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Cubs’ Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner heading to the DL

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Now what?

A Cubs season that already figured to be a six-month gut check in a best-case scenario took a 1-2 gut punch of key injuries on the eve of the first road trip.

And the Cubs’ initial response was a 6-4 loss to a bad Arizona Diamondbacks team in which the Cubs committed three errors with their Opening Day starter on the mound.

So much for that quick start on a homestand against 2010 last-place teams. The Cubs finished flat-footed with a 3-3 mark — and with starting pitchers Randy Wells (forearm strain) and Andrew Cashner (shoulder strain) headed to the disabled list.

‘‘We’re going to see what we’re made of,’’ Wells said.

Ready or not.

‘‘It’s part of the deal,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘It’s a long season, and these two guys will be back to help us, too. That I believe. . . . Nobody’s feeling sorry for us, and I’m certainly not. People will pick up the slack, and we’ll go play. And someone like Casey becomes huge, and we’ll fill that other role.’’

That would be Casey Coleman, the Class AAA starter who takes over the No. 4 spot for Wells — probably making his season debut Sunday in Milwaukee — as the Cubs discuss a short list of fifth-starter possibilities that includes stretching out reliever James Russell.

‘‘This is when you find out the depth of your organization,’’ said center fielder Marlon Byrd, who joined a line of Cubs disputing the potentially devastating effects of losing two starting pitchers — in fact, the top two performers the first time through the rotation — for a month or more each.

‘‘We have all positives. No negatives,’’ Byrd inexplicably summed up.

But no matter how positive a spin the Cubs try to put on this situation, there’s no escaping the reality that 40 percent of their starting rotation is ailing bad enough to require being shut down for two weeks.

How long either of them takes to return to starting form after that, assuming the recovery and rehab go well, is no better than a question of best guesses and good medicine.

‘‘We’ll find a way to get through it. No excuses,’’ general manager Jim Hendry said. ‘‘Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.’’

The two best pieces of news for the Cubs out of this scenario:

First, neither MRI exam result showed structural damage, and neither injury is considered a long-term problem, according to the team. ‘‘It could have been a lot worse,’’ Quade said.

Second, Coleman joins the rotation with impressive late-season experience from 2010, and he’s coming off a strong spring training.

After that, the Cubs will lean on three straight weeks with a scheduled day off to skip a starter when possible and look at Russell — and possibly somebody such as Class AAA starter Thomas Diamond, who starts tonight for Iowa — as stopgaps until at least one injured pitcher returns.

But for a team relying on pitching to make up for its poor fielding and an unremarkable lineup, a month without two starters would seem to lengthen the odds on surprising the National League Central.

And so much for that fast start to the season the Cubs talked about last month as they come off their tepid opening homestand to start their second-longest road trip of the year — a trip that features a pair of projected contenders in Milwaukee this weekend and Colorado next weekend.

Quick start? As Carlos Silva has been known to say, ‘‘No chance.’’

Or at least a not-so-great chance.

And speaking of Silva . . . no, on second thought, never mind.

‘‘Turn the page and move on,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Let’s hit the road and see where we’re at in a couple of weeks or so.’’



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