Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is shown during a baseball game against the against the Minnesota Twins in a baseball game Sunday, June 10, 2012 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Updated: June 18, 2012 6:46PM
Talk about taking the trade winds out of the Cubs’ sails.
Ryan Dempster, one of the hottest pitchers in the majors and the top pitcher available in the early trade market, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of tightness in the lat muscle just below his right shoulder blade.
Dempster, who has three of the Cubs’ four wins this month, has a 22-inning scoreless streak despite pitching through the growing problem the past three starts.
The Cubs say there’s no timetable on Dempster’s return.
‘‘We’re going to play it conservatively,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘As well as he’s throwing, we want to nip this in the bud to make sure it doesn’t turn into a strain or anything like that.’’
Dempster said he won’t throw for at least another few days and didn’t seem to anticipate a lengthy stay on the DL.
‘‘It’s gotten better the last couple days, which is a nice sign, that’s it’s loosening up,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll just get it back and get it ready.’’
Dempster, who has the second-ranked ERA (2.11) in the National League, was considered the most certain Cub to be traded before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, and officials from other teams anticipated a possible quick strike by interested contenders.
Dempster won’t be eliigible to return from the DL until July 1, and would have only two potential starts before the All-Star break to prove his fitness -- pushing a potential trade closer to the deadline.
‘‘Generally when players have minor injuries, it’s typical to wait until they come back and re-establish health before engaging in any serious trade talks,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘That’s the fair thing to do.’’
Left-hander Scott Maine was recalled from AAA Iowa to join the Cubs’ bullpen, taking Dempster’s roster spot.
And Randy Wells (1-1 4.50) moves from the bullpen to rejoin the rotation in Dempster’s place, starting Wednesday against the White Sox.
In other moves Monday, the Cubs activated catcher Geovany Soto (knee) from the DL and put him behind the plate for Monday night’s game against the White Sox.
The Cubs decided against keeping three catchers with Soto’s return and sent Welington Castillo back to AAA.