Anthony Rizzo unexpectedly returns to Cubs' starting lineup, hits a home run four days after ankle sprain

The Chicago Cubs are getting their first baseman back sooner than expected. Much, much sooner than expected. 

Anthony Rizzo is in the lineup for Thursday night's series opener with the Cardinals (GameTracker) despite dealing with a high ankle sprain that was had the potential to sideline him through the end of the season. Rizzo suffered the ankle injury as he charged in to field a bunt this past Sunday. 

And, of course, Rizzo went deep in his second at-bat Thursday. Of course he did. Check it out:

Rizzo's foot was in a boot and he was using a scooter earlier this week. He lead off Thursday and I thought maybe the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon were getting creative. Let him get that first inning at-bat, then pull him for a pinch-runner (if he reaches base) or defensively in the next half-inning. That would be perfect if the Cubs were on the road and batting in to the top of the first, but Thursday's game is at home.

No, this is simply a case of a player playing through pain. Rizzo has a high pain tolerance and wants to be in the lineup as his team fights for a postseason spot.

An MRI revealed the ankle sprain on Monday, and the team initially said he would need 5-7 days in a walking boot before being reevaluated. Catchers Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras filled in at first base earlier this week.

The Cubs come into Thursday with an 82-70 record, tied with the Brewers for the second wild-card spot. Chicago is three games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. Matt Snyder has everything you need to know going into this week's four-game series in Wrigley Field.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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