TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Rizzo is realistic.
The first baseman, who signed a two-year, $40 million contract during the offseason to remain in pinstripes, has battled a bad back for much of his career.
Rizzo played in 130 games last season but missed small chunks of time during the season, starting in early July, because of a balky lower back. He spent time on the injured list from Sept. 3-18 after experiencing headaches following an epidural injection.
“I think I’d be crazy to sit here and say I won’t have a back issue this year, because every year it seems like a little something pops up,” Rizzo said Sunday. “But I definitely feel confident with just the daily preparation.”
Rizzo, who tied a career high with 32 home runs in 2022, said his back is healthy but it’s “something you have to manage.”
“I think anyone who’s had back pain, it kind of comes out of nowhere,” he said. “You just do everything you can. This offseason I was really focused on recovery, a lot of recovery, and feeling good the next day. Not going stubbornly as hard maybe weight-wise, but intensity-wise, still keeping it there. And it feels good. Everything feels good.”
Aaron Judge gave Rizzo something else to feel good about when he re-signed with the Yankees. Rizzo could not have been more thrilled to see Judge, a close friend, named the franchise’s 16th captain after signing a nine-year, $360 million deal.
“I think it’s an amazing accomplishment. Something that he definitely doesn’t take lightly. He’s very humble about it,” Rizzo said. “He’s not the type of guy that I think cares about the status, he just wants to show up every day and play. Be the best teammate and make sure everyone’s loved and feels important.”
One to watch
Righthander Jimmy Cordero, 31, is very much in contention for a bullpen spot in the majors. Scouts have been impressed over the years with his sinker, which helped him post a 2.09 ERA in 32 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2022. He struck out 50 in 38 2⁄3 innings.
Cordero underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2021 and signed a minor-league contract last March with the Yankees.
Fair is fair
Manager Aaron Boone, who led the American League with nine ejections last season — most of them having to do with disputes over the strike zone — has been calling balls and strikes during simulated games while standing behind the mound.
Boone said with a smile that the feedback he’s received from players has been “poor.”
He added, smiling still: “I’m about to run somebody.”
High on that list probably is Wandy Peralta, who has been among the most vocal critics of his manager’s strike zone.
Boone said of the difficulty of an umpire’s job: “I’ve always had an appreciation, believe it not.”