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Shorthanded Cubs avoid using DL

Shorthanded Cubs avoid using DL

ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Zambrano was taking grounders at third base and shortstop on Saturday. The Cubs hope it doesn't come to that.

The medical reports on both third baseman Aramis Ramirez and pitcher Carlos Marmol were encouraging -- both could be back early next week -- so the Cubs decided not to place either player on the disabled list and will be shorthanded the rest of the St. Louis series.

Ramirez has a strained left calf, which he felt after he doubled in the second inning Friday. The injury was no worse on Saturday, and the feeling is that he'll be sidelined a couple days. If Ramirez had any bruising or felt more pain, he could be sidelined two to three weeks.

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"He's not any worse today, which is a good sign," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We'll have to wait and see -- three, four days."

Marmol underwent an MRI exam on Saturday and has a Grade 1 left knee sprain, which is mild. He could be throwing a bullpen session on Monday and back in action on Tuesday, when the Cubs play the second game of a three-game set in Arizona. At least, that's Marmol's plan.

"I would say if I feel good Monday, I can pitch Tuesday," Marmol said.

If Marmol needed to have arthroscopic surgery, he would've been out three weeks.

That leaves outfielder Milton Bradley still not 100 percent because of a groin injury. Bradley did walk in a pinch-hit at-bat on Friday, but had to be lifted for a pinch-runner.

"We're hoping maybe three, four more days," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said of Bradley. "The other way to look at it is if you make a move with Milton, and say he's back in four, five days, then you're looking at 10 or 11 that you could've had him and you're looking at somebody to hit off the bench anyhow. We're not going to bring up anybody better."

However, if Bradley's groin injury lingers much longer, or he aggravates it, the Cubs may consider a disabled list stint.

Hendry did look at the Triple-A Iowa roster for options, but the player swinging the bat the best there is Jake Fox, who does not play any middle-infield position, so he wouldn't address the problem.

That leaves no backups for the middle infield except for Alfonso Soriano, who was a second baseman with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, and Koyie Hill, who played third base at Wichita State. Hill, the backup catcher, was taking grounders with Zambrano -- whose next start will be Tuesday -- and Mike Fontenot prior to Saturday's game.

"We're going to try to get by this without having to 'DL' anybody," Piniella said. "I'm going to have to probably use Zambrano to pinch-hit. If we have to double-switch or we have a problem, Soriano could possibly go to second and Koyie Hill could play a little third. We're going to have to improvise a little bit."

As far as tweaking the bullpen, Aaron Heilman will take over Marmol's job as the primary setup man for closer Kevin Gregg.

"You're just a phone call away," Hendry said about adding someone if needed. "If something else happened, or somebody else got hurt, then you could make a move. At worst, you look at it that you have to get through that day only. You wouldn't let it linger.

"Koyie Hill played third in college. You wouldn't want to do that for a week, but if you have to get through an extra-inning game one day or a double-switch to try to win, you would."

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

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