MLB.com reports the Chicago Cubs placed starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (shoulder) on the 15-day disabled list Saturday, June 21, with a minor strain in his right shoulder. The move is retroactive to Thursday, June 19. It's the second time Zambrano has been on the disabled list, the first coming in 2002, when he missed nearly a month with a right elbow strain.
Zambrano suffered the injury in the seventh inning of the Cubs' contest Wednesday, June 18, during which he gave up five runs - four earned - in 6 2/3 innings of a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The burly right-hander induced outfielder B.J. Upton to hit into a double play before exiting the contest in pain.
An arthrogram revealed the strain, and the news that it was mild is a relief to the Cubs and fantasy owners alike. After the club received the results, Zambrano attempted to talk his way out of the DL stint, thinking that he might be able to miss only one start, if not make his next turn. He understood the decision, though: The Cubs are going to play this one safe, general manager Jim Hendry acknowledged, by ensuring that the inflammation clears up completely with proper rest.
"Big Z" has been enjoying another impressive campaign as the ace for the club with the best record in baseball. He's 8-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, although he has only fanned 68 batters in 106 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate of 5.76 per nine innings is the lowest of his major league career, excluding the 2001 campaign in which he made his debut and started only once. His career mark is 7.69.
The numbers may be evidence of Zambrano's maturation as a pitcher. While his opponents' batting average is a career-high .259, he has yielded a mere seven home runs (as opposed to 23 in 216 1/3 innings last year). He's also on pace for the lowest walk rate (3.05) of his career; his lifetime mark is 4.04.
Fantasy owners should stash Zambrano in whatever manner possible for the next couple of weeks; it sounds as if he won't miss more than the allotted time for his DL trip.
The Cubs recalled infielder Eric Patterson from Triple-A Iowa to take Big Z's roster spot; Patterson started in left field Saturday. He barely deserves consideration, even in deep NL-only leagues. The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder has collected two hits in 14 at-bats during his separate stints in the bigs this year. He may not remain up long, either.
Pitcher Sean Marshall is expected to join the Cubs Sunday, June 22, from Triple-A Iowa and be activated in time to start Tuesday, June 24, in place of Zambrano. The left-hander made 24 starts in his rookie year, 2006, going 6-9 with a 5.59 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings. Last season, in 21 games, including 19 starts, he seemed to be progressing, posting a 3.92 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He went 7-8 and fanned 67 in 103 1/3 innings. This season he was squeezed from the rotation in spring training; he has allowed four earned runs and walked seven in 8 2/3 innings of relief.
In seven starts with Iowa, Marshall is 1-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 25 K's in 31 2/3 innings. He has issued only six walks, and opponents are hitting .220 against him. Marshall should be a solid short-term NL-only pickup given the offense that backs him. It's difficult to recommend him in mixed leagues, although he makes for an intriguing spot start Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. They are one of the weakest offenses in the league, particularly on the road, but as a team they have hit southpaws better than righties.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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