11/6 Big Z makes 1st start for Caribes

In his first start since Aug. 12, Carlos Zambrano gave up two runs on four hits, including a solo homer by Bryan LaHair, in 2 2/3 innings in Caribes’ 5-4 loss to Magallanes in Venezuelan Winter League play on Sunday. Zambrano, who did not get a decision, also walked two and struck out three. LaHair’s blast was a towering 420-foot shot to straightaway center leading off the third inning. The Cubs had someone watching Zambrano’s outing. He was expected to make nine starts for Caribes between now and Dec. 20. Last week, Theo Epstein said he approved of Zambrano pitching in Venezuela.

“I think it’s a good thing under the circumstances,” Epstein said. “He probably needs the innings. It could be good for his state of mind to get out there and perform.”

Epstein, the new president of baseball operations, hopes to talk to Zambrano, possibly as soon as this week.

Former big leaguer Julio Franco is Zambrano’s manager, and reportedly said he may use the right-hander as a pinch-hitter.

Zambrano arranged for a bus to bring more than 50 friends and family from his home of Puerto Cabello to watch the game, and he was greeted with a loud ovation when he took the mound.

– Carrie Muskat

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