Chicago Cubs reliever starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano is being stretched out for a return to the rotation, having thrown a simulated game yesterday.

Zambrano threw 73 pitches Monday in a simulated game at Wrigley Field, his first extended outing since switching to the bullpen on April 22. Zambrano is being stretched out so he can return to the rotation.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Sunday that Zambrano’s first start would be on the road, which means he would miss the upcoming series against the Dodgers and Cardinals that opens Tuesday night. The Cubs begin a nine-game trip on May 31 in Pittsburgh.

Zambrano was removed from the bullpen on Sunday, which means that, if he doesn’t return until the upcoming road trip, he will have been unavailable for 10 days. I guess that’s a fair amount of time to transition from pen to rotation, but it’s an awful lot of games – and some very important, difficult games – for him to miss, especially if he’s already capable of throwing 73 pitches.

The lingering question, of course, is what happens to the rotation when Z is ready to return. Someone traded? Randy Wells bumped? The Cubs are on the clock.

  • wax_eagle

    I would have figured they would have tried to DL him if they were going to stretch him out. This would have made way more sense than essentially wasting a roster spot on a guy who won’t pitch for 10is days, why not make it 15 and let him go start 2 at Iowa or Peoria.

    Its not too early in the season for a tired arm is it?

  • nickpip

    Gorzellany has to be the odd man out. If Z is back to form (a big if) we have the strongest rotation in the division and we’re set up to make a run, which since the phils and rangers series, has already started. Castro sparks the offense and Rami needs more time off, which is fine because baker and fontenot are doing their jobs very well right now.

    • wax_eagle

      Honestly right now I think the cubs could afford to dump Gorz and Baker or Font and still be in excellent position to make a playoff run. Then if things aren’t looking up they could shop Lilly and Lee (if they would waive their NTCs) and try to get value back for them.

      Another possibility that I have seen but no one is really talking about is shopping Theriot, he was already expensive this year and he is fast becoming an unnecessary luxury and we already have 2 serviceable 2nd base prospects. We may may be able to get better value from Theriot than Baker or Fontenot.

      • Bric

        I agree that Theriot would probably get back a lot more than Baker/ Fontanot or both. But where would he go? Unfortunately the time to trade Theriot has probably past (about two years ago). We now know he has decent speed, plays servicable middle defense, not much power, hits for average, and uses all fields. The other teams know this, too. What he brings to the game doesn’t look like that big of a need among the early contenders around the league. Most already have similar guys in the middle infield or younger guys with more upside. Of course injuries can changes this but I would hope we wouldn’t trade him just because of an escalating salary that really isn’t that much (relatively speaking).

        • wax_eagle

          Looks like several teams could use a slap hitting shortstop/second baseman. The Padres, Tigers, Twins and Red Sox all have guys who are under performing offensively in their middle infields. Defensively Theriot may not be a plus defender at Short, but he is good at Second and certainly is passable at Short.

          Don’t get me wrong, I think Theriot is probably the best second baseman for the Cubs, but they have 2 guys who form a good enough platoon that if they could get better value for him than they can for one of Baker or Fontenot they shouldn’t hesitate to do it. Plus they have Tracy, Scales and Barney all in AAA that would fill whatever backup role is vacated by the departing player.

    • Ace

      If Jaime Garcia is legit, and Penny comes back soon and healthy, I think I’d still take the Cardinals rotation.