Rizzo to IL with post-concussion syndrome

Tests reveal signs of cognitive impairment for Yankees' first baseman

August 3rd, 2023

NEW YORK -- For the better part of two months, has found himself walking back to the dugout, shaking his head and wondering how he could have missed another hittable pitch. Now he has an answer.

The Yankees have placed Rizzo on the 10-day injured list with post-concussion syndrome, which the club believes stems from a May 28 collision with the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Rizzo passed Major League Baseball’s concussion protocol at that time. However, Rizzo said he has noticed feeling more tired than usual, which the veteran largely attributed to the grind of a long season.

“You wake up some days feeling not very good; some days, you feel better,” Rizzo said. “That’s kind of normal throughout the year. It was more walking back and saying, ‘Man, I don’t understand how I missed that pitch.’ I would swing at a pitch middle-away, and I thought it was three feet off the plate. Things like that really started making me concerned.”

At the conclusion of the Yankees’ recent series against the Orioles in Baltimore, which included the first five-strikeout game of Rizzo’s career, Rizzo mentioned feeling some “fogginess” to the club’s medical staff.

Rizzo played in two more games on Monday and Tuesday against the Rays before undergoing a new round of neurological testing, which took place on Wednesday and revealed signs of cognitive impairment. Rizzo is being treated with supplements, and he said his doctor is confident about a full recovery.

“Everything that they talked about basically came back with a silver lining -- that I’m not crazy for walking back to the dugout consistently thinking, ‘Man, how did I miss that pitch?’” Rizzo said. “ … It came back saying I’m moving a lot slower than the normal person’s reaction time would be, and that’s definitely alarming, especially for what we do for a living.”

According to Dr. Ilan Danan, a sports neurologist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles who has not treated Rizzo, most concussions present immediate physical symptoms like headaches, balance problems, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. Rizzo did not report any of those issues following the May 28 game. 

"Unfortunately, it's much more of a gray area when we think about concussions than we do an ACL injury, which is very much black and white," Danan said. "You can put a patient through an MRI, you can identify if there's an injury, you can see them being clearly limited to withstand certain parts of the examination.  When it comes to concussions, there is a much broader gray area there.

"Just as important as it is to get athlete buy-in, it's equally as important to ensure that you've got the right specialists who can evaluate the individual. If both of those things were done and they were done appropriately, then the truth of the matter is, no one really dropped the ball. It's simply a matter of the fact that the way this concussion presented was atypical."

Danan said that he would not be concerned about any additional negative impact from Rizzo playing two games following his more recent complaint of "fogginess" following Sunday's game at Baltimore. 

"If there was some measurable degree of symptoms for the previous two to three months, then I would realistically say that an additional two days unlikely would have much of a negative impact," Danan said. 

Rizzo, who turns 34 next week, is batting .244/.328/.378 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 99 games this season. His performance has severely dipped since the collision with Tatis.

From Opening Day through May 28, Rizzo batted .304/.376/.505 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. After that date, he batted .172/.271/.225 with a homer and nine RBIs.

“I don’t consistently miss these pitches that I’ve been swinging at and missing -- really just blatantly missing, big time, not even coming close,” Rizzo said. “I can’t put a stamp on when that happened, but the last few days, I’ve voiced it a little more.”

Said Boone: “I think there’s probably him looking back, going, ‘I didn’t feel quite right.’”

In a corresponding roster move, infielder/outfielder Oswaldo Cabrera was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before Thursday’s series opener against the Astros. Boone said that the Yankees will evaluate Rizzo “week to week.” Jake Bauers and DJ LeMahieu will platoon at first base in his absence.

“We’ll see how [Rizzo] progresses and how he’s feeling, and hopefully we’ll get him back,” Boone said.