"That's why all the time before I go to pitch, I go to one knee and pray to God to save me," Zambrano said Saturday. "I don't pray to win the game, but to save me."
Prior suffered a compression fracture on the lateral side of his right elbow, which was not career-threatening. He will begin his rehab when the pain subsides, and should be back this season.
"It was a freak thing," said Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz, who has been hit on the legs but never his arm.
"As a pitcher, you don't have time to think about it," Wuertz said about the possibility of being hit by a comebacker. "If you think about it, it affects your mechanics."
Greg Maddux remembers being struck in the right elbow and seeing his career flash before his eyes.
"You're sitting in the car, going to the hospital for X-rays and thinking, 'I'm never going to pitch again,'" Maddux said.
Maddux survived that incident, but said balls close to his head cause the "heebie jeebies."
"When they go whizzing by your head, that spooks you a little," Maddux said. "I don't throw as hard as [Prior], so I don't get hit as hard."
Cubs pitcher Sergio Mitre was hit on his foot about a month ago, and last year it was his toe. Three years ago at Class A Lansing, Mitre was hit on the elbow in almost the same spot as Prior. It swelled so large, "it looked like I had a softball in there," Mitre said. But he didn't miss a start.
"It's scary," Mitre said.
On May 11, Ryan Dempster took a line drive off his right forearm against the New York Mets. Fortunately for him, it hit the fleshy part of his arm and left a bruise.
"It's a scary thing," Dempster said. "We got lucky [with Prior]. It could've been a lot worse. He's lucky it didn't shatter the elbow. We could've lost him for the year."
Welcome back: The Cubs placed Prior on the 15-day disabled list and called up right-handed pitcher Roberto Novoa from Triple-A Iowa.
This is Novoa's second stint with the team. He appeared in five games April 27-May 9, and was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA. He gave up three runs on six hits and five walks over 4 1/3 innings while striking out four.
In two stints at Iowa, Novoa was 1-1 with three saves and a 2.78 ERA. He has held opponents to a .197 average, including a .170 mark by right-handed hitters.
Novoa is a reliever, and will not be inserted into Prior's spot in the rotation. Cubs manager Dusty Baker said he will wait to see how to fill that void, although right-hander Todd Wellemeyer is one candidate. Wellemeyer subbed for Prior on Friday, and went 3 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the year.
"He's thrown the ball well," Baker said, "but he hasn't been stretched out more than four innings. We have to adjust. That's what we've been doing the last two years is adjusting."
Curses: The Cubs have had to deal with their share of injuries over the last two seasons, but Baker said he doesn't believe in jinxes or curses.
"I'm not a doom and gloom guy, so I don't believe in jinxes," Baker said. "You go through periods of unfortunate times. A mark of a man and how much faith he has is how you handle it. There's not much you can do. You can't dwell on the problem, you have to spend more time dwelling on the solution."
Minor matters: John Koronka gave up two runs on seven hits over seven innings while striking out three in Triple-A Iowa's 8-2 win over Round Rock. Scott McClain went 3-for-4 with a double and RBI, and Calvin Murray was 1-for-3 with an RBI. ... Tough day for Rich Hill who struck out 13 and took the loss. He gave up four runs on six hits over six innings for Double-A West Tenn in a 9-1 loss to Mobile. Brandon Sing and Jose Reyes both were 2-for-4. ... Carlos Marmol gave up three runs on four hits over 4 2/3 innings for Daytona in a 10-2 loss to Sarasota. ... Eric Patterson was 3-for-5 with a double in Peoria's 6-2 win over Clinton. Sean Gallagher threw six shutout innings and struck out eight. Aaron Sisk homered in his third straight game.
On deck: Mitre will finish the weekend series against Colorado on Sunday, facing lefty Jeff Francis. The Cubs then head west to play Los Angeles. Maddux will start Monday against former White Sox pitcher Wilson Alvarez.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.