The sound of boos filled Wrigley Field in the first inning as Brett Anderson walked off the mound Saturday night with assistant athletic trainer Ed Halbur, Cubs fans already on edge with the New York Yankees leading by five runs in another national TV game.
Pitching coach Chris Bosio pointed to his side as he looked at home plate umpire Alan Porter while manager Joe Maddon motioned toward what had become a nine-man bullpen, a clear sign the Cubs didn't trust Anderson against The Bronx Bombers.
"It's embarrassing," Anderson said at least four times in the interview room after an 11-6 loss to the Yankees in front of a disappearing crowd of 40,735.
Less than 30 minutes before first pitch, a voice on the press box loudspeaker announced that the Cubs designated outfielder Matt Szczur for assignment and promoted lefty Rob Zastryzny from Triple-A Iowa, the day after sending reliever Justin Grimm to Des Moines and calling up right-hander Felix Pena.
The chain reaction started five days earlier, when Anderson couldn't finish the second inning during a 10-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, taxing the bullpen at a time when the rest of the rotation still appears to be trying to ramp up after back-to-back playoff runs into October.
Anderson called that "kind of a colossal failure." This led to Miguel Montero tipping his cap as he ran off the field after throwing a scoreless ninth inning, a distraction from an ugly loss.
"Whenever the backup catcher gets more outs than you, that's obviously not a positive," Anderson said. "You need to figure some things out and get healthy."
The Cubs described Anderson as being evaluated for "low back tightness" and expect him to go on the disabled list after a thumping Yankee lineup made this look like batting practice, hitting the ball all over Wrigley Field.
Anderson said he felt his back stiffen up when he fielded an Aaron Hicks bunt and bounced the ball away from first baseman Anthony Rizzo, allowing the first run to score. At that point, a Fox Sports camera got a classic reaction shot of a visibly annoyed Maddon, the normally cool manager shaking his head in the dugout.
Combine Anderson's last two starts and the lefty has gotten five outs and given up 12 runs, allowing 13 hits and a walk to the 19 batters he faced.
"We just can't continue on that path right now," Maddon said.
So much for the best defense in the majors last year backing up the guy who put up a 66.7 groundball percentage and made 31 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.
The extensive medical file - Anderson has already undergone two surgical procedures on his lower back and landed on the disabled list nine times since 2010 - led to a one-year, incentive-laden $3.5 million deal this winter as the Cubs tried to reshape the rotation that would defend their World Series title.
"With my history, you never want to take it too lightly," Anderson said. "It's a combination of getting healthy and figuring out how to get people out again, because right now every ball that's put in play seems like it's a hit, and every ball that's put in play seems like it's a run.
"I haven't given us a chance."
Anderson said this issue was on a different side than his previous back injuries, that this time he didn't feel pain shooting down his leg. Anderson doesn't believe it's a disc problem and hopes it can be written off as spasms. But it's time for the Cubs to find the next man up.
"Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong here lately," Anderson said. "I still think when I'm healthy and everything's going right, for the most part, I'm a good pitcher.
"I still have confidence in myself. I could sulk and be mad at myself, but I got to deal with it. I wouldn't be in the league this long if I hadn't been able to put some things behind me and deal with the cards I've been dealt."