Even without Zambrano, Cubs will be just fine

Updated: May 4, 2009

Nick Laham/Getty Images

Ted Lilly and his 3.13 ERA should be able to keep the Cubs on the right track with Carlos Zambrano out.


Obviously, the Cubs got some bad news when Carlos Zambrano was placed on the disabled list Monday because of a strained left hamstring.

I know firsthand how tricky hamstrings can be, but it shouldn't sideline him for more than a month at the most and it will probably be closer to two, maybe three weeks. The way he came off the field on his own was a fairly good sign. It's important for him to be 100 percent when he does return because he's a guy who not only pitches, but he hits quite well too. He does a nice job of helping his own cause a lot of the time. If he's going to be running the bases, he will need his hamstrings. Some pitchers that don't handle the bat very well don't have that additional concern when they are coming back from leg problems.

The Cubs are in the middle of the pack in the NL Central, but showed some spirit this weekend by taking three of four from the Florida Marlins and Monday's series opener with the Giants. Derrek Lee looks like he's starting to swing the bat a little better. His home run totals have been down, but he had a couple of long balls this weekend. He says he doesn't worry about hitting home runs as long as he's driving people in, but it is nice to get those easy jogs around the bases once in a while. I know manager Lou Piniella was happy seeing the power surge from Lee. Lou likes it when the middle of the batting order knocks the ball out of the park.

Lee's success is a good sign for the Cubs, and some other good signs are the anticipated return of Aramis Ramirez and the improving health of Milton Bradley. Bradley is a player that can produce runs and hit for average, but he has yet to really check in yet for the Cubs. Sometime this week they could have all three of those guys back in the lineup at the same time. Obviously you expect production from them, but their presence alone should prove beneficial to the lineup as a whole. The opposing pitcher is going to focus on those guys, and players like Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot should be able to take advantage.

A revitalized offense would certainly help offset the absence of Zambrano every fifth day. Also, Ted Lilly has pitched very well and has already taken the mentality of an ace. He is a competitor regardless and doesn't need to change his approach with Zambrano temporarily out of the rotation.

Fortunately for the Cubs, their short-term schedule isn't that bad. They have Houston and Milwaukee over the next couple of weeks, but the Astros haven't been that impressive to this point. The Brewers have been a little bit better, but Ryan Braun is day to day right now. They don't have the Cardinals for another two and a half weeks, when Zambrano would be eligible to come off the DL. Getting swept by the division-leading Cardinals would obviously be cause for concern, but they should be near full strength by then. The Cubs had high hopes before this season, and I don't think there is any real reason to be too worried as of yet.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: May 3 | April 30 | April 29 | April 28 | April 27


Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
N. Markakis, Bal4TBKazmirTop 1: 1-1, 0 Outs. 2 on.
E. Longoria, TB8BalEatonBot 1: 3-2, 2 Outs. None on.
H. Ramirez, Fla3CinHarangBot 1: 0-0, 2 Outs. None on.
A. LaRoche, Pit1MilGallardoBot 4: 1-0, 0 Outs. None on.

The complete list of Monday's homers


Giants at Cubs

The Cubs will take a crack at figuring out Tim Lincecum, who has been dominant his past three starts. He is 2-0 with a no-decision. The staggering numbers? In those three starts, he has struck out 33 and walked four.

Rangers at Mariners

The top two teams in AL West meet. One of the reasons the Mariners are off to a good start is the strong start of Erik Bedard, who is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his five starts this year.

Red Sox at Yankees

While the Yankees feel good about Joba Chamberlain's work the past few starts, the Red Sox must be a bit concerned with the work of Josh Beckett. Beckett has allowed 20 hits and 15 runs in his past two starts, which have totaled only 9 2/3 innings.

For the rest of Tuesday's schedule, click here.


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Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Chris Singleton
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Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Chris Singleton



Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Zack Greinke, who continues to dazzle at the start of this season. The Royals righty improved to 6-0 with a complete-game shutout Monday against the White Sox.

Zack Greinke (2009)
Spring training Regular season
ERA 9.21 0.40
BA against .367 .189
HR allowed 6 0



Zack Greinke• Hard to ignore Zack Greinke, isn't it? The Royals' starter tossed a complete-game shutout, striking out 10 in a 3-0 win against the White Sox. He is now 6-0 on the season with a mind-boggling 0.40 ERA for the division-leading Royals.
Carlos BeltranCarlos Beltran extended his hitting streak to 15 games in a 6-4 win against the Braves. He did so in a big way, homering twice as part of his four-RBI day. Beltran improved his batting average to a baseball-best .400.
Wesley Wright• The Astros' bullpen had a rough night. The group, beginning with Wesley Wright, gave up seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings of a 9-4 loss against the Nationals. Wright retired one batter, gave up three hits, walked two and allowed three runs.
Dioner NavarroDioner Navarro hit .295 a year ago as the Rays made a run to the World Series. This season, after his 0-for-3 day in an 8-4 loss against the Orioles, Navarro's average dropped to .167. The catcher has gone hitless in five of his past seven games.


Evan Longoria, last year's American League Rookie of the Year, is off to another fast start in 2009. He entered Monday night leading the American League in RBIs and in the top 10 for batting average and home runs. Longoria's success this year is aided by his ability to hit even when in a two-strike count. He's hitting .286 in two-strike counts this season and that number is even higher when a pitcher throws Longoria an off-speed pitch, which he is hitting well above the league average.

The Rays take on the Orioles on Tuesday. Baltimore is allowing a .200 batting average on two-strike off-speed pitches this season, second-worst in the AL, and a .348 slugging percentage, worst in the majors.

Longoria vs. two-strike off-speed pitches
Longoria AL avg. AL rank
BA .345 .161 5
SLG .621 .236 5

-- ESPN Stats & Information


Adam Morrison examines the 15 games on Tuesday's slate.

Fantasy Morrison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Tuesday. Daily Notes