"If things happen in threes, then hopefully this is the third one with Contreras, Joe and myself," said Linebrink with a resigned smile. "We still got a lot of great guys, a good core. I think we got guys who can come in and do the job."
The All-Star-caliber setup man, who has been as valuable as any White Sox pitcher during the team's ascent to the top of the American League Central, was diagnosed with inflammation of the posterior of his right shoulder. Right-handed reliever Ehren Wassermann was called up from Triple-A Charlotte to take Linebrink's place.
Since July 9, Linebrink has pitched just one inning for the White Sox in a mop-up role on Tuesday against Texas. The right-hander was unavailable for Friday's game against Detroit after being unable to get loose and had an MRI done on the trouble spot on Saturday. The results of the MRI were about as positive as could be expected under the circumstances.
"They said a sub-scapularous strain," said Linebrink of the MRI results. "So it's not any of the major rotator cuff muscles. It's muscular, which is what we thought. They said it looks inflamed and probably needs rest, which is what we thought, but we were trying to avoid. We thought maybe the four days over the break would be enough for us. It wasn't. We'll give it the rest it needs.
"As far as the news we got today, it's probably a pretty good scenario. It's something in the back, almost back more than shoulder. It's something that is definitely treatable."
According to the doctors he spoke with, Linebrink believes this malady began and settled in over two appearances as the temporary White Sox closer. He threw 26 pitches in a July 6 save against Oakland and 28 pitches on July 8 in Kansas City, when he blew his third save.
"That was consistent with this kind of spot -- a heavy workload in a short amount of time," Linebrink said. "The Chicago doctor said this usually happens in Spring Training to a lot of guys when you're kind of getting back into it and putting your shoulder through a lot.
"That's what it was. That's how quickly it can happen. But it's important we listen to the warning signs and that way it doesn't turn into something bigger."
While Linebrink officially became inactive, hard-throwing southpaw Matt Thornton said he was healthy and ready to pitch Saturday, after missing Friday's game with lower back stiffness. Manager Ozzie Guillen still has Bobby Jenks as his last line of pitching defense, and plans on using Octavio Dotel in the eighth-inning role to replace Linebrink's 2.31 ERA and 19 holds.
Guillen added that if he deems the toughest part of the game to be the sixth or seventh inning, then Dotel will pitch at that point. As he spoke of after Friday's victory, Guillen plans to use Nick Masset in long relief and move D.J. Carrasco to more of a seventh-inning job along with Thornton.
Carrasco has made the jump from the club's lone non-roster Spring Training pitcher to a valuable part of the relief crew.
"Yeah, that would be great to contribute to winning games," Carrasco said. "That's all you can ask for. To come up here from the Minors with a first-place team, and then actually contribute to wins. It's the place to be."
"We have plenty of guys who can step into different roles that weren't set before, in the eighth, or the seventh, if Dotel does the eighth," Jenks said.
Having those capable replacements eases Linebrink's mind, as he takes the requisite time to get healthy for the stretch drive.
"I'd rather it be happening now, rather than September," Linebrink said. "I'm not going to say any lead is comfortable at this point, but we are in a good position right now.
"This is still a big trip for us and this will tell a lot, a lot of implications in September as to how we do on this trip. Hopefully, we can keep winning games like we have, just go out and get them."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.