Upcoming rotation uncertain after Dempster

Upcoming rotation uncertain after Dempster

ARLINGTON -- Only Ryan Dempster is set to start in the Cubs' upcoming homestand, which begins Tuesday with the Dodgers coming to Wrigley Field.

Dempster, who is 0-3 with a 5.00 ERA in his last four starts, will go Tuesday. The Cubs could have Tom Gorzelanny and Ted Lilly follow, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild wants to see Gorzelanny first. The lefty was struck on his ring finger in his last start in Philadelphia on Thursday, and he did throw a bullpen session Saturday in Chicago. Gorzelanny had gone home to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple's first child on Friday.

Most teams like to split their left-handers, but the Dodgers are batting .287 against right-handed pitchers and .243 against southpaws, so having Gorzelanny and Lilly back to back may not be such a bad idea.

With Monday's off-day, the Cubs could break up the two lefties and insert Randy Wells, who would be pitching on regular rest. Wells started Saturday and did not get a decision in a Chicago win over Texas.

Carlos Zambrano won't get Monday off. The right-hander will throw a simulated game, another step in his return to the Cubs' rotation. He was expected to throw 65-70 pitches.

However, even if he passes all the tests, Zambrano would not be ready to start until next week. Manager Lou Piniella said Sunday that Zambrano's first start would be on the road, not at Wrigley Field. The Cubs' next road trip is May 31-June 2 at Pittsburgh.

When Zambrano does return, the Cubs will have to bump someone from the rotation. There are two downsides to his return: One, the Cubs will be short-handed in the 'pen while he's preparing, and two, the team loses a very effective late-inning pitcher in the process. In his last three outings, he's given up one hit and struck out two over 2 2/3 innings.

Zambrano was 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts, and he is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in 11 relief appearances.