Monday, September 04, 2006

zambrano leaves with injury

little has been said as of yet -- this post will be updated later with more information as it is revealed -- but carlos zambrano left today's game with an apparent injury after recording just four outs. zambrano was clearly not right from the very start of today's opener with pittsburgh, walking three of the first six batters and allowing hits to two others.

initially reported unofficially to be an arm injury, the cubs are now calling it "back stiffness" -- which if true is mercifully not the repetitive-use pitching arm injury this page has periodically concerned itself over.

this page has been kvetching over the possibilities of injury to zambrano under the abusive mismanagement of dusty baker for some time -- mentioning his past heavy use again before the season and again just recently in light of his staggering 2006 workload despite the total futility of the cubs cause -- fearing that he may be walking a path of immolation previously walked by mark prior and kerry wood without any real team-competitive purpose whatsoever.

it is obviously and sincerely hoped that this is a non-event, and that zambrano is not seriously hurt -- even if his longer-term future may benefit from the same rest that would definitively end his meager chances at the cy young award.

but if it is more than that, the case for firing baker earlier this year will become gruesomely solid. baker has incessantly stretched zambrano even as the cubs were clearly one of the worst squads in the league. some of zambrano's highest pitch counts of the year came in july and august -- long after it became blindingly clear that they could serve no team purpose.

UPDATE: as of tuesday morning, zambrano was headed in for an mri.

Zambrano will have an MRI on Tuesday morning. He has experienced back problems in the past, but none since 2004.

"I feel like my back was locked," Zambrano said. "The doctor talked to me [about] what can happen, 'If we want to stop you for this year.' I don't know. That's their decision."

Trainer Mark O'Neal, however, downplayed the seriousness of the injury.

"An MRI is the first thing that needs to be done," O'Neal said. "Carlos has requested to have it done, so we're going to have it done."

O'Neal declined to speculate on whether Zambrano would be shut down but said there are no indications of any "significant disc or lower back injury." Cubs pitchers are falling like dominos, with Zambrano the latest to suffer an injury.

o'neal and the trib are, of course, downplaying the severity of the injury because they are political animals first and lying is their unmitigated instinct -- in other words, nothing new here.

not to be overtly pithy, but this was probably the most beneficial of all of failed ballplayer ronny cedeno's hundreds of errors (scored and unscored) in his rapidly-ending major league career.

Even more disturbing was the fact that Zambrano felt pain beforehand but did not inform manager Dusty Baker. After Ronny Cedeno's throwing error allowed another run in the second, Zambrano decided to quit.

"That was my mistake," he said. "I had a problem before the game and didn't tell anybody, trying to be the hero."

Baker said Zambrano's velocity was noticeably down, but added: "A lot of games his velocity is down and he picks it up. Today he just didn't have it."

Zambrano said he couldn't bend at all. A pitcher who can't bend is like a horn player who can't blow.

"You have to bend as much as possible to get the strike zone and command," Zambrano said. "If you throw straight, you leave your pitches up and they will hit it.

"That's what happened today. I couldn't loosen up."

way to step up and limit the damage, ronny! -- apparently zambrano needs to be saved from himself, and baker certainly isn't going to take charge. this is what passes for leadership for the worst team in the national league.

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