Oh. My. God.
The Cubs have shaken up their rotation, sending workhorse Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen in order to make room for injured starter Ted Lilly. Zambrano will start his relief stint Friday, and Lilly is expected to start Saturday’s game in Milwaukee.
Chicago manager Lou Piniella had to make a move because of Lilly’s impending return from the effects of an arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder, and he felt Zambrano made the best fit for a number of reasons. The Cubs didn’t want to move Carlos Silva into the bullpen because he’s been on a hot streak, and southpaw Tom Gorzelanny wouldn’t fit as well in relief.
“This makes all the sense in the world and I appreciate Carlos doing this,” said Piniella of the decision. “It gives us some power at the end of the ballgame. With Zambrano and [Carlos] Marmol, it gives us some firepower.” cubs.com.
Moving the first or second-best pitcher on your staff – a guy who is a work horse, no less – to the bullpen in favor of two guys who’ve put together exactly three total good starts is mind-bogglingly stupid. I don’t care how bad the bullpen has been, nor how inconsistent Zambrano has been. Even if the move “succeeds” in the sense that Zambrano pitches well out of the pen, the move will be a massive failure because it will have taken innumerable innings out of Zambrano’s hands.
This isn’t like when the Cubs moved Kerry Wood to the pen – which was done to save his career. Zambrano is healthy, and for the most part, effective. Will he remain healthy and effective on a reliever’s up and down schedule following eight years of starting?
Furthermore, Zambrano – while, yes, he is a high strikeout guy – is, by trade, a sinkerballer. Sinkerballers are generally at their best when they can settle in for a few innings.
This experiment is unlikely to (a) succeed or (b) last.