Even an experienced codebreaker would probably find the signals coming out of Cubs camp regarding Carlos Zambrano too murky to decipher.
Add in a little Rich Harden intrigue, and the whole thing might be too much for any Cubs fan to take - what with the prospect of two of their top three starting pitchers in some sort of availability limbo heading down the stretch run and toward October.
Here's what we know - or think we know - about the current situation:
• Zambrano, a few days after admitting he was suffering from either a "sore" arm or "tired" arm, started Tuesday night's game against Houston and made it through 5 innings (86 pitches) before surprising everyone by suddenly pulling himself out of the game.
"He told our pitching coach he wasn't feeling good," Cubs manager Lou Piniella harrumphed after the game.
• Zambrano was scheduled to visit team orthopaedist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo on Wednesday and get an MRI.
He accomplished half the mission.
"He visited Dr. Gryzlo this afternoon and he physically examined him, (but) the MRI he was supposed to take, he didn't take for whatever reason so the examination is incomplete," an obviously flustered Piniella reported Wednesday. "I don't think Carlos was available today to take it. Until he gets an MRI done we don't have anything to report."
"I think he's getting it done tomorrow," Piniella said.
Did he just leave the office before taking the MRI?
• Zambrano will miss his next start Sunday at Cincinnati as Sean Marshall takes his spot.
"Obviously you're concerned," Piniella said. "I mean he's a top-notch pitcher, but believe me, we sent him out there (Tuesday) thinking that he was perfectly fine to go out. If not we wouldn't have sent him out."
"Can we win without him? Of course we can," Mark DeRosa said. "You don't want to have to do that, though."
• Then there's Harden and his history of arm issues. Initially it was reported that he would be held out of the rotation until Wednesday against St. Louis in order to keep him fresh heading into the postseason.
Turns out there was a little more to the story.
"Harden, he's had some some discomfort also," Piniella said Wednesday.
"I'm feeling pretty good, but I guess I've had a little bit of discomfort, nothing serious," Harden admitted. "Really, it just seemed like a good time to miss a start. They told me that's what they planned on doing before I even came here,"
Could he pitch sooner if needed?
"Yeah, I could," Harden said. "(But) they want to make sure I'm stronger and ready to go down the stretch. It's the most important time. Coming off these couple extra days I'm feeling really strong and I'll be able to go every fifth day."