Big Z will return to rotation to face Bucs

Big Z will return to rotation to face Bucs

CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano appears ready to return to the Cubs' rotation next week against Pittsburgh, while Tom Gorzelanny passed all the tests in a side session Monday and will start Wednesday against Los Angeles.

Zambrano, who has been in the bullpen since April 22, threw 73 pitches in a simulated game Monday at Wrigley Field and will return to the rotation for one of the Cubs' games against the Pirates from May 31-June 2. The team will be one pitcher short Tuesday and Wednesday, but Zambrano will be available in the bullpen Thursday against the Dodgers if need be, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

The Cubs are not going to have a six-man rotation, but who will be bumped has yet to be determined.

"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, Zambrano is 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 on May 14 against the Pirates that prompted Zambrano to ask to return to starting.

"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 Tyler Colvin and Jeff Baker.

"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."

Gorzelanny may be the odd man out of the rotation. Carlos Silva is 6-0. Ryan Dempster is 2-4 with a 3.73 ERA heading into Tuesday's game, but he has gone six or more innings in each of his starts. Ted Lilly and Randy Wells both are better suited for the rotation.

Wednesday will be Gorzelanny's first start since he was struck on the ring finger of his left hand May 20 in Philadelphia. He had returned to Chicago after that game to be examined and to be with his wife Lindsey for the birth of their first child on Friday.

"It was good timing to be able to go home," Gorzelanny said Tuesday. "It was nice to be able to help my wife out and get her back home and give her a hand."