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Today, now a successful starting pitcher with the San Diego Padres, the Chicago Cubs welcome back the man acquired with Rich Harden last year, Chad Gaudin. Believe it or not, in many circles, Cubs fans were almost as excited about acquiring Gaudin as Harden. He was still young, had shown a penchant for pitching effectively out of the pen and the rotation, and he was under cheap control for another year.

Gaudin pitched well until a late-August back injury sidelined him for most of the rest of the year – and when he did return, he was ineffective. His ineffectiveness carried over into Spring Training this year, and despite his prior success, when time came for the Cubs to open up a roster spot, they did so by releasing Gaudin. It was surprising and somewhat bizarre, and I always felt there had to be more to the story.

Well there is. And maybe you already know this. But I didn’t.

Upon review of how exactly Gaudin hurt his back, it seems highly probable that Gaudin wound up in manager Lou Piniella’s infamous doghouse, and never recovered.

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. Inside the Cubs.

Slipped off a curb and smacked his back on a dumpster? Holy. Shit.

Let me translate for those having trouble reading between the lines: Gaudin got lit up drunk after a game, and fell into a freaking dumpster.

Of course, I don’t know for sure that it happened that way, but that seems like the most likely interpretation. And if that interpretation is correct, I could understand Lou basically never forgiving his stupidity. The knowledge that the bullpen could have been so much better in the playoffs with a successful, healthy Gaudin probably ate Piniella up – even if it wouldn’t have made a difference.

So if my interpretation of what happened is correct, I have but two words to follow up my previous dismay at the hasty release of Gaudin: good riddance.

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