Big Z will ready for Cards with Fontenot

Big Z, Fontenot have unique ritual

CHICAGO -- Some players exchange complicated handshakes prior to a game that involve lots of arm waving and gyrations. Some say a prayer. Some follow a more simple routine and make sure they have barbecue-flavored sunflower seeds in their pockets.

Carlos Zambrano and Mike Fontenot are a little different. Before each game, the 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound Zambrano pounds his hand on top of Fontenot's head.

Then Big Z lifts the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Fontenot onto his back and gives him a piggyback ride.

"I really can't remember where we got it from," Fontenot said. "It's just driving a nail into the ground, and then we implemented a thing where I jump on his back and he carries me to the promised land."

They have done this little dugout routine before every game, and actually started it last season.

"A lot of guys from other teams say they like it," Fontenot said. "They think it's cool. They probably think it's funny."

Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. Zambrano appears to be pounding Fontenot on the head, but in reality, he never touches the second baseman's blonde hair.

"He doesn't really hit me," Fontenot said.

Does Fontenot skip the drill on days that Zambrano is pitching?

"No, we do it then," he said. "I make sure I'm out there before he goes on the mound. I don't want to get him mad."

So, keep an eye on the dugout before Zambrano goes out to warm up for Saturday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Whatever the right-hander is doing is working, because he's 6-0 in 12 starts at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won the series opener Friday, 3-2, on Henry Blanco's 11th-inning walk-off RBI single, dropping the Cardinals seven games back in the National League Central.

"It's good times," Fontenot said.

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano (12-4, 2.76 ERA)
The hard-throwing Cubs ace lowered his ERA for the third start in a row, on Sunday against the Pirates. He threw only 82 pitches over five innings and did not receive a decision, as skipper Lou Piniella played it safe after Zambrano had thrown 243 pitches in his previous two starts. That, along with a fifth day of rest, means Zambrano should be well rested for this one. In his previous start against St. Louis, Zambrano worked six scoreless innings for the win, striking out five while giving up four hits. He is 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 19 career starts against the Cardinals.

STL: RHP Todd Wellemeyer (8-4, 4.01 ERA)
Over his past three outings, Wellemeyer has begun to regain his form that made him May's Pitcher of the Month. Despite yielding two runs or fewer in each of his past three starts, Wellemeyer has received three straight no-decisions. Now he gets to carry his new-found momentum against the Cubs -- the team with whom he began his big league career. He has made two starts against Chicago in his career, going 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA.

The Cubs will wait to see if Kerry Wood is available on Saturday. His back tightened on him Friday, and he was not in the bullpen. ... The Cubs will not skip anyone in the rotation, and go with Rich Harden, Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly against Atlanta, and Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Harden against the Florida Marlins. ... Piniella spent Thursday's off-day on a boat with his grandchildren, traveling the Chicago River and on Lake Michigan. "The water was wonderful," said Piniella, who went for a swim in the lake. ... Peoria Chiefs manager and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg will be a coach for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. ... Because of a scoring change from the Cubs game against San Francisco on July 12, Carlos Marmol's ERA was lowered, and he entered Friday's game at 3.03. He has yet to give up a run since the All-Star break. ... Wood's charity bowling tournament was a success, and raised about $800,000. The highest priced item was an autographed on-deck circle, which sold for $15,000.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Sunday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 12-5, 2.93) vs. Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, 0-0, 1.00), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Cubs (Rich Harden, 6-2, 2.27) at Braves (Charlie Morton, 3-5, 5.70), 6:00 p.m. CT

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