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Rizzo ready to return after missing four games

Cubs first baseman says tight lower back isn't a 'big deal'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he expected to play Monday after missing four straight games because of tightness in his lower back.

"It's not a big deal," Rizzo said Sunday. "I wanted to play [Saturday]. Since it's March 4 [and early in Spring Training], I agreed with them."

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said he expected to play Monday after missing four straight games because of tightness in his lower back.

"It's not a big deal," Rizzo said Sunday. "I wanted to play [Saturday]. Since it's March 4 [and early in Spring Training], I agreed with them."

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"He wants to play the next two days," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. "He doesn't want to miss the paisans."

The Cubs play the Angels on Monday and have an exhibition game against Team Italy on Tuesday. Rizzo played for the Italian team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Spring Training: Information | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

• Shortstop Addison Russell was scratched from Sunday's game because of soreness on his left arm from being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning on Saturday. Russell is day to day. Jeimer Candelario came out of Sunday's game against the Rangers after being hit by a pitch on his left shin.

• Sunday was Jon Lester's first spring game, and also his first game in 2017 with catcher Willson Contreras, who takes over for the retired David Ross.

Video: CHC@TEX: Lester discusses Spring Training debut

"It was hard on him coming in last year, not really catching a lot of guys and being a part of getting to know us and just getting thrown into the situation," Lester said of Contreras, who was called up in mid-June and ended up becoming the regular catcher. "We're just trying to get through it and see what he's comfortable with back there. We'll figure it out.

"It's just a matter of throwing and innings and pitches and all that stuff," Lester said. "I'm not concerned about it at all. Willie's such a good kid, and [he] cares and he wants to learn and he wants to get better."

Ross' new gig is a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars."

"It's good to see a good guy like that get the recognition that he deserves for a long career," Lester said. "I think I would've picked another way than 'Dancing with the Stars.' To each his own. I look forward to seeing him."

Video: Feinsand talks Ross joining 'Dancing With The Stars'

Contreras does have a strong arm, and Lester knows he has to be careful on the mound.

"I forgot how good of an arm he has until that first throw to second base," Lester said. "I've got to remember to get the hell out of the way. It's coming by really quick. It's definitely impressive to see him and his abilities."

• Cubs Minor Leaguers Taylor Davis and Pierce Johnson got most of the attention at Saturday's Respect Bald event for trimming their long blond hair, but coach Franklin Font's wife, Maria, also participated. She wanted to show support after a health scare last year. Now she has short hair for the first time in 40 years.

Video: Cubs shave their heads at Respect Bald event

"It was the perfect moment," Font said of his wife's gesture.

Maddon said he expects the final total for money raised will be $70,000.

"That was pretty magnificent what our guys did yesterday," Maddon said of the players who got their heads shaved. "That says something about the individuals."

• Outfielder Matt Szczur has an artistic side, and he did a painting of teammates Kris Bryant and Rizzo after the last out of Game 7 of the World Series. The two players autographed the painting, which will be auctioned off at the Cubs Charities' Bricks & Ivy Ball in April.

• The Cubs will play a "B" game Thursday at 11 a.m. CT at Sloan Park against the Angels. Chicago plays host to Seattle in Mesa that day in a Cactus League game.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Willson Contreras, Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Szczur