Milton Bradley reacts to an injury suffered during pre-game warmupsThe NL Central just got a bit more interesting as the early-season injury bug has already hit the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals.

And it’s hardly surprising the three stars rounding out the list that find themselves unable to help their respective teams.

Milwaukee’s Rickie Weeks is currently listed as day-to-day after being hit by a pitch in the jaw in Tuesday’s game against the Reds. The second baseman squared around to bunt and was hit but never left the game.

The Brewers will definitely miss his presence but have a serviceable replacement in Craig Counsell. No word yet on how much, if any, significant time Weeks will miss.

But the big stories come out of the current division leaders.

While warming up to pitch in the fourth inning, St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter was forced out of the game with a strained left rib cage. He will be evaluated Wednesday before a decision is made. Prior to leaving the game, Carpenter had thrown three shutout innings and with a 3-0 lead, appeared to be on his way to his second win of the season.

The good news for Cardinal fans is that it’s not an arm injury. The bad news is that with Carpenter as the No. 4 starter, St. Louis had plenty of pitching depth and was on its way toward a season-long battle with the Cubs for the NL Central title. That’s the good news and bad news. The irony is that the injury didn’t even happen on the mound. Carpenter was batting in the top half of the inning and injured himself while swinging.

The two teams meet for a four-game series starting Thursday, and Chicago will also be without one of its biggest offseason acquisitions.

Chris Carpenter checked out by trainerThe oft-injured Milton Bradley tweaked his groin during warm-ups before Sunday’s game against Milwaukee. Bradley has a long history of being injured and has played more than 101 games only twice in his 11-year career. He has only played in six games so far this season and saw action in only 232 games from 2005-2007.

His absence may or may not be missed by the Cubs and Chicago fans. In six games, Bradley has one RBI, and is hitting only .059. He has one hit which was a home run on April 10 against the Brewers.

Once both Bradley and Carpenter are completely evaluated and the official word is released, the truth is, it’s possible that neither team will suffer to the point of destroying their season.

It’s early and the numbers support the idea Bradley really wasn’t adding a ton to the lineup in the first place. And if it wasn’t for him leaving the game, Reed Johnson would have never been in to rob Prince Fielder of a go-ahead grand slam that would have possibly won the game for the Brewers.

As for Carpenter and the Cardinals, he was the team’s fourth starter of five. That means that Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa still have Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro to send to the bump. The four have combined to give up 12 runs in 45 total innings. That includes only one home run and 28 strikeouts.

The best-case scenario is that Weeks, Carpenter and Bradley miss minimal time. After all, won’t it be more fun to watch what are likely the three best teams in the division battle it out with their best players available?

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