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Big Z provides big scare on basepaths

Big Z provides big scare for Cubs

SCOTTSDALE -- If it were any other pitcher or player who fell on his face running the bases, it might have been funny. But it was the Cubs' Opening Day starter, Carlos Zambrano, who stumbled and fell, and appeared to land on his shoulder.

"No one was more scared than me," said Cubs third base coach Mike Quade, who had the best view of Zambrano coming at him.

Zambrano got an at-bat, a hit and an RBI before he threw a pitch in Monday's game against the San Francisco Giants. In the first inning, with a runner on and two outs against Matt Morris, Zambrano lofted the ball to deep right and took off. Zambrano lumbered around the bases, but stumbled and fell between second and third.

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He scrambled to his feet and got to third, and his RBI triple gave the Cubs a 6-0 lead. Zambrano also hit a double in the third.

"I was more worried about his hamstring than his belly flop, to be honest with you," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Let's applaud him for playing the game right, running every ball out. If he's not running the ground ball to short out hard, then he's not hustling. I'll take a guy any day on my club that you have to pull back the reins a little bit than somebody you have to jump start."

For the game, Zambrano gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over four innings, while striking out five. He left Scottsdale Stadium before reporters had a chance to talk to him.

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija was watching the play unfold from the bullpen at Scottsdale Stadium.

"We were saying, 'Don't fall on your right shoulder,'" Samardzija said. "It looked like he fell on his left, so everything was fine."

"Everybody got scared," Cubs catcher Henry Blanco said. "Thank God nothing happened. Hopefully, he'll learn from that."

Probably not.

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"As soon as the ball caromed off the wall, he was not thinking about third, he was already well past me and on his way to an inside-the-parker," Quade said about Zambrano's mindset. "That's when he fell down. He put it in gear. That's the kind of competitor he is. Third base was a no-brainer for him."

Quade figured he'd have to tackle Zambrano and stop him from trying to score an inside-the-park homer.

"He's a horse -- what are you going to do?" Quade said.

Blanco said the players in the dugout started laughing when they saw Zambrano get up and that he was OK. But Quade admits his stomach was in his throat when he saw the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder charging at him, and then falling.

"That's the price you pay for a guy who loves to play," Quade said.

"He's full speed ahead all the time," Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush said.

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

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