognitive impairment.”

During the initial two months of the season, Anthony Rizzo, the Yankees‘ first baseman, was enjoying one of his best starts in years. Then, an unusual and previously unnoticed injury occurred, and since then, the 33-year-old player hasn’t been performing at the same level.

Anthony Rizzo spoke to reporters

AP

Before Thursday’s game, Anthony Rizzo addressed the media and revealed that he had been experiencing “fogginess” for the past few days. The team noted that he began expressing these symptoms after the series finale with the Baltimore Orioles, during which he had an unfortunate performance going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. He also played in the following two games against the Tampa Bay Rays before the team decided to schedule an appointment with a neurologist. The neurologist’s examination confirmed that the infielder had indeed suffered a concussion during the season.

Anthony Rizzo explained that when facing struggles, one tends to seek answers. He mentioned that the feeling of “fogginess” wasn’t entirely unusual during the baseball season, but this time it felt slightly different. He told about how he questioned himself while walking back from the batter’s box, wondering how he missed certain pitches.

The first baseman likened the experience to waking up with a hangover despite going to bed sober, which didn’t seem normal. Anthony Rizzo acknowledged that it was August 2, and the rigorous travel schedule and potential fatigue could be factors. He considered whether he was placing excessive pressure on himself. Undergoing the tests provided some relief, as he didn’t want to let his team down, being a competitor at heart.

After colliding with the San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. during a game on May 28, Anthony Rizzo successfully cleared MLB’s concussion protocols. Following the incident, he missed the series against the Seattle Mariners but made his return on June 2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, just a day before Aaron Judge’s injury.

Up until June, Anthony Rizzo was performing impressively, boasting a slash line of .304/.376/.505 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI. However, since the collision, spanning 46 games, his performance has noticeably declined, with a slash line of .172/.271/.225, accompanied by just one home run and nine RBI.

Anthony Rizzo explained that when facing struggles in the game, one tends to analyze and try to understand the reasons behind it. He mentioned having experience dealing with such situations over a long period. Typically, there are signs that indicate improvement is on the horizon. However, when asked if he felt any indications of improvement, Anthony Rizzo responded that he couldn’t identify those feelings and couldn’t relate to what the person was trying to convey. Now, in hindsight, he realized that the recent events allowed him to make connections and understand the situation better.

While undergoing tests with the neurologist, it came to light that Anthony Rizzo’s reaction time was slower than that of an average person, which raised concerns for the first baseman. He clarified that despite the symptoms, they hadn’t affected his performance on the field or in his daily life. Even mentally, he felt capable of playing. However, considering the impact on his offense and the potential risk of another collision exacerbating his condition, the decision to put Anthony Rizzo on the injured list again was an obvious choice.

According to the doctors, Anthony Rizzo was informed that concussions can vary significantly, and in some cases, symptoms may not manifest immediately but rather “cascade” over time, which is likely what occurred in his situation. He took out him from the lineup on Wednesday without citing any reason.

Despite the circumstances, Anthony Rizzo expressed that he is not afraid and has begun a new treatment regimen, including the use of supplements known for their high efficacy in treating concussions. He remains optimistic that this new program will facilitate a quicker return to the lineup, although there is no specific timetable for his comeback at this point.

Anthony Rizzo emphasized that the test results brought him some consolation, as they provided a probable explanation for his two-month struggle, attributing it to the post-concussion symptoms. He remains hopeful that with proper treatment, he can regain the form he displayed as a hitter at the start of the year.

As a three-time All-Star, the most challenging aspect of his condition for Anthony Rizzo is having to miss time with the team, particularly when they are actively pushing for a spot in the playoffs.

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AP

Anthony Rizzo stated that as competitors, they refrain from making excuses and focus on giving their best performance. He acknowledged that in the past, he has played through injuries like back and ankle issues, and the body tends to adapt. Despite the current situation, he assured to have done everything within his capacity to address it. However, the most challenging aspect for him is the absence from the game, as he desires to be out there on the field, playing at the level he knows he is capable of.

The questions

The concussion symptoms originated from an incident on May 28 at Yankee Stadium when Anthony Rizzo collided with Padres’ outfielder Fernando Tatis Jr. during a pickoff attempt. The question arises as to why these symptoms were not detected earlier.

Right after the incident, Anthony Rizzo successfully passed baseline concussion tests and believed his only injury was a sore neck, leading to him missing three games. The manager consistently assured fans that the player was alright.

However, after the recent series against the Orioles in Baltimore, which notably included the first five-strikeout game of Anthony Rizzo’s career, he communicated to the team’s medical staff about experiencing some “fogginess.”

Following the incident, Anthony Rizzo continued playing in two more games against the Rays on Monday and Tuesday. However, on Wednesday, he underwent a fresh round of neurological testing, which indicated signs of cognitive impairment. Currently, Anthony Rizzo is undergoing treatment with supplements, and he mentioned that his doctor is optimistic about a complete recovery.

Turning 34 on Aug. 8, Anthony Rizzo displayed an impressive performance before the collision, hitting .304 with 11 home runs and 32 RBI in 53 games. However, after the incident, his performance drastically declined, recording .172 with only one home run and nine RBI in the following 46 games. As he struggled more than ever in his 13 major-league seasons, the three-time All-Star sensed that something was amiss. Despite continuously making adjustments, he still couldn’t find his hitting form.

Anthony Rizzo found himself swinging at pitches he typically handles well, only to make outs or miss them altogether. He also noticed that some pitches he believed were strikes were actually far from being within the strike zone, as revealed by video analysis. Surprisingly, the Yankees’ staff didn’t observe anything unusual during this period.

Regarding his return, Boone stated that Anthony Rizzo’s status would be assessed on a “week-to-week” basis, without providing a specific timetable. In the meantime, the first base position will be handled by a platoon of Jake Bauers and DJ LeMahieu in his absence.

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