Anthony Rizzo on track to return to the Cubs’ lineup on Monday

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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo took ground balls today and is expected to be activated on Monday, per a report from’s Carrie Muskat. Rizzo has been sidelined since August 26 with a mild lower back strain. Manager Rick Renteria has been cautious with Rizzo and it even appeared as if the first baseman wouldn’t return, but he has progressed well in recent days.

Rizzo, 25, is in the process of a breakout season for the Cubs, hitting .278/.375/.514 with 30 home runs and 71 RBI. Before Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee were the only Cubs to hit 30 homers in a season dating back to 2007. Lee was the last Cub to post a .275/.375/.500 line or better as well. Rizzo joined the Cubs in January 2012 in the Andrew Cashner trade with the Padres.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.