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The Cubs might be optimistic.
After he finally got an MRI on Thursday, it was revealed that Carlos Zambrano is suffering from rotator cuff tendinitis and inflammation.
General manager Jim Hendry told the team Web site that Zambrano will start throwing again next week while the team is in St. Louis, with the aim of getting him back on the hill on Sept. 14, hopefully missing just one start. Sean Marshall will take Zambrano's turn Sunday.
Is that a realistic timetable? Obviously, every injury is different and affects people in different ways, but this is the same injury that kept Joba Chamberlain out for almost a month. Clearly, Zambrano's rotator cuff problem does not appear to be as serious as Chamberlain's, based on the timetable, but missing just one start might not be enough to alleviate the problem. Zambrano already had one stint on the disabled list earlier this season with a different shoulder issue.
Even if he is pitching again that quickly, will he be 100 percent? He had a 7.10 ERA in his past six starts, making it past the fifth inning just twice. It's possible he's been trying to pitch through his problem a bit longer than first thought, but just because he got a shot of anti-inflammatory medication and a few extra days of rest, it doesn't mean he's going to be able to pitch like "Big Z" down the stretch. There's a difference between pitching and pitching at peak effectiveness, so his fantasy owners might need to manage their expectations accordingly.
Jesse Litsch threw a four-hit shutout Thursday, striking out three. He is an intriguing spot start play down the stretch, as he has a 0.95 ERA in four starts since returning from the minors. Sometimes you just try to ride the hot hand. ... Scott Kazmir walked five but allowed just one hit in six shutout innings against the Yankees, striking out seven to push his ERA back below 3.00 for the season. ... Ervin Santana continues to roll, striking out eight and allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings Thursday. His home and road splits this season are virtually identical, a marked change from previous seasons. ... Gary Matthews Jr. had four hits in the leadoff role while Garrett Anderson got the day off. ... Nate McLouth hit just his second homer in the past month as he looks to finish strong after a big post-break slump. ... Daric Barton homered again and is hitting .353 with three homers and a steal over his past 10 games. ... Travis Snider had three hits, including his first big league homer. One of the best hitting prospects in the game, he's trying to set himself up for a run at a starting job next season. He has good short-term value down the stretch. ... Ronnie Belliard suffered a pulled groin and likely is done for the season. ... Casey Kotchman went 1-for-3 with a walk in his return to the starting lineup after missing time to be with his ailing mother. ... James Parr threw six scoreless innings, striking out three, to win his first big league start as an emergency fill-in for Jo-Jo Reyes, who was at the birth of his child. The 22-year-old Parr might get another start or two but does not have much value for the balance of the season. ... Chipper Jones (knee) returned to the starting lineup and went 1-for-1 with three walks. ... Chris Volstad struggled with his control again, walking five. He's walked more than he's struck out over his past seven starts, but he does continue to keep the ball down in the zone and in the ballpark, minimizing the damage. ... Joe Nathan's struggles continued as he blew his third save in his past four chances (despite allowing just one earned run in that time), thanks to some shoddy defense behind him. Don't worry -- he'll be fine.
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
One day after having his home run upheld by instant replay, there was no doubt about his long ball Thursday, the 550th of his career. A-Rod has homered in three straight games and four of his past five.
Cristian Guzman, Nationals
His franchise-record streak of eight straight multihit games came to an end with a thud as he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk.
Gary Sheffield was given a day off Thursday to rest his sore shoulder but should be back in the lineup Friday. ... Carlos Guillen (back) will not travel with the team this weekend and might not be ready Monday as the club initially hoped. ... Bobby Abreu was a scratch Thursday but hopes his jammed wrist has recovered enough for him to return to the lineup Friday. X-rays were negative. ... Carlos Gomez sat again Thursday and has started just one of the past four games as the team seeks alternatives at the bottom of the lineup. ... Mark Ellis (shoulder) hopes to return to the lineup Friday. ... Ian Kinsler is officially done, having opted for season-ending surgery for his sports hernia. ... Carlos Quentin (forearm) could be back in the lineup Friday. ... Kevin Gregg (knee) says he wants to be able to start pitching again Sept. 12, but it's possible he might not be closing any games for a while after that. ... Collin Balester's next start will be pushed back to Tuesday due to a strained glute muscle. ... B.J. Upton will have surgery for a torn labrum at the end of the season but will try to play through it the rest of the way. This injury is likely one of the causes of his lack of power, as he's had to change his stroke subtly to compensate for it. ... Evan Longoria has yet to swing a real bat or take batting practice yet, putting his expected return next week in a little bit of doubt. ... Vicente Padilla will throw a bullpen session Friday and, if all goes well, return to the rotation Wednesday.
• The Dodgers called up catcher A.J. Ellis from Triple-A, where he hit .321 in 84 games this season with more walks than strikeouts. He doesn't have a lot of pop, but the big, 6-foot-3 backstop could have a career as a big league backup on the strength of his defense and might be able to squeeze out a high enough batting average to be useful if he ever gets some extended playing time. That's unlikely as long as Russell Martin is around.
• The Yankees brought outfielder Melky Cabrera back to the big leagues, but the one-time starter might not see much playing time, with the team's outfield and DH positions full right now. Abreu could be back in the lineup by this weekend, so Cabrera just provides some insurance.
• The Twins released Mike Lamb.
• One of the top pitching prospects in the game, the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, showed why for Double-A Frisco on Thursday, fanning 11 in seven shutout innings. The 20-year-old struck out 153 batters in 127 1/3 innings across two levels this season, allowing just three homers all year. He could see some big league time as early as next year.