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This One Hurts: Aramis Ramirez Out Four to Six Weeks, but Cubs Have Options

Pat De Marco @@patdemarco01Correspondent IMay 9, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 17:  Aramis Ramirez #16 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 17, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Don't expect any walk-off home runs from Aramis Ramirez anytime soon.  The Cubs' star third basemen will be out until at least mid June after suffering a dislocated shoulder in Friday night's 3-2 loss to the Brewers

The Cubs have suffered numerous injuries this season but this one really hurts.  Despite this latest injury the Cubs will have to move forward. 

Lou Piniella has plenty of third-base options.  Look for the third year Cubs manager to play both Mike Fontenot and newly acquired Ryan Freel at third.  The versatile Freel will provide the defensive versatility that former Cub Mark DeRosa provided. Freel can play at third, second, short, and all three outfield spots.

During the offseason, I noted the Cubs have plenty of depth to play through injuries.  I still believe that, but the question is not who will fill in at third but will the big bats around Ramirez step it up.   

Milton Bradley, Derek Lee, and Geovany Soto need to start hitting. All three have battled injuries this season, but the grace period is starting to run out.  I've always considered Memorial Day as the first check point of the baseball season. 

It becomes a major problem if Bradley, Lee, and Soto are still not hitting come Memorial Day. 

The Cubs have more then enough offense to survive without Ramirez for a month.  They don't need guys to overachieve, but they need guys to play up to their ability.

In all likelihood, the Cubs won't score as many runs without Ramirez.  That means they need their struggling pen to start pitching better. Marmol and Gregg have been much better, but the rest of the 'pen needs to step up their game.

On Tuesday, Lou Piniella raised some eyebrows when he sent down Jeff Samardzija and called up Chad Fox. I don't have any problem with the Cubs sending down the struggling Samardzija, but the right move would be to call up Jeff Stevens who was the centerpiece of the DeRosa trade. 

The 26-year old Stevens has been outstanding in Iowa striking out 13 in 13 innings with a 0.00 ERA at Iowa.

Bottom line, the Cubs should be fine if the players around Ramirez step up their game. 

Along with the player's stepping up, Lou Piniella needs to do a better job of managing his pitching staff.  In particular his bullpen. 

It's amazing how Piniella finds a way to bring in his closer and setup man in games where the Cubs have a four or five run lead.  Memo to Lou, rest Marmol and Gregg when the Cubs have big leads.  Don't rest them in one run games. Just a thought... 

Looking at the Cubs upcoming schedule, they play 18 of their next 27 games against the Pirates, Astros, Padres and Reds.  Even without Ramirez, there's no reason why the Cubs shouldn't go 15-12 in those games.  If they do, they will find themselves in a pretty good spot come mid-June.

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