ATLANTA - Is it too late to get Mark DeRosa back from Cleveland?
Not that the versatile and productive hitter would have made the Cubs' bullpen look any better in Tuesday night's late-inning meltdown and extra-inning loss in Atlanta.
But going forward, Tuesday's game provided a microcosm of the issues surrounding DeRosa's departure and the void left behind - not the least of which was right fielder Milton Bradley's latest injury.
For one, the Cubs demonstrated again Tuesday the fact that starting pitching wasn't a primary need coming off that 97-win season last year, which makes the jockeying for position to trade for San Diego's Jake Peavy a non-vital dream pursuit.
In fact, rookie Randy Wells - who was in the minors until May 8 -- retired the first 10 batters he faced, and faced the minimum over 6 2/3 innings - until Chipper Jones broke up his no-hit bid with a line single to left.
Wells handed a 5-1 lead to the bullpen only to watch it go up in smoke.
So what does any of it have to do with DeRosa?
When general manager Jim Hendry traded the super utility guy to Cleveland for pitching prospects to bolster the minor-league stock - presumably in anticipation of trade(s) to come - the one undisputed fact the trade left in its wake was the depth issue it created.
Since then? The Cubs have had their biggest problems at DeRosa's three primary positions - second base, third base and right field.
And as of Tuesday night's fourth inning, when Bradley hobbled off the field with a calf injury - only a month after returning from that nagging groin injury - it left almost $20 million of 2009 run production sidelined indefinitely in the forms of third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Bradley.
The Cubs acknowledge the timetable for Ramirez's return is uncertain - probably just after the All-Star break - and that nobody knows for sure how his injured shoulder will affect him once he returns. Ramirez told the Sun-Times over the weekend that he might have to have surgery to tighten the shoulder after the season.
``I don't know how you prepare [for the possibility of season-long problems],'' manager Lou Piniella said of Ramirez. ``According to our people - the doctor, the trainers - they basically say they don't think during the summer it's going to have a profound affect.''
But with no certainty for a third base position that has produced next to nothing offensively since Ramirez was injured, and a $30 million right fielder who already has confirmed the worst fears about his track record, and no DeRosa in sight, the dominoes already are teetering the wrong way.