By Evan Brunell
The Cubs placed Carlos Zambrano on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury, recalling reliever Kerry Wood.
Zambrano left Thursday's start without registering an out in the second after complaining of soreness in his lower back. He underwent an MRI, the results of which have not been released. Given Zambrano was moving around just fine in tossing out the first pitch for a softball team later that night, plus scuttling away from a foul ball (click for video).
The move is likely precautionary more than anything, as Z was due to make just two starts before the All-Star break, which adds additional days of rest for Zambrano, who previously hit the DL in 2009 with back soreness. Zambrano had righted the ship as of late, with a 4.34 ERA on the season. Over his two prior starts to Thursday, he had tossed 15 innings, giving up five earned runs which translates to a 3.00 ERA.
MLB.com reports that journeyman Ramon Ortiz will replace Big Z in the rotation. Chicago was a bit unlucky with the injury as they had just designated Doug Davis for assignment on Wednesday, and he is unable to return to fill in the breach. Ortiz will pitch for his seventh major-league club (seven in the last eight years), all the more notable given he did not pitch in the majors in 2008 and '09.
Last season, Ortiz made two starts and 14 bullpen appearances for the Dodgers, posting a 6.30 ERA. Down on the farm this year, the 38-year-old made 15 starts for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, posting a 4.44 ERA, hardly inspiring. His 1.9 walks per nine innings plus 7.1 K/9 rate do offer some optimism. Despite that, the Cubs will eagerly await Z's return so they can bump Ortiz.
Ortiz will make his Cubs debut on Tuesday against the Nationals.
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