CHICAGO -- Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, bothered by a bulging disc in his neck, will not have to go on the disabled list and could be back in the lineup this week.

Lee was examined by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo on Monday, and has shown improvement since he was sidelined May 6 with the stiff neck. An MRI confirmed the bulging disc, and the medical team decided Lee did not need an injection. The Cubs also have ruled out any danger of long-term problems.

Barring any setback, Lee could be back in the lineup Tuesday or Wednesday when the team plays host to the San Diego Padres.

Lee was batting .209 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 24 games, and was hitting .294 in five games this month before he was benched with the neck problems.

The Cubs already have their other corner infielder, Aramis Ramirez, on the 15-day disabled list because of a separated shoulder, suffered Friday. Ramirez is expected to be out four to six weeks. Carlos Zambrano (hamstring) and Chad Fox (elbow) also are on the disabled list.

A possible replacement for Lee, Jake Fox, a first baseman at Triple-A Iowa, was sidelined this weekend after getting hit in the leg by shards of a broken bat. Fox required five stitches.