Aramis, Big Z among Cubs on the mend

Aramis, Big Z among Cubs on the mend

CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder Tuesday, Carlos Zambrano was getting treatment for his back spasms, Tom Gorzelanny was soaking his foot in ice and Ted Lilly was preparing for a Minor League rehab start.

It's a little crowded in the Cubs' trainer's room.

Ramirez is not expected back in the lineup until Thursday at the earliest. When he does return, he'll have to play with pain.

"I'm sure it's going to cause him some discomfort from time to time, and hopefully he can play through it," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Ramirez, who missed two months because of a dislocated shoulder injured May 8, took himself out of Saturday's game in Colorado because of discomfort in his shoulder. He did not play Sunday or Monday. He feels the pain more at the plate than on defense.

"When I feel it is with my swing," Ramirez said. "[I feel it] when I get a line drive over my head, but that's not going to happen too often. Basically, when I finish my swing, I finish high with my left shoulder and that's a tough thing."

The cortisone shot will calm down the inflammation, but won't take away the pain.

"I've been playing in pain since I came back," said Ramirez, who was batting .286 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 25 games since he returned from the disabled list July 6. "I won't be 100 percent the rest of the year. I'm going to have to play with it the rest of the year.

"If I have to dive, I'm going to have to dive," he added. "I'm going to keep swinging the way I"m swinging. I'm out there to play and I"m not going to take anything for granted. I'm going to do what I have to do to play the game, and that's the bottom line."

What about postseason surgery?

"That's a longshot -- I don't think I'm going to have to," Ramirez said. "It's more muscle than anything. You worry about surgery if you think the shoulder is going to slip out again."

Ramirez doesn't feel he returned too soon from his rehab.

"They didn't rush me," Ramirez said. "I just wanted to come back and play. We were in the pennant race and I wanted to come back. I only went down for three games [of] rehab. I don't think [they rushed me] -- I felt pretty good two weeks ago and all of a sudden it started to hurt. It happens."

He can't adjust his swing to alleviate the pain.

"I always swing hard," Ramirez said. "I'm going to play the way I play. If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, there's nothing I can do."

Zambrano, on the disabled list with back spasms, is waiting for the go-ahead to begin baseball activities. He is not expected to be sidelined longer than 15 days.

Zambrano had taken himself out of his Aug. 1 start against Florida after three innings because of back spasms, and did his exercises before his scheduled start Friday in Colorado. He did not take batting practice, but was getting treatment all week.

"I think Carlos truthfully felt he was fine," Piniella said of the right-hander.

Did Zambrano do enough between starts for his back?

"I'm not going to put blame or fault on anybody," Piniella said. "I do know he felt he could pitch on Friday and he took his regular batting practice and assumed everything was OK, and when it came time to go warm up, he started feeling discomfort and that was that.

"He had been doing his strength work with our strength guy [Tim Buss]," Piniella said, "and we're going to make sure he's on a nice program so he gets back out there as soon as possible and he'll do his work."

Lilly, out since July 21 because of inflammation in his left shoulder, is scheduled to make his first rehab start Wednesday for Class A Peoria, and throw 65-70 pitches. If all goes well, the left-hander could be back in the rotation Monday in San Diego.

"It'll be nice to play baseball," Lilly said Tuesday.

Gorzelanny, who was hit on the right foot by a ball Monday in Colorado, was getting plenty of ice on his bruised foot. He is expected to make his next start Saturday against his former team, the Pirates.

The injury-riddled Cubs have a tough stretch ahead, beginning with the defending World Series champion Phillies on Tuesday. They're missing two pitchers from the starting rotation in Lilly and Zambrano, Ramirez isn't available and Reed Johnson (left foot fracture) is wearing a large boot on his foot.

"These next two weeks to me will tell a lot about what's going to happen the rest of the season," 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.