2/25 Pitching notes: Big Z likely Opening Day starter
Carlos Zambrano will likely be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter for the sixth straight year.
“We haven’t even gone there yet,” Lou Piniella said when asked if he’d named his starter for the April 5 season opener in Atlanta. “I’ve been here three years and Zambrano has been the Opening Day starter every year. I don’t anticipate any difference there.”
Some other pitching updates:
* Angel Guzman was shutdown because of some discomfort in his right shoulder. Guzman underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January and already was a couple weeks behind the others. He still could be ready by Opening Day.
“We just felt that coming off the ‘scope and because he’s had difficulties on and off in the past, that we’ll take the precautionary route and push him back a couple days,” GM Jim Hendry said.
* Ted Lilly remained at home for the fourth straight day because of a high fever. Athletic trainer Mark O’Neal planned on visiting Lilly at his home to get an update. They hope the lefty can come to Fitch Park on Friday to play catch.
* One pitcher who appears to have secured a spot in the bullpen is Esmailin Caridad.
“He’s on the team,” Piniella said. “He’s almost got to pitch himself off it. I don’t think he will. I like this young man. He competes, he’s got a good arm, he can pitch a lot. He handled himself here quite well the last two months of the season.”
Caridad appeared in 14 games with the Cubs late last season and gave up three earned runs over 19 1/3 innings for a 1.40 ERA. He’s not experienced — last year was his first at Triple-A. Could he be the right-handed set-up pitcher the Cubs need?
“He’s got the stuff for it,” Piniella said. “Does he have the experience, savvy? We’ll have to wait and see. He does have the stuff. One good thing about this young man is he’s not scared.”
* Another pitcher who has impressed the coaching staff this spring is Jeff Samardzija. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild told Piniella that the first couple years, Samardzija looked like a football player who was pitching. Rothschild said this year, the right-hander looks like a baseball player who played football.
“That’s a big transformation and that’s a really profound statement as far as I’m concerned,” Piniella said. “It says he’s making the adjustments and really stepping forward and looking like a Major League pitcher.”
Samardzija’s mechanics are better.
“He’s throwing the ball smoother, with less effort and his mechanics have approved,” Piniella said. “He looks like a Major League pitcher on the mound. He’s got natural talent. It’s just a question of refining it. We’re going to let this guy pitch and around the 20th of March, we’ll see exactly where he’s at.”
* Jeff Gray, sidelined with a sore groin, did throw on flat ground Thursday. He was not expected to throw off a mound until next week when the team moves to HoHoKam Park fo the start of games.
— Carrie Muskat