The Cubs had to put their best pitcher, and their most marketable trade commodity, on the disabled list Monday.
In a move that took most observers by surprise, the Cubs placed Ryan Dempster on the DL with tightness in his right lat muscle, near his shoulder.
The team stressed that the move was precautionary and that Dempster is not seriously injured. Dempster's name has come up in trade rumors with contending teams seeking starting pitching.
"We're going to play it conservatively," said team president Theo Epstein. "With as well as he has been throwing, nip this in the bud and make sure it doesn't turn into a strain. It's unfortunate because he was throwing as well as anyone in the game."
Dempster, who is 3-3 with a 2.11 ERA, said he felt the discomfort during his June 5 start at Milwaukee.
"It's just gotten kind of harder and harder to get loose and maintain," he said. "I felt like I was going south in the way I was feeling vs. feeling better each time. Just try to get it some rest because I wouldn't be able to pitch Wednesday and probably not the one after that just the way it feels.
"It got harder to pitch through it. I'm a pretty good judge of my body. When it tells me it's ready to go again, I'll be ready to go again."
The Cubs said Randy Wells will come out of the bullpen and start Wednesday's series finale against the White Sox. To fill the pitching staff, the team called up left-handed reliever Scott Maine from Class AAA Iowa.
Soto back, Castillo down:
Catcher Geovany Soto returned to the active roster and the starting lineup after missing a month. Soto was rehabbing at Class AAA Iowa from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
"Everything was fine; I didn't feel any discomfort at all," he said. "I feel great. I went down there and had a lot of at-bats and tried to find myself and get on the right track."
Soto was hitting .161 at the time he went on the DL.
The Cubs sent catcher Welington Castillo back to Iowa after considering keeping three catchers on the roster, with Soto, Castillo and Steve Clevenger. They opted to keep Clevenger, who started at first base Monday.
"We decided not to do that," said Theo Epstein. "I think it's important for Welington's development that he continue to play. I don't see what we would really accomplish by having him spend a lot of time sitting on the bench."
Patience on patience, please:
Shortstop Starlin Castro went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI in Sunday night's game against the Boston Red Sox. He entered Monday with a hitting line of .298/.312/.434. The problem area is walks, with just 6, compared with 51 strikeouts.
Theo Epstein, a proponent of patience at the plate, acknowledged the issue but urged taking the long view with the 22-year-old Castro.
"He hasn't completely found his groove overall offensively this year," Epstein said. "When you're searching to get locked in and you're not a naturally patient hitter anyway, it can be hard to get selective, and you end up trying to do more than you can.
"It think it's time to step back and look at the age and understand (and ask), 'What's this guy going to be like when he's 27?' It's an area of emphasis. As a team, we're pretty aggressive and we're not getting on base enough. So that's an area of emphasis."
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