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As Chicago Cubs fans, we live in a perpetual state of fear – ironic, given that to fear loss is to have experienced success, and, um…

But anyway, the fear thing. We’ve all got it, and nowhere is its ominous presence felt more powerfully than in the throwing arms of the Cubs starting pitchers. So when Carlos Zambrano started having shoulder problems last June, we all took a collective gasp.

Then, when he struggled mightily down the stretch – no-hitter aside – we never really exhaled. And although fluff spring training pieces aren’t exactly the panacea for injury-related fear, I’m starting to allow the air to trickle slowly out of my lungs.

See why, after the jump.

So far, Zambrano’s shoulder is holding up just fine. He’s always been a big talker, so a grain of salt is necessary, but Zambrano says he feels seriously great.

Carlos Zambrano is showing no signs of the problems that hampered him last season, although the team is taking a conservative approach with its ace this spring.

“Physically, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in spring training,” Zambrano said Monday after a free-and-easy throwing session against hitters. “I’m not a rookie. I know what to do and I know my job here is to get ready.”

Zambrano, like shoulder owwy buddy, Rich Harden, is about a week or two behind the other starting pitchers. And given that spring training is a couple weeks longer than usual, that’s just fine. Yesterday’s report that Zambrano would be pitching in the WBC also suggests the Cubs and Zambrano feel good about his shoulder.

It’s great to hear that Zambrano is feeling well, but the exhale will not become anything more than a trickle until we see him on the mound.

In October.

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