Aramis Ramirez could have stayed on the bench.
Ramirez already had sat out the previous three games with soreness in his left shoulder. He dislocated the joint back in May, and even since he returned in July, it has continued to feel less than 100 percent.
Nonetheless, Ramirez was in the lineup.
"Everybody else is playing, so why not?" he said. "I'm not going to make it worse, so I'll go out there and play tonight."
The decision was about more than his pain or the team.
"The fans come out to watch us play, and they want to see the main guys play," Ramirez said. "So I'm well enough to play tonight and I'm going to go out there."
Manager Lou Piniella appreciates his veterans' willingness to play with pain.
"Your older players are supposed to set the tone," Piniella said. "When your older players go out and play, like Derrek Lee or whomever, all of a sudden it sets an example for the younger kids on the team."
Lee actually was scratched from Thursday's lineup due to "personal reasons," and replaced at first base by Jake Fox.
Ramirez also looked ahead to 2010, when he should be back at full strength, along with Alfonso Soriano, who is recovering from knee surgery.
Although Ramirez acknowledged the team will need to add an outfielder if the suspended Milton Bradley does not return, he believes the Cubs can succeed if the current players are able to stay on the field and do their jobs.
"We've got guys in here, that they know they can be better than what they did [this year]," Ramirez said. "Everybody comes back next year healthy hopefully and does what they're supposed to do, we're going to be all right."
Ramirez said he does not blame general manager Jim Hendry for the team's failure to make the playoffs for the third straight year. He put the responsibility for that on the players.
More specifically, Ramirez said the offense "wasted a lot of good efforts from the starting pitchers."
"This year, the starting rotation and the bullpen did their job," Soriano said. "The key this year [of why] we didn't make the playoffs is the offense didn't show what it was supposed to this season."
Andrew Simon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.