Chicago Dusty Baker is tempted to make a beeline for the nearest doorway whenever he spots the Chicago Cubs trainer coming toward him these days.
Can you blame him?
The season isn't even two months old and already the manager has seen the Cubs give their disabled list quite a workout. Nine players have spent time on it, and seven are parked there right now. The team record for DL trips in one season is 16 in 1970.
"I was always taught in church that the Lord wouldn't put more on you than you can handle," Baker said. "But it's getting a little heavy."
It's not as if these are minor holes to fill, either.
Mark Prior, who finished third in Cy Young voting last year, has missed the entire year with an inflamed Achilles' tendon and a sore elbow. Fellow pitcher Kerry Wood will miss at least 21/2 more weeks with tendinitis in his triceps. And slugger Sammy Sosa is out indefinitely with a sprained ligament in his lower back brought on by a couple of sneezes.
Leadoff hitter Mark Grudzielanek (Achilles) is out, too, as is shortstop Alex Gonzalez (broken wrist).
"I think we're all looking forward to the day, hopefully not too far down the road here, where everybody's healthy and playing at the same time," general manager Jim Hendry said. "I think we might have a pretty good ballclub."
Even with a patchwork lineup, though, the Cubs are pretty good. They are 25-19 and have won seven of their last 11 games, including two of three against archrival St. Louis last weekend.
Starters Matt Clement (6-3, 2.69 ERA) and Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 2.08) have been as fearsome as advertised, and Moises Alou is playing like the feared hitter of old. Over the last 34 games, Alou is hitting .340 with 11 homers and 26 RBIs.
The fill-ins are doing quite a job, too. Todd Walker, who stepped in when Grudzielanek was hurt, is hitting .324 with five homers and 15 RBIs in the leadoff spot. Todd Hollandsworth, subbing for Sosa, is batting .346 over the last nine games. Ramon Martinez has eight RBIs when he starts at shortstop.
Glendon Rusch took Wood's spot in the rotation and held the Cardinals to one run over 72/3 innings in a 7-1 victory Saturday.
"I'm not surprised at all the way we've been playing," Prior said. "We've got a good ballclub, and we have a lot of great bench players we picked up in the offseason. That was one of our strong suits coming into this year, we all knew we had a good bench."
The Cubs should be getting some relief soon, too. Prior was to make his second rehab start at Class A Lansing on Tuesday night and could be back the first weekend in June. Grudzielanek is working out at the Cubs' minor-league complex in Arizona.
Left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger, who had been out all year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, was activated Saturday -- though fellow lefty Kent Mercker (back) took his spot on the disabled list.