5/18 Zambrano headed back to rotation
Carlos Zambrano is headed back to the rotation. When, the Cubs don’t know. But it won’t be long.
“We’ll put him back in his usual habitat and that’s starting baseball games and we’ll go from there,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday. “I just don’t know how long it’ll take and I told Carlos to be honest with me and let me know when he’s ready.”
Zambrano moved to the set-up role on April 22 after going 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts. The team needed a right-handed set-up pitcher to bridge the gap to closer Carlos Marmol and also had to make room in the rotation at that time for Ted Lilly, who was activated from the disabled list.
But now, after eight relief appearances and a 6.23 ERA, Big Z will be used in long relief until he’s built up enough stamina and arm strength to return to starting.
“‘Z’ gave it a good shot,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “I think when he went to the ‘pen with the one inning type potential, I think we all thought that when somebody goes from starter to the ‘pen, they pick up juice and you get the one inning, let’s go blow it by people [approach]. We thought he was the right candidate for it.”
But Zambrano’s velocity didn’t pick up and in his last couple relief outings, he’s had trouble warming up quickly. His last short outing was Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and he gave up three runs on four hits in one inning and took the loss.
“It’s no secret that for the last year, year and a half, he’s not throwing as hard,” Hendry said. “We thought [moving to the bullpen] might short-term pick up his velocity, too.”
When Piniella first announced that Zambrano was making the switch, it was stressed that the move was short-term.
“It was something we thought would help the club at the time and help ‘Z,'” Hendry said. “We wanted to see that consistent ‘Z’ who was pretty much dominant.”
— Carrie Muskat