Notes: Zambrano working toward opener

Notes: Zambrano working toward opener

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano tuned up for both the Cactus League and the World Baseball Classic with a throwing session on Sunday.

Zambrano threw three innings, facing Adam Greenberg, Felix Pie and Geovany Soto, at Fitch Park. Cubs manager Dusty Baker said the plan is to get the right-hander in line to start Thursday against Oakland in the Spring Training opener. Zambrano would then fly to Orlando, Fla., to work out with Team Venezuela and be in line to pitch in the first game March 7 against the Dominican Republic.

"We were told he would pitch sometime in that first game -- possibly," Baker said.

The Cubs are trying to line Zambrano up for Opening Day, April 3, against Cincinnati. The World Baseball Classic makes the scheduling much more challenging.

"If he goes [Thursday] then [March 7], then it's the start after that that we're concerned about," Baker said.

Cubs catcher Henry Blanco, who also will play for the Venezuelan team in the inaugural Classic, will leave on Thursday for Orlando. Baker isn't sure what to expect from the event.

"I don't know because we've never had it before," he said. "Right now, we have to wait and see at the end to see how it affects players."

Baker was happy to hear that third baseman Aramis Ramirez is skipping the World Baseball Classic. Ramirez was to play for the Dominican Republic but chose to stay with the Cubs to prepare for the regular season.

"It was a tough decision for him," Baker said. "I'm sure his country would love to have him. We both would love to have him. He's a heck of a player. He wrestled with this for a while. You want to represent your country but, at the same time, you want to make sure you're healthy for the season, too."

First baseman Derrek Lee, who will play for Team USA along with catcher Michael Barrett, could benefit from the early games. Lee got some extra swings in last spring, and hit .419 in April. Baker said he talked to U.S. manager Buck Martinez.

"I just told him, 'Good luck.' He's going to try to do the best for us and the best for our country," Baker said.

Tight quarters: The Cubs have an overload of relief pitchers in camp.

"It's a great problem to have [too many]," Baker said. "You can never have enough quality arms. You never know when somebody else might want one of your surplus arms. That could help your team out. Everybody is looking for good arms."

One of those pitchers battling for a job is Todd Wellemeyer, who is in a slightly different situation because he's out of options.

"I know the situation," Wellemeyer said Sunday. "I've seen how many pitchers we have. I knew there was going to be competition coming into it. I've always worked hard in the offseason, I've always improved every year. I think this year is no different than other ones. We'll see how the games go and hopefully I can stay on the squad. It'll be tough. We have a lot of good guys in camp now."

Wellemeyer usually has a good spring. He was used as a long man last season, but got inconsistent work.

"Getting consistent work and being able to pitch is key for me," he said. "I started in May and I was getting work in April and May, solid work. Then I went down [to Triple-A Iowa] and came back and didn't pitch much. I'd just like to play. If I'm going to be on the team, I'd like to play. I've had three years of this. I go out and play as hard as I can and play the game like I know I can. It might keep me here, it might take me somewhere else."

The pitchers in camp can count. Other teams in need of arms will have their scouts at the Cactus League games.

Baker said the team has taken 12 pitchers in the past "out of necessity."

"A lot of it depends on the strength of your starting pitching," Baker said. "If your starting pitching is good, you won't need 12 too much. Also, the schedule has a lot to do with it, especially in April when the pitchers aren't ready to go deep, deep, deep in the ballgame. You don't even know at that time if you'll need five starters. You might only need four. You hate to lose that guy's endurance by not pitching. It'll work itself out by the time we get ready to leave."

What will it take to make an impression on the Cubs?

"It depends on the spring, it depends on what we need," Baker said. "It depends on how a guy did against right-handers or left-handers. It depends on if we need a sinkerballer to bring in when in trouble, a ground ball guy. You want them all to throw strikes. You need somebody to punch somebody out sometimes. We've got some spots here and we're always looking for a surprise guy, too."

New face: The Cubs added another relief pitcher with the addition of Brian Boehringer, who signed a Minor League contract.

"I had Bo," Baker said of the right-hander, who did not pitch last season because of personal reasons. "I know Bo has good stuff, especially if he's healthy. He said his arm is good. The guy knows how to pitch. He can throw every day, he'll never complain, you won't know he's around. He was a pleasure to have on my team. He's looking for an opportunity, and that's what will give him an opportunity."

Boehringer, who pitched in 29 games for Baker and the San Francisco Giants in 2001, contacted Baker.

"My agent wasn't getting anything done," Boehringer said. "[Dusty] was the person I felt I knew the best who was managing. I had to call a couple people for his phone number and they sent a scout out to look at me and the rest is history."

Boehringer says he's healthy. He's also one of Baker's favorites.

"He's the only player I've ever had who checks books out of my library in my office," Baker said. "This guy can read a book in about 15 minutes I think. He checks them out. He takes the jacket off, leaves the jacket, then puts it back on when he comes back."

"I think that's greatly exaggerated," Boehringer said of the ability to finish a book in 15 minutes. "Dusty has some great books I've never seen before."

Baker has even assigned books to players, things like "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" and "Tuesdays with Morrie."

Boehringer would like to make an impression on the Cubs on the mound.

"I was just happy to get an invite to camp," he said. "Whatever happens here, happens here. Just getting people to see it is what matters."

Ticket update: Last Friday, the first day individual-game tickets went on sale, the Cubs sold more than 600,000 tickets. About 20 games already are sold out, including Opening Day and the Cubs' Interleague series against the Chicago White Sox.

Fans can register for the premium Dugout Box Seats, Bullpen Box Seats and 250 new Bleacher Box Seats on March 9 on, and the winners will be announced on March 13.

With the addition of the new bleacher seats, Wrigley Field's capacity now is 41,118, up from 39,538.

Extra bases: Among the pitchers who threw to hitters on Sunday were Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch, Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Will Ohman, Angel Guzman and John Koronka. ... Jerry Hairston Jr. and Michael Restovich had been working out with the infielders the last few days but Sunday took fly balls with the outfielders. ... The Cubs' intrasquad game Wednesday will start at noon at HoHoKam Park.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.