Big Z available in 'pen until return to rotation

Big Z available in 'pen until return to rotation

CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano will be back in the Cubs' bullpen Thursday through Saturday before he is inserted into the rotation again. Who gets bumped has not been announced.

"We have a pretty good idea of what we're going to do," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We'll use Carlos in the bullpen in the St. Louis series [this weekend], and then we'll insert him into the rotation."

The right-hander was the Cubs' Opening Day starter and started four games before agreeing to switch to the bullpen April 22 to make room for Ted Lilly, who was activated from the disabled list at that time. 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 on May 14 against the Pirates. Zambrano asked to return to the rotation after that game.

Piniella was in no hurry to reveal who among the five current starters -- Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and Tom Gorzelanny -- will be reassigned.

"We don't have to make a determination until next week," Piniella said on Wednesday before the Cubs faced the Dodgers. "We'll let everybody pitch and go from there."

Zambrano tuned up for his return by throwing 73 pitches in a simulated game on Monday, the Cubs' off-day. When he will start in the Cubs' series against the Pirates (Monday-Wednesday) will depend on how much he's used over the weekend against the Cardinals.

"They've all pitched well," Piniella said of his starters. "The amazing thing is when Lilly came back, if we hadn't taken Zambrano out, we were going to have to take somebody out anyway. We were in the same situation when Lilly came back from his rehab. We needed a spot for Lilly.

"We tried the Zambrano thing in the bullpen, and all we're doing now is opening a spot for Zambrano," Piniella said. "It's no different. We can't pitch six. The amazing part about it is whoever comes out of the rotation can really help us in the bullpen, too."

Zambrano told Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild that he wasn't comfortable pitching in relief. Yet, since the Cubs told him he will start again, Zambrano has pitched much better. In his last three outings, he has given up one hit and not walked a batter in 2 2/3 innings.

"This is a situation where Carlos has been a starting pitcher here for a while with success, and he needs to get back out there and join our rotation and win some ballgames," Piniella said. "That's what he needs to do is pitch well and win some ballgames out of the rotation."