Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dempster breaks big toe, Cubs bats don't show

With three key Cubs coming off the DL at the same time, I suppose it was naive to think the baseball gods wouldn't throw at least one lightning bolt Wrigley's way.

Ryan Dempster hit the DL with a classic Cubs-style injury--he broke his right big toe as he attempted to climb over the railing of the Cubs' dugout after Sunday's win. The impact of the injury will be felt immediately--Zambrano started on short rest Tuesday despite our bullpen being undermanned; Kevin Hart will start Wednesday, something he's never done before (start a game, not start on a Wednesday); and the Cubs need to find a replacement starter for the next three to four weeks, if not Hart.

The Cubs could slide Sean Marshall back to his familiar starting role, but that leaves the bullpen with no lefties. The Cubs could also try Samardzija, though he has struggled in his major league appearances this season. There aren't a whole lot of options at Triple-A, other than perhaps J.R. Mathes, who is 8-4 with a 3.62 ERA and has walked just nine batters in 77 IP. Hart's performance today will go a long way toward determining who makes the next start in Dempster's absence.

This injury certainly doesn't help matters, but hopefully the All-Star break will give Piniella and Hendry a chance to figure out how best to deal with it. With Z starting Tuesday and Hart starting today, the Cubs can use Harden, Lilly, Zambrano (on normal rest) and Wells versus the Cardinals. They can then reset their rotation after the break to make Hart (or whomever) the fifth starter. That means Dempster's spot wouldn't come up again until July 20, 15 days after his injury occurred. So if Dempster was going to break his toe jumping over a railing, I suppose this was the time to do it.

Tuesday: Braves 2, Cubs 1

Prior to 2009, Javy Vazquez was just 3-4 with an ERA over five in his career against the Cubs. But he's written a different story this year, posting the following line in two starts against them:

13.2 IP, 14 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K (0.66 ERA)

Big Z pitched well in an unexpected start on just three days' rest, but the two runs he allowed were plenty of support for Vazquez. There have been just nine total runs scored in the first two games of the series, though things could change today with the Braves sending their worst starter (Kawakami) to the hill and the Cubs starting reliever Kevin Hart.

Nice to see Angel Guzman return from the DL with a scoreless inning, and Sean Marshall continued his run of success with a perfect 8th. Marshall now boasts a great 2.02 ERA in his 18 relief appearances.

The only highlights on the offensive side were a 2-for-3 day from Aramis Ramirez (and another hard hit ball for an out) and an RBI single from Koyie Hill to drive in the Cubs' only run.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals took down Yovani Gallardo to steal the first game of their set with the Brewers, pushing the Cubs three games back in the Central.

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