The health concerns in the starting rotation -- in particular the status of Carlos Zambrano's irritated shoulder -- have rightfully drawn the most headlines and attention the past week or two.
But the bruised back of Chad Gaudin has quietly turned into the most baffling health concern on the pitching staff. And considering the way he helped raise the level of the entire bullpen for close to six weeks after being acquired in that trade in early July, his continued loss is creating a substantial, if overshadowed, gap on the staff.
That's why he's in Chicago Monday for another scan on the area he bruised in an away-from-the-field accident -- having slipped off a curb and smacked his back on a dumpster. He hasn't pitched since Aug. 29 and despite telling me Saturday he felt better, it seems, based on conversations with others close to the situation, like his recovery has stalled, if not started to reverse.
How does a bruise linger this seriously, this long? The Cubs hope to start getting solid answers to that on Monday.
So as much as Rich Harden's start on Wednesday and Zambrano's bullpen session this week deserve attention, the results of Gaudin's exam could also have a lot to say about how strong the Cubs' pitching will be down the stretch as they try to fight out of their tailspin.