After losing outfielder Angel Pagan to a hamstring injury Saturday night in a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh, the Cubs faced a big decision on whether to call up top prospect Felix Pie from Triple-A Iowa.
Though the Cubs had hoped to let Pie get playing time at the Triple-A level to be more prepared for an eventual call-up, Pagan's injury leaves them with few options.
Pie had an eye-opening spring training with the Cubs and was hitting .333 in his first nine games at Iowa with one home run, two triples, 11 RBIs and six stolen bases.
"He's down there to play," manager Dusty Baker said. "But we're here to win too."
Pagan was removed from the game in the fifth inning after injuring his left leg while running out a groundout. He was scheduled to fly back to Chicago Sunday for an MRI on the leg, and the injury could be more serious than a hamstring strain.
"When he came out, there was initial concern about his hamstring," trainer Mark O'Neal said. "There's definitely a moderate hamstring strain.
"The doctor here also has found some medial joint-line tenderness so we have to rule out any kind of significant knee issue as well."
O'Neal said Pagan possibly has some knee cartilage problems, not unlike the injury Kerry Wood suffered in spring training that led to arthroscopic surgery.
An emotional Pagan was too distraught to talk afterward.
The Cubs were already down one outfielder because of Jacque Jones' hamstring strain, but Jones is expected back Monday in Los Angeles. If Pie is not called up, Iowa outfielder Buck Coats, who was hitting .316, is another option.
The day was a total loss for the Cubs, as Pirates left-hander Zach Duke improved to 3-0 against them in his young career, yielding one run on six hits in seven innings.
He came into the game with a 6.55 earned-run average in his first two starts, but the Cubs knew he would be a different pitcher facing them. In his rookie season last year, Duke was 2-0 against the Cubs with an 0.56 ERA, beating Greg Maddux in both of his starts.
This time the tough-luck loser was Jerome Williams, who gave up one earned run in six innings in his first start. Ronny Cedeno's throwing error in the second inning brought home the first Pirates run in the second, and Joe Randa's sacrifice fly in the sixth made it 2-0.
"In the beginning of the year I felt down because I was throwing in the pen," Williams said. "But I think the pen helped me out a lot, getting into a couple of games and getting my confidence back."
The Cubs' offense went down meekly against Duke, getting only one runner as far as second base in the first six innings. After Matt Murton's two-out double in the second inning, Duke did not allow another hit until Aramis Ramirez doubled leading off the seventh.
Ramirez scored on Murton's single, but the Cubs wound up stranding two runners in the inning and two more in the eighth before going down in order on four pitches from Mike Gonzalez in the ninth.
"The approach was right," Baker said. "Just the pitch selection wasn't."
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