Inside Pitch: Wide Open

It seems as if next year's rotation for the Cubs will consist of Carlos Zambrano, maybe Mark Prior (if he's healthy) and ... and ...

Well, that's the rub.

The Cubs likely will seek help via trade or free agency during the offseason but also hope for some in-house candidates.

Left-handed pitcher Rich Hill, who has a 2.95 ERA in his last seven starts, could be earning a spot.

"I hope I'm considered for next year," Hill said. "At the same time, that's too far away to be thinking about now."

Several other rookies have pitched with varying degrees of success.

Hill, Sean Marshall, Juan Mateo and Angel Guzman appear to have the biggest potential upside, but Carlos Marmol, Ryan O'Malley and Jae Kuk Ryu could eventually develop.

REPLAY: The Cubs blew a chance to win their first series at Wrigley Field since Aug. 4-6 against Pittsburgh when they lost a 7-4 decision to San Francisco on Sunday to drop two out of three games.

Starting pitcher Angel Guzman left the game in the fifth inning with cramps in his right forearm. His status is day-to-day. The Cubs fell to 55-81 and have lost 13 of their last 16. Perhaps the Cubs can reverse the trend when they host Pittsburgh in a four-game set starting Monday.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • C Michael Barrett went on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with an intrascrotal hematoma after he was hit in the groin with a foul tip Saturday. Henry Blanco and Geovany Soto will get a bulk of the playing time in Barrett's absence. Soto was called up from Triple-A Iowa on Friday, and he got his first big-league hit Sunday.

  • 1B John Mabry's back has been locking up on him, and he was not able to play Sunday in place of Derrek Lee (who has been taking a day off after every two games). Henry Blanco made a rare appearance at first base.

  • RHP Mark Prior (shoulder tendinitis) met with doctors over the weekend, and it possible that he will be able to start throwing again this week. Prior said he would consider coming in as a reliever to get some work in before the season ends.

  • RHP Kerry Wood, shut down for the season with shoulder stiffness, continues to work out in Arizona with the hope of being able to throw in early October. If all goes well, the Cubs want him to start making bullpen sessions in mid-October. They are hoping he could be ready for spring training as a reliever. But the Cubs, who will not exercise a $13.5 million option on his contract, and Wood need to get together to see if he wants to remain with Chicago in 2007.

  • OF Buck Coats, who received three major league at-bats in an August call-up, rejoined the team from Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. He fouled out as a pinch hitter.

  • RHP Jae Kuk Ryu, who had three stints with the major league club, is expected to be called up Tuesday after Triple-A Iowa's season ends.

  • LHP Sean Marshall, who had been out since July 23 with a strained left oblique muscle, came off the disabled list to start Saturday. He took the loss against the Giants, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings.

  • LHP Scott Eyre (strained right hamstring) came off the disabled list Friday and closed out the Cubs' win over San Francisco. He had been out since Aug. 16.

  • RHP Wade Miller, who has been out all season after shoulder surgery, came off the disabled list Friday.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 35 -- Times in the Cubs' first 134 games in which a Cubs starting pitcher failed to go at least five innings in a game.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Can I get some (bleeping) breakfast?" -- Phil Nevin, who was joking around when he was picking up his belongings at Wrigley Field on the morning of Sept. 1 after he was traded to Minnesota the night before.


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