The best case scenario, Marcum said, is that he misses a day or two before resuming his routine. He is slotted as the Brewers' No. 2 starter, debuting April 2 against the Reds.
Marcum probably would have been No. 3 or 4 had Zack Greinke not cracked a rib playing pick-up basketball earlier this spring. The Brewers are already facing limited options to replace Greinke at the start of the season, and would be further stretched if Marcum, their other major offseason acquisition, were to miss time.
2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
"There's definitely concern there," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Geez, we're in a tough spot if he's down for a while."
Marcum, added in a December trade with the Blue Jays as part of Milwaukee's starting rotation makeover, has been dealing with periodic bouts of shoulder tightness all spring, and reported a stiff neck in recent days, Roenicke said.
But Marcum felt fine during his first two innings of work against the White Sox. He allowed his only hit to Alexei Ramirez leading off the third inning when Brewers left fielder Mark Kotsay lost a fly ball in the sun, then retired the next three hitters in order.
Somewhere between the second and third innings, Marcum's shoulder began to tighten. After a chat with head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger, Marcum left the game.
"We don't want to push it and take a chance of doing something stupid," Marcum said. "It's been a battle all spring." It's been a battle in the past as well. Marcum underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2008 and missed all of 2009. He bounced back in 2010 with the Jays, going 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts and 195 1/3 innings.
He offered this bit of perspective about his early exit:
"If it's the regular season, especially August, September, I'm pitching through it and not saying a word," he said.
It has been a tough first four weeks of Spring Training for Milwaukee's medical staff, which has treated possible Opening Day starter Greinke for a cracked rib, catcher Jonathan Lucroy for a fractured finger, center fielder Carlos Gomez and reliever Manny Parra for stiff backs, right fielder Corey Hart and left fielder Ryan Braun for rib-cage strains, second baseman Rickie Weeks for a tight groin, shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for a sore quadriceps and reliever Takashi Saito for a tight hip and hamstring. They also nursed closer John Axford back from food poisoning and have been closely monitoring LaTroy Hawkins as he makes his way back from shoulder surgery.
That's not even the full injury report, but merely the list of players originally penciled into the Opening Day roster. All have either exited a Cactus League game early, had an outing pushed back or missed a game or more entirely.
Marcum is holding out hope that his absence will be short.
"This may be one of those things where we take a day off or two of throwing and get the tightness out of there," Marcum said, "then pick back up right where we left off and get ready for April 2."