Wednesday, April 6, 2011Posted: 4:08 p.m. Updated: 6:15 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
Andrew Cashner walked through the clubhouse late Wednesday afternoon with a T-shirt that had "NO EXCUSES" written across the back.
It was probably just a coincidence - ballplayers always wear those empty motivational slogans on their chest - but it said everything about a team that needs to regroup.
A few hours after the Cubs announced that Cashner and Randy Wells will be placed on the disabled list, they turned to their Opening Day starter, the rotation's anchor.
Ryan Dempster didn't blow away the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs committed three errors and their offense still hasn't put together a monster game to give the pitching staff a breather.
The Cubs closed out their opening homestand with a 6-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in front of an announced crowd - 32,272 - that again looked to be much smaller than that. Besides all the empty green seats at Wrigley Field, this will be remembered as a missed opportunity.
The 3-3 Cubs split with the Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates, two last-place teams in 2010, and it won't get any easier without Wells and Cashner.
"Leave the two kids that are hurt out of it," manager Mike Quade said. "Everybody understands that we're going to need contributions from all over the place. ... I don't think people are going to try to do too much or be so disappointed that they're not going to come play.
"We just didn't do enough things well today to win a ballgame. And I don't think it had anything to do with the news we got."
Suddenly that inventory of starters has been cleared out. The Cubs aren't quite as pitching rich anymore. If they're going to compensate by scoring more runs and tightening up defensively, it will have to wait until the weekend in Milwaukee, where Casey Coleman will arrive as reinforcement.
"This is when you find out the depth of your organization," Marlon Byrd. "This is why you have young guys in spring training, getting them ready. We're going to need guys to come up and step in and do their job."
This game pivoted with two outs in the third inning. Byrd charged in and dove at a ball Chris Young lined into center. It skipped past Byrd and slipped out of Alfonso Soriano's hand when he went to retrieve it. Young sprinted all the way home.
"An inch here, an inch there, I catch that ball," Byrd said. "It's zero-zero instead of 2-0 and gives Dempster a little comfort. (But) that's the game of baseball. I'm always going to be aggressive."
Home runs from Soriano and Aramis Ramirez weren't enough, and it seems like the Cubs will have to get used to playing close games. They'll deal with the stress that will put on their pitchers and the bullpen won't be working with wide margins - John Grabow gave up an insurance run in the eighth that looked much bigger than it should.
But when you run any best-case scenarios for the 2011 Cubs, it all comes back to the rotation.
"If you're shell-shocked by what happened," Quade said, "you're not going to be doing this very long. ... You put it behind you. (We) win games with healthy people."
Dempster is now 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA after allowing five runs - four earned - on 10 hits in seven innings.
The injuries reminded you that what Dempster has done across the past three seasons - 98 starts and 622 innings - is so impressive.
Dempster expressed hope that Cashner and Wells won't be out for a long time. But they won't begin a throwing program to build their arm strength back up until - at the absolute earliest - two weeks from now.
Dempster also viewed this is an opportunity for someone else, and he's right. Wells used a May 2009 call-up as the platform to establish himself as a major-league starter. It wouldn't be surprising if Coleman did the same.
But Dempster's first reaction to a question about where the Cubs go from here summed it up for everyone in the room.
"It sucks to lose both those guys," he said.