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Cubs to decide whether to put Ryan Dempster on DL

Cubs outfielder Reed Johnsthrows his bafter striking out fifth inning 5-4 loss Nationals Wednesday. The Cubs have lost all three

Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson throws his bat after striking out in the fifth inning in a 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday. The Cubs have lost all three games so far in the series by one run. | Rob Carr~Getty Images

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Updated: October 20, 2011 12:27AM

WASHINGTON — The Cubs let right-hander Ryan Dempster work on his back all week long in an effort to avoid the disabled list and make one more start before the All-Star break. But decision time looms today.

Dempster, who barely has played catch this week and looked to be in obvious discomfort as he tried to sit for an interview in the clubhouse Wednesday, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session today that will determine whether he can start Saturday in Pittsburgh.

The likeliest alternative is to put him on the DL, making him eligible to return the second game back from the All-Star break next week, and to recall Casey Coleman from Class AAA Iowa to start Saturday.

Coleman pitched 51/3 innings in Dempster’s rotation slot Monday and was sent back to Iowa to make room for Ramon Ortiz to be activated for his start Tuesday. The only way to make Coleman eligible to return before the mandatory 10 days at
Class AAA is a corresponding DL move.

‘‘We’ll see how he comes in [today] and see if he can toe the rubber and throw off the mound,’’ said manager Mike Quade, who left open a remote chance that Dempster might be pushed back to Sunday, the final day before the break. ‘‘He wants to pitch bad. I just think we want to take a look [today]. . . . I just want him healthy. I’d love to see him pitch Saturday, but I don’t want to see him pitch at 75 percent.’’

Dempster is the only member of the opening rotation who has not been on the DL this season.

Ortiz plans

Ortiz, who looked so good after a shaky first inning in his Cubs debut Tuesday, is scheduled to start again Sunday. After that, though, he might be facing a roster-numbers decision because Carlos Zambrano (back strain) is due back from the DL.

Assuming Dempster is back in the rotation coming out of the break, the Cubs might have no place but the bullpen for Ortiz.

‘‘Anything’s possible,” Quade said. ‘‘That role isn’t out of the question.’’

Another strong start in Pittsburgh might make the call even tougher.

‘‘I waited for this opportunity, and now we’re here,’’ said Ortiz, who has one minor-league option remaining. ‘‘To stay here, I have to keep throwing the ball well. I just want to pitch.’’


Zambrano also is scheduled to throw a bullpen session in Chicago today — ‘‘a big day to him,’’ said Quade, who added that Z’s next step might be a simulated game. That presumably would put him on schedule to return from the DL on his first eligible day, the third day after the break.

† Infielder Jeff Baker remains day-to-day after wrenching his back when he slipped trying to start a double play in the first inning Tuesday night.

† By the way, Zambrano’s catcher for his session today is Quade’s 40-year-old ‘‘little’’ brother, Scott, a former teacher, coach and player who lives near the ballpark and occasionally has done similar work for the club.

‘‘I get a kick out of running him over there. It’s an easy thing for us to do,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Hopefully, [Zambrano] doesn’t kill my little brother.’’

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