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Cubs pull Matt Garza, wait to learn source of elbow trouble

Cubs pitcher Matt Garzwon’t start today’s finale Bostas Cubs wait find out what’s wrong with his elbow.  |

Cubs pitcher Matt Garza won’t start in today’s finale in Boston as the Cubs wait to find out what’s wrong with his elbow. | J. Pat Carter~AP

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Updated: August 30, 2011 12:17AM

Not sure this is what those rapture guys meant when they said the world was going to end at 6  o’clock Saturday night.

But the Cubs can’t be blamed for thinking they were singled out — not after losing their best starting pitcher of the season for at least one start and watching their .300-hitting center fielder get hit in the face by a pitch in the scariest moment of the season.

Even after rallying late to beat the Boston Red Sox 9-3, the Cubs might just as soon forget this weekend by the time they get home in the wee hours Monday.

How fast it becomes a season to forget could depend a lot on how bad the ‘‘tightness’’ in Matt Garza’s elbow turns out to be.

With the Cubs’ rotation already held together by prayers and duct tape, Garza was scratched from today’s start because of elbow stiffness that has bothered him off and on for two weeks. This just six days after injured starter Andrew Cashner was shut down again after aggravating his injured shoulder.

Garza, a 15-game winner for the Tampa Bay Rays a year ago, is scheduled to be examined by team doctor Stephen Gryzlo on Monday, when he likely also will have an MRI exam.

Garza, one of the top strikeout pitchers in the majors, downplayed the seriousness.

‘‘I’m not very concerned,’’ he said. ‘‘If this was October and the postseason, I’d definitely be gaming up and going.’’

But the Cubs won’t exhale until at least Monday. If it’s a long-term injury, it could be the knockout punch to a season on the ropes.

And it’s probably not the best sign that Garza says he has been pitching through recurring symptoms for his last two starts —
although his condition hasn’t worsened, he said. It hasn’t gone away or improved, either.

After the elbow ‘‘felt great’’ in a between-starts bullpen session in Miami last week, Garza said it was ‘‘real tight’’ when he woke up the next morning. He attributes the lingering effect to cool weather.

He has had similar stiffness in the elbow in the past, he said, ‘‘but it loosened up right away, and I kept pitching. This is one that’s been around a little bit longer.’’

For now, the Cubs and Garza are treating it as a one-start issue.

‘‘That’s what we’re hoping,’’ said manager Mike Quade, who plans to lean on James Russell and Jeff Samardzija in a bullpen day to get through tonight’s game.

The Cubs are resisting the ‘‘strong temptation’’ to bring rehabbing starter Randy Wells back from the disabled list after only one minor-league rehab start.

‘‘I thought about that. But he’s not ready,’’ Quade said. ‘‘It’s just not the right thing to do.’’

Wells, who pitches today for Class AAA Iowa, is on track to
rejoin the rotation Friday at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Garza injury keeps Casey Coleman (2-3, 6.03 ERA) in the rotation at least for one more start.

The Cubs’ rotation already ranks a distant last in the majors with a 5.54 ERA through Friday, — 0.76 worse than the next-to-last Houston Astros. With Garza sidelined, the rotation, at least for now, is Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Doug Davis, Coleman and, presumably, Wells.

The only other experienced option is 38-year-old Ramon Ortiz, who’s 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA for Iowa after giving up eight earned runs in 52/3 innings Saturday.

The Cubs are looking into immediate options for a possible callup to bolster the bullpen today.

Meanwhile, Garza unhappily sits while waiting to find out whether he’s headed for the second DL stint of his career. He was on the DL for 15 days in 2008 for nerve inflammation.

‘‘I’ve had better days,’’ he said.

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