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Sharp in rehab start, Big Z back Tuesday

Sharp in rehab start, Big Z back Tuesday

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LOS ANGELES -- Michael Brenly has had a summer to remember.

The 22-year-old Minor League catcher so far has caught Angel Guzman, Ted Lilly and now Carlos Zambrano in their rehab starts for Class A Peoria.

"I was nervous when I was in the big leagues catching guys like that," Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly said of the experience his son is having. "I can't imagine doing that in 'A' ball."

"You hope it's an experience that will lead to bigger and better things and makes him a better catcher working with the guys on his pitching staff," Brenly said of his son. "The bottom line is as much fun as it is and the novelty of catching a big league pitcher, ideally it hones his craft a little bit and makes him better as he moves on up the ladder."

Zambrano started for Peoria on Thursday, and threw five scoreless innings, giving up four hits and striking out five in front of a standing-room only crowd of 7,604 at O'Brien Field in Peoria, Ill. What was Michael's scouting report?

"He said he was good and throwing easy, 88 to 91 [mph], pumped it up to 94 [mph] once or twice," Bob Brenly said. "He said the slider was good, the splitter was good. He didn't notice anything in his delivery that he was protecting his back and looked very free and easy."

Zambrano (7-4, 3.35 ERA) has been on the disabled list because of back spasms, and he will return to the Cubs' rotation Tuesday when the team opens a homestand against the Nationals.

"He did throw the ball well," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of the report he received on Zambrano. "He'll be pitching Tuesday for us against the Nationals and hopefully he'll give us a really good finishing kick."

The addition of Zambrano means Tom Gorzelanny will go to the bullpen. Gorzelanny could, however, make another start if needed.

"We've always had a physical problem somewhere along the line, so let's not assume we're going to stay healthy all of September," Piniella said.

Michael Brenly did call his dad for some tips on how to handle Zambrano.

"I told him basically what Carlos throws and maybe some things to look for and don't let him work too fast," Bob Brenly said. "There's a fine line between working quickly and working too quickly for Big Z. But [Michael] said after talking to Carlos before the ballgame and going over signs and going over strategy, he caught him in the bullpen and everything felt good. He said Big Z looks like he's healthy and ready to go."

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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