Notes: Pinched pinky leads to DL
Remlinger has non-displaced fracture of little left finger
CHICAGO -- Mike Remlinger will be very careful where he sits from now on.
The Chicago Cubs reliever suffered a non-displaced fracture of his left little finger when his hand got pinched between two recliners in the Cubs' clubhouse on Sunday. Remlinger had not appeared in a game since then but had tried to play catch with the injury.
X-rays on Wednesday revealed a non-displaced distal phalanx fracture, Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal said, and Remlinger was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 21.
The move is timely because it creates a roster opening for second baseman Todd Walker, who was activated from the disabled list. Walker had been rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa, where he was 8-for-37 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He sprained his left knee April 10 in a collision at second base.
Walker's injury was a fluke thing. Remlinger's is a little more bizarre.
"It happens. You just deal with it," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Baker got wind of the injury, then did some investigating.
"I heard about it, so I went over and shook his hand and squeezed that finger pretty hard and got an 'ouch,'" Baker said.
How did Remlinger do it?
"One of the recliners," Remlinger said. "The handles on those things are wood. I turned quick and didn't know the other chair was right there. I could pitch with it, but we'll take time now to give it a week."
"We'll re-evaluate at the end of the two-week period, but it looks like that could be [all the time needed]," O'Neal said. "He has played catch with it for the last four, five days. We thought this was the best thing to do so we don't turn a non-displaced fracture into a displaced fracture."
Remlinger, who battled shoulder problems last year, was wearing a small brace on his little finger.
"I didn't think it was any big deal," he said of his finger. "It wasn't going away. I said something to them last night and they took a picture of it today, and here we are."
Top to bottom: With Walker back, Baker said the left-handed hitting second baseman would most likely platoon with Jerry Hairston. Hairston has been leading off, and if he's not in the lineup, Baker has to make some adjustments.
"I'm wrestling with that right now," Baker said about his options. "I'm not crazy about using Todd [at leadoff]. I'm not sure if his legs are going to be sore. He wasn't real fast in the first place. I've got to talk to possibly Neifi [Perez] and see how he would handle it.
"I know Corey [Patterson] feels more comfortable and has performed better down [in the order]," Baker said, "but Vince Coleman and I have talked to him about the necessity of the fact he could be one of the best leadoff men around. We have to see if he's ready to do that. That would be our best lineup if he could do it."
So far this year, Patterson is batting .266 (21-for-70) leading off; .167 (6-for-36) hitting second; .333 (10-for-30) batting third; .263 (5-for-19) batting sixth; 1.000 (3-for-3) hitting seventh; and .500 (1-for-2) batting ninth.
Aches and pains: Patterson was not in the lineup on Wednesday to give his left wrist another day to heal. Patterson was injured in a collision with teammate Jeromy Burnitz on Monday night, and did not start on Tuesday. Patterson had X-rays on Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which revealed a very mild sprain. Patterson should be able to play on Thursday, when the Cubs meet the Colorado Rockies.
Kerry Wood (right shoulder) is still in the early stages of his throwing program. He began throwing last Friday and threw again on Wednesday. O'Neal said Wood will throw for a couple days, then take a day off until he's ready to get on a mound.
"He's throwing with pretty good intensity," O'Neal said. "It's almost like long toss that you do to get prepared for Spring Training. He was up to 90 feet today, and it's going well."
Nomar Garciaparra, who is rehabbing in Arizona after surgery on his groin, will join the Cubs on the West Coast next week. O'Neal said he just wants to see Garciaparra in person, and that the shortstop is not close to beginning baseball-related activities.
Welcome back: When Sergio Mitre made his Major League debut on July 22, 2003, he had to face Greg Maddux, who was pitching for Atlanta then. On Tuesday, Mitre faced Houston's Roger Clemens.
"It's exciting, just the names by themselves," Mitre said. "When I came up the first time, it was Greg Maddux, and yesterday it was Roger Clemens. You can't help but smile and think about it and get a little jitters. It's exciting."
But Mitre has changed since that first start.
"My heart was racing my first time," the right-hander said. "I wasn't nervous, but I was extremely excited and happy to be in the Major Leagues. [On Tuesday], I was more calm, more [composed], a little bit better, and just more relaxed."
Mitre didn't have a great spring, but had hoped to open the 2005 season with the big-league club.
"I was disappointed. It hurts, but you have to do it somewhere," he said. "If they sent me down, it's for a reason. I just have to work hard."
Mitre will get his next start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.
Patience: Last April, Aramis Ramirez batted .308 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. So far this year, he's hitting .232 with seven homers and 18 RBIs.
"He's hit some balls hard," Baker said of the third baseman. "He's probably up in the air a little too much, probably a little frustrated. He was hurt with the groin early and hurt his back, which affects your swing big time. He doesn't want to say it, but [back problems] affect everything you do.
"There are years sometimes when you just don't have good starts," Baker said. "It's the opposite of Derrek Lee [who won NL Player of the Month in April after hitting .419]. There are a number of guys who aren't having good starts. Water seeks its own level. If this was Ryne Sandberg, you wouldn't ask what was wrong with him. There are some years, where no matter what you do, it seems like you can't buy a hit."
Baker suggested coming back in early September to see what Ramirez was hitting then.
"He's going to hit," Baker said.
Good luck charm: Tom "Otis" Hellman is now known as "Lucky Otis." Hellman, in his sixth season as the home clubhouse manager, after 17 years as the visiting clubhouse manager, has taken over the bat boy duties. The Cubs are 3-0 since the switch.
"Our bat boy is getting up there in age," Baker said, joking. "His kids kind of ride him a bit about how he looks in uniform.
"It shows how bad these guys want to win from top to bottom," Baker said. "Guys are shaving their heads to get going. You got Otis. I shaved my mustache. Guys would walk to the park backwards if they thought it would help them win."
Minor matters: Jon Leicester threw three scoreless innings for Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday, combining with three other pitchers on a 2-0 shutout of Sacramento. Mike Fontenot went 1-for-3 with a double and scored a run. Phil Norton picked up the win, pitching 3 1/3 innings. ... Renyel Pinto gave up one run on five hits over seven innings and struck out nine in Double-A West Tenn's 3-2 win over Mobile. Brandon Sing was 1-for-3 with a double. ... Sean Marshall gave up three runs on six hits and two walks over six innings in Class A Daytona's 4-1 loss to Dunedin. ... Eric Patterson went 3-for-5 with a double in Peoria's 5-3, 10-inning loss to Southwest Michigan.
Extra bases: Michael Barrett's youth baseball team, the Roadrunners, will play in the Seminole Slugfest tournament this weekend. Barrett worked out with the kids this offseason in Alpharetta, Ga. ... Small world -- both O'Neal and pitcher Joe Borowski welcomed new sons into the world on Tuesday. Both wives gave birth at the same hospital just a few hours apart. ... Baker wasn't happy that Wrigley Field fans booed NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, who apparently didn't know the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Said Baker: "Booing seems big now. It's hard to boo Jeff Gordon for me. This guy is one of the greatest of all time. I did feel badly."
On deck: The Cubs will play host to the Colorado Rockies, starting Thursday. Carlos Zambrano will start the opener of this four-game series against Jason Jennings. Mark Prior will go Friday, followed by Glendon Rusch and Mitre.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.