Upcoming rotation uncertain after Dempster
If finger is OK, Gorzelanny could join Lilly against Dodgers
ARLINGTON -- Only Ryan Dempster is set to start in the Cubs' upcoming homestand, which begins Tuesday with the Dodgers coming to Wrigley Field.
Dempster, who is 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA in his last four starts, will go Tuesday. The Cubs could have Tom Gorzelanny and Ted Lilly follow, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild wants to see Gorzelanny first. The lefty was struck on his ring finger in his last start in Philadelphia on Thursday, and he did throw a bullpen session Saturday in Chicago. Gorzelanny had gone home to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's first child on Friday.
Most teams like to split their left-handers, but the Dodgers are batting .287 against right-handed pitchers and .243 against southpaws, so having Gorzelanny and Lilly back to back may not be such a bad idea.
With Monday's off-day, the Cubs could break up the two lefties and insert Randy Wells, who would be pitching on regular rest. Wells started Saturday and did not get a decision in a Chicago win over Texas.
Carlos Zambrano won't get Monday off. The right-hander will throw a simulated game, another step in his return to the Cubs' rotation. He was expected to throw 65-70 pitches.
However, even if he passes all the tests, Zambrano would not be ready to start until next week. Manager Lou Piniella said Sunday that Zambrano's first start would be on the road, not at Wrigley Field. The Cubs' next road trip is May 31-June 2 at Pittsburgh.
When Zambrano does return, the Cubs will have to bump someone from the rotation. There are two downsides to his return: One, the Cubs will be short-handed in the 'pen while he's preparing, and two, the team loses a very effective late-inning pitcher in the process. In his last three outings, he's given up one hit and struck out two over 2 2/3 innings.
Zambrano was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts, and he is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 11 relief appearances.
Ramirez has bruise, mild sprain of thumb
ARLINGTON -- X-rays of Aramis Ramirez's left hand were negative Sunday, but the Cubs' third baseman will sit for the next few days to give him time to heal and also a chance to work on his hitting.
Ramirez, who is scuffling at .160, did not play Sunday in the Cubs' Interleague series finale against the Rangers, which they won, 5-4. He has a bruise and mild sprain of his left thumb. The problem is at the base of the thumb.
"We're going to give him a little time off," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after Sunday's win. "He's struggled at home plate. We need to give him some time. Sometimes time heals wounds. You work and you work and sometimes it's better to get away from it totally and just relax."
However, Ramirez's thumb is not bad enough to prompt the Cubs to put him on the disabled list.
"According to what the trainer has told me numerous times, it's just a bone bruise," Piniella said.
Expect to see Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot at third base.
"I would think a few days will do [Ramirez] good," Piniella said.
Cubs not relying as much on stolen bases
ARLINGTON -- There are four players in the National League already with double-digit stolen bases. The Cubs don't have anyone at that level -- Ryan Theriot leads the team with eight -- but they are aware that teams are running more.
"It seems to be getting back to where the stolen base is more prominent," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said. "It doesn't seem like there's as many clubs playing for the three-run homer."
Has he noticed teams running more?
"I think teams are generally more aggressive," Hill said Sunday. "When I was first coming up, you never really worried about it because nobody ran. Now you look at the Rangers, and they hit tons of home runs and they have six, seven guys in their lineup who can run and do run."
Of course, the Cubs don't seem to be following that trend. Theriot was their leading basestealer last year with 21.
"We don't have a whole lot of team speed," Hill said. "We do other things -- hit and run, things like that. It's important to go first to third for us. Some guys get on base, walk, bunt, blooper, whatever, and it's a double or they hit doubles and it's a triple because they steal third."
Nady's playing time picking up
ARLINGTON -- Xavier Nady was back in right field Sunday for the second straight game for the Cubs. It was his third straight start in the Interleague series against the Rangers; he was the designated hitter Friday.
"It's baby steps," said Nady, trying to come back from his second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. "Let's hope it keeps giving me a little more mental assurance. Just being available more often is nice."
The warm weather in Texas has definitely helped Nady's arm stay loose.
Entering Sunday's game, Nady was 3-for-9 on the road trip. A veteran hitter, he doesn't have any insight as to how the Cubs can be more consistent at the plate.
"Obviously, we're not coming through when opportunities are out there," Nady said. "Hopefully, we'll get a couple big hits sooner or later, and that will take a little pressure off everybody. We have to get better at it, and hopefully we will. There's no way around it other than performing and getting hits when we need them."
Sometimes it seems as if guys are trying to hit five-run homers each at-bat.
"Everyone wants to get the big hit, everyone wants to get the big inning," Nady said. "All these close games and we're trying to get the big hit and come from behind. It wears on you when you're not getting that clutch hit. Hopefully we can build on [Saturday] night and keep going."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.