5/25 Big Z to start vs. Pirates
Carlos Zambrano appears ready to return to the Cubs rotation next week in Pittsburgh. Big Z, who has been in the bullpen since April 22, threw 73 pitches in a simulated game Monday at Wrigley Field. The team will be one pitcher short Tuesday and Wednesday but Zambrano will be back in the bullpen Thursday, Lou Piniella said.
The Cubs are not going to have a six-man rotation but have yet to determine who will be bumped.
“We don’t have to concern ourselves with it until next week and we have some days off coming up,” Piniella said. “It’ll be a fairly smooth transition.”
Zambrano made four starts before he switched to the bullpen to help bridge the gap to closer Carlos Marmol. In 11 relief appearances, he’s 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA, giving up six runs on 16 hits over 11 1/3 innings. Three of those runs came in a relief outing May 14 against the Pirates that prompted Zambrano to ask to return to starting.
Piniella said the right-hander does not need to be stretched out again prior to the Pittsburgh series.
“We’ll use him short with the idea that on this coming road trip, we’ll insert him into the rotation,” Piniella said.
Zambrano’s outing Monday went better than expected. The Cubs projected him throwing 65-70 pitches and he easily threw 73, facing hitters as teammates Tyler Colvin and Jeff Baker took turns.
“He’s ready to go,” Piniella said of Zambrano, who was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts. “His velocity was good. He worked on his split finger, worked on his cutter. He had a nice workout, a real nice workout.”
How difficult will it be to move someone out of the rotation?
“How tough was it to get ‘Z’ out of there?” Piniella said. “I think that’s the best way to answer that question.”
— Carrie Muskat