7/28 Z to meet with teammates

Lou Piniella says Carlos Zambrano will join the Cubs Friday in time for the start of a three-game series against the Rockies and will meet with his teammates prior to batting practice to clear the air. Zambrano has not talked to the majority of his teammates since his tantrum June 25 at U.S. Cellular Field.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Lou Piniella said Wednesday of Zambrano, who has undergone treatment for anger issues. “I think the sessions that he’s had will help him. I look forward to having him back and helping us win some baseball games down the stretch.”

Zambrano made his final Minor League tuneup Tuesday for Triple-A Iowa, giving up three runs on three hits and one walk while striking out one in one inning of work.

“The reports were that he threw the ball better than the results,” Piniella said. “He hit a batter, walked a batter, should’ve turned a double play ball and a couple bloop singles. The reports were that he threw the ball better than the outcome and that’s really what we’re concerned about more than anything else.”

Zambrano retired the first batter he faced on a ground out but Albuquerque’s Jamie Hoffman singled and the right-hander then hit A.J. Ellis with a pitch. Pinch-hitter Michael Restovich singled to load the bases and Zambrano walked Elian Herrera to force in a run. Trent Oeltjen struck out and Ivan DeJesus Jr., son of Cubs first base coach Ivan DeJesus, followed with a two-run single. Zambrano then got Russ Mitchell to ground out and end the inning. He threw 32 pitches, 20 for strikes.

“All he’s doing is getting some work in here, getting some work in and throwing some pitches,” Piniella said. “I’m not concerned at all about him being ready. He’ll come in and do the absolute best he can. The first thing is to talk to the team and clear that hurdle and we’ll go from there.”

Zambrano, who was the Cubs’ Opening Day starter, was suspended for three days after his tirade and then placed on the restricted list to undergo evaluation and treatment. When he returns, he will be assigned to the bullpen.

– Carrie Muskat

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