Ace right-hander Carlos Zambrano was a last-minute scratch from Friday night's start at Colorado because his lower back stiffened up on him. The Cubs say they believe it's a recurrence of the back ailment that forced Zambrano out of last Saturday's start at Florida after three innings.
The Cubs may or may not have to determine Saturday if Zambrano will have to go on the disabled list after Zambrano undergoes an MRI in Chicago, but they likely will have to call someone up from the minor leagues to give the bullpen an extra arm.
Zambrano is 7-4 with a 3.35 ERA, but he's had his share of ailments this year. In addition to the recent back problems, he spent time on the DL in May with a left-hamstring strain.
Right-hander Ryan Dempster broke his toe last month, and lefty Ted Lilly is working to come off the DL as he gets over knee and shoulder problems.
ROCKIES 6, CUBS 2: LHP Sean Marshall, the Cubs' emergency starter in place of Zambrano, lasted two innings, giving up three in the first. RHP Jeff Samardzija gave up a two-run homer to Chris Iannetta in the fourth. Cubs batters were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
--1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir was optioned to Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines) as C Geovany Soto came off the DL. The Cubs opted for the speed and defense of OF Sam Fuld in the spacious confines of Coors Field over the power potential of Hoffpauir, who batted .233 with eight homers.
--RF Milton Bradley, who entered the game with an on-base percentage of .389, moved up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order to "utilize" his OBP, according to manager Lou Piniella. Bradley singled his first time up and walked the next two. He struck out to leave a runner stranded in the seventh.
--Soto had a rough outing upon his return from the DL. Soto struck out his first three times up before grounding into a double play to end the eighth inning. Soto was out a month with a left-oblique strain.
--Marshall wound up throwing 62 pitches in two innings. It was his heaviest workload since his previous start, May 31. After that, Marshall went to the bullpen, where he was the Cubs' lone lefty for most of the season.
--Samardzija worked four innings of long relief of Marshall. It was Samardzija's longest outing of the season in the big leagues. He worked predominantly as a starter at Iowa earlier this season, and he had an eight-inning performance there. Against the Rockies, Samardzija gave up five hits and two runs in four innings, throwing 73 pitches. --The Sports XChange
IOWA 4, RENO 2 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (56-57) collected 12 hits in the victory Friday. 1B Bobby Scales (3-for-4, RBI) led the offense with three hits and LF John-Ford Griffin (2-4) and C Chris Robinson (2-4) added two hits each. LHP Casey Fossum (3-4) held the Aces to one run and two hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked two.
BIRMINGHAM 4, TENNESSEE 3 (CLASS AA)
At Birmingham, Ala., the Smokies (54-58 overall, 22-20 second half) were held to seven hits in the loss Friday. RF Doug Deeds (3-4, double, RBI) was the only Tennessee player to finish with more than one hit. RHP Alex Maestri (3-2) took the loss, allowing one run and three hits in 2 1/3 innings in relief. The Smokies trail first-place Chattanooga by two games in the second half Southern League North Division standings.
BREVARD COUNTY 3, DAYTONA 0 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Viera, Fla., the Cubs (52-54, 18-21) were held to five hits in the loss Friday. 3B Marwin Gonzalez (2-3, walk) led the offense with two hits. RHP Rafael Dolis (2-7) suffered the loss with four innings of one-run, three-hit ball. He struck out three and walked three.
PEORIA 6, WISCONSIN 5 (CLASS-A)
At Peoria, the Chiefs (61-48, 23-17) collected 10 hits in the victory Friday. RF Kyler Burke (4-5) led the offense with a season high four hits, and CF Brett Jackson (1-4) hit his second home run since joining the Chiefs. RHP Chris Huseby (4-5) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the victory. He has not been scored on in his last 13 2/3 innings and has a 1.83 ERA with 60 strikeouts to seven walks on the season. The Chiefs share first place with Cedar Rapids in the second half Midwest League West Division standings.
BOISE 3, EVERETT 0 (CLASS LOW-A)
At Everett, Wash., the Hawks (19-28) snapped a five game losing streak with the victory Friday. Boise collected seven hits with 3B Greg Rohan (3-4) and C Richard Jones (2-4) combining for five hits and all three runs scored. Rohan hit his third home run and Jones added two doubles. RHP Robert Hernandez (2-3) tossed six scoreless innings, allowing six hits. He struck out four without allowing a walk.
ANGELS 5, CUBS 0 (ARIZONA ROOKIE LEAGUE)
At Mesa, the Cubs (21-18) were held to six hits in the loss Friday. 2B Robert Bautista (2-5) and C Sergio Burruel (2-4) combined for four hits. RHP Carlos Rojas (1-3) allowed two runs and six hits in three innings for the loss. He struck out three and walked one.
DENVER - The Chicago Cubs today activated catcher Geovany Soto from the 15-day disabled list. To…