Rays get to Big Z, shoulder finishes him

Shoulder finishes Big Z in loss

ST. PETERSBURG -- Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano lasted longer than most pitchers would have Wednesday night, but he had to be pulled in the seventh inning because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

Zambrano will fly back to Chicago on Thursday to be examined by team orthopedic specialist Dr. Steven Gryzlo, and is expected to undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. The team expects to have more details on the right-hander's status by Friday.

"He's got shoulder discomfort, and we don't know more than that," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Four different players drove in a run in a four-run third inning to spark the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 Interleague victory over the Cubs and Zambrano. The Rays batted around in the key third, taking a 5-2 lead, and Zambrano had totaled 54 pitches by that point. But he stayed in the game.

In the seventh, Zambrano walked Carl Crawford and got B.J. Upton to ground into a double play. Zambrano threw one pitch to Eric Hinske, and catcher Geovany Soto signaled to the dugout. Cubs athletic trainer Mark O'Neal and Piniella then went to the mound, and after some discussion, Zambrano finally exited.

"I wanted to finish the hitter," Zambrano said. "Lou told me, 'That's enough,' and I have to respect that."

"He was trying to talk me into staying," Piniella said of his animated chat with Zambrano. "He was convincing, but we did the right thing getting him out of there, obviously. We hope for the best, that's all we can do."

For the game, Zambrano (8-3) gave up five runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings. He threw 100 pitches, 55 for strikes. On two of those pitches, he just wasn't right.

"He threw a pitch funny, weird," Soto said. "He doesn't throw with that same motion. I went out there and said, 'Are you all right? What's going on?' He said, 'I'm fine.' I had to call somebody. I didn't think he was all right.

"He said, 'I'm fine, I'm fine,' the whole time. I have no idea what's going on. It was something out of the blue."

Zambrano isn't exactly sure either.

"I felt good, and there was a funny pitch that I felt something in my arm," he said. "The last pitch I threw in the game to Hinske, I dropped my arm a lot because I couldn't go back on the top with my arm."

Is he concerned?

"I feel good. I have confidence that nothing is wrong, and it's tendinitis, hopefully, and they will put me on some medicine, and I can make my next start."
-- Carlos Zambrano

"I feel good," Zambrano said. "I have confidence that nothing is wrong, and it's tendinitis, hopefully, and they will put me on some medicine, and I can make my next start."

So, he won't miss a start?

"I don't think so," Zambrano said. "Hopefully, no."

The Cubs were short-handed, with Reed Johnson limited because of back spasms. Jim Edmonds had to leave the game after the fourth because of soreness in his left foot caused by the turf at Tropicana Field. They needed Zambrano's bat. He's batting .362.

"The way we are right now, I think we'd rather play without the [designated hitter]," Piniella said. "Eight on eight is better."

Instead, Piniella tweaked the lineup. Wednesday marked Kosuke Fukudome's debut as the Cubs' leadoff man, and in his first at-bat, he grounded out on the first pitch off Andy Sonnanstine. Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura walked to lead off the Rays' first, and scored on Mark DeRosa's error as he was unable to get his glove on Crawford's ball.

Fukudome came through with two outs in the third, slapping an RBI double to drive in Micah Hoffpauir, who had singled. Fukudome then scored on Ryan Theriot's single, sliding safely under the tag, to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

Zambrano was unable to retire the first five batters he faced in the Rays' third, and they took a 4-2 lead on RBI singles by Upton, Hinske and Evan Longoria. One out later, Willy Aybar added an RBI single. Zambrano said that inning didn't cause the soreness.

"It has nothing to do with the third inning," Zambrano said. "I just left some pitches in the middle and they got hit."

Chicago loaded the bases in the fifth and added a run when Theriot hit into a fielder's choice to close to 5-3. Soto led off the ninth against Troy Percival with his 12th homer and DeRosa walked, but two outs later, Fukudome was called out on strikes to end the game. For the second straight game, they rallied in the ninth but came up short. The Cubs have lost two in a row, but have not lost three straight this season.

"I think Tampa Bay likes playing Chicago teams," Piniella said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.