Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets MRI for ailing back

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hopes to avoid starting the season on the injured list after an MRI showed inflammation in his lower back, an issue he's dealt with several times in his career.

"It's frustrating because of how physically in shape I felt like I was coming in," Rizzo said on Wednesday morning. "Just can't control the flare-ups."

Rizzo, 30, took batting practice on Sunday but later his back tightened up, leading to the MRI. Despite the frequent problem, he's averaged more than 150 games played over the past five seasons. The Cubs will take the cautious route, even though they know every game is magnified in a shorter season.

"I'd rather miss a couple games early, if necessary, then a big chunk (later)," Rizzo said. "It's a yearly thing we try to get on top of."

Daily strengthening drills and maintenance on his back usually resolves the issue, which has popped up at different times over the past few seasons. Rizzo said he's past the worst of it.

"Once the spasm breaks, it goes from severe pain to absolutely nothing," he stated. "I'm past the severe pain part. I'm not at the nothing stage but I'm somewhere on the good side."

Rizzo has been a mainstay at first base for the Cubs during their playoff runs from 2015 to 2018. He has an option for 2021 that pays him $16.5 million, the same salary he's playing for now (prorated) after the Cubs picked up an option heading into this year. Cubs manager David Ross is listening to his former All-Star for guidance on his return.

"He doesn't seem worried," Ross said. "We're progressing in the right direction. He has a positive outlook so that makes me have a positive outlook."