Updated: July 1, 2011 1:36PM
Before anybody asks, Carlos Zambrano did not aggravate his back injury Thursday night by throwing out the first pitch at a softball game.
But the Big Z is headed to the Cubs’ big DL today after the back pain that forced him from Thursday’s start against San Francisco required an epidural today — a procedure that means at least one missed start.
With the All-Star break 10 days away, the DL move means only one additional lost start.
``It’s really not a major thing,’’ general manager Jim Hendry said. ``He could probably, almost for certain, pitch before the break, probably Friday in Pittsburgh at the latest. But to rush him out there for one more when you think he’d be 100 percent, but not positive, to me made no sense.’’
Zambrano is the 11th Cub to go on the DL since Opening Day – fourth from the season-opening rotation. Only Opening Day starter Ryan Dempster has escaped the DL from the rotation barely halfway through the season.
The Cubs plan to bring up veteran Ramon Ortiz, 38, from AAA Iowa to pitch in Zambrano’s slot Tuesday. Ortiz, signed as a minor-league free agent in April for depth,
Ortiz went 1-2 with a 6.30 ERA in 16 games, including two starts, for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since May of last year.
``The good news is it’s the same [injury] as it’s always been, and nobody’s concerned about long-term or surgery,’’ Hendry said of a lower-back issue Zambrano has dealt with almost annually over the past three or four years. ``His history when he’s had this is once it’s fixed, he’s been fine the rest of the year.’’
As for the public outcry over Zambrano’s appearance at Thursday night’s Chicago Bandits softball game, none of Zambrano’s bosses all the way up the ladder had any problem with it – including the fact he threw out the apples-to-oranges ceremonial first pitch.
``Honestly, it’s one of the biggest to-dos about nothing in his long history,’’ Hendry said. ``We certainly have all had times at being disgruntled at Carlos at times, and he would be the first to admit a lot of that’s rightfully so, but this is just much to-do about nothing.’’
The appearances, for charity, was long scheduled and publicized by the Bandits.
``I find it almost sad that this would be a big story in a negative way,’’ Hendry said. ``I would be disappointed if he didn’t show up.’’
In other team news, Hendry said center fielder Marlon Byrd is progressing so well in just a few days of his minor-league rehab assignment at Iowa that he has a chance to return a day early and play in Sunday’s game against the Sox.
``He’ll play tonight and we’ll kick it around after the game and see where we’re at,’’ Hendry said.