8/8 Zambrano set for Monday

Carlos Zambrano returns to the rotation on Monday, making his first start since June 25 when he opens the Cubs series against the Giants. Since that June game, Zambrano (3-6, 5.61 ERA) has thrown a tantrum, been suspended for three games, placed on the restricted list, undergone anger management sessions, been activated and inserted into the bullpen for three appearances.

His longest outing was two innings on Aug. 1 in Denver when he threw 53 pitches. The right-hander made one more relief appearance Wednesday and has thrown on the side. He should be able to go at least 75-80 pitches Monday.

The Cubs Opening Day starter, Zambrano was 3-5 with a 6.12 ERA in nine starts and 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in 16 relief appearances. He also switched to the bullpen in April when he agreed to make room in the rotation Ted Lilly, who was activated from the disabled list at that time.

What was encouraging about his last two outings has been an increase in velocity.

“He threw the ball well,” Lou Piniella said of Zambrano. “He let it go — he was throwing 92, 93 miles an hour and he was competing really well.

“Let’s see what we see [Monday] night,” Piniella said. “I’m expecting him to pitch well. The last time he pitched there, he pitched a complete game shutout.”

That was Zambrano’s next to last start of the 2009 season on Sept. 25 when he gave up two hits over nine scoreless innings, and was in command, throwing 98 pitches.

– Carrie Muskat

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