Cubs Have Bullpen Concerns

Samardzija has had rough month (STAFF/PAM DAVIS)

All of a sudden, the Cubs are looking a little thin in the bullpen. The problem isn't ace setup man Carlos Marmol or closer Kerry Wood. It's the bridge between the starters and Marmol and Wood.

Right now, that bridge looks a little rickety.

After flirting with putting right-hander Bob Howry back into the middle role, manager Lou Piniella is using him at mop-up time again.

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija, after a hot start, has cooled considerably with the problem being walks. Samardzija gave up three hits and four unearned runs in Thursday's game. He also walked a pair, giving him four walks in two games.

"He's only been pitching pro ball a couple years," Piniella said. "Let's not forget that. It's not the easiest thing in the world to pitch in these type of circumstances."

What's killed the bullpen has been the loss of right-hander Chad Gaudin, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 29 because of lower-back soreness.

Piniella was asked about Gaudin's status and ETA after Thursday's game.

"We just got him on the mound," Piniella told reporters. "He's going to face hitters a few times. We've told the pitching people down there (Arizona) to let us know when he's ready. When he is, we'll get him back here."

In the interim, Piniella has trotted out the likes of right-handers Kevin Hart, Michael Wuertz and Angel Guzman, with only mixed results.

CARDINALS 12, CUBS 6: RHP Carlos Zambrano, in his first start since throwing a no-hitter Sunday, lasted just 1 1/3 innings Friday, giving up six hits and eight runs. Zambrano returned to Venezuela Wednesday after the death of his grandmother and didn't return to Chicago until Thursday night. The Cubs used five relievers. 1B Daryle Ward, who came into the game in the fifth inning, was the only Cub to have multiple hits, with two.

NOTES, QUOTES

--C Geovany Soto was a late lineup scratch because of soreness in his left hand. The Cubs said X-rays showed only some irritation at the top of the hand, where it meets the wrist. Soto is day to day. He may have hurt the hand Thursday in an at-bat before he hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning in a 7-6, 12-inning victory over Milwaukee.

--Zambrano said his legs felt weary, but his troublesome right shoulder was fine even though he lasted just 1 1/3 innings. He attributed it to the long flights to and from Venezuela Wednesday and Thursday after the death of his grandmother.

"You go out there and perform, and there's no excuse," he said.

--Ward picked up two hits as the blowout loss to the Cardinals enabled manager Lou Piniella to rest almost all of his regulars.

"It looked like a spring training game," Piniella said.

--Rookie 3B Casey McGehee picked up the first two RBI of his career on a pair of groundouts. McGehee went into the game when starting 3B Aramis Ramirez came out. Ramirez's hitting streak ended at 10 games as he went 0-for-2.

--LHP Ted Lilly pitches Saturday. He is 5-2 lifetime with a 2.77 ERA against the Cardinals. Lilly has not lost since Aug. 9.

BY THE NUMBERS: 800 -- The Cubs reached the 800 mark in runs scored last week. It's their first 800-run season since 1998. The Cubs now have only eight seasons of 800 runs or more since 1900.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What this team shows is that it's a team. We're getting close to where we want to go." -- Piniella, as his team closed in on the NL Central title for a second straight year.

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