Zambrano OK in first relief outing

Carlos Zambrano pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in eight years. AP Photo/Jim Prisching

Carlos Zambrano’s first bullpen experience in eight years [June 28, 2002] showed mixed results as manager Lou Piniella brought him in in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game, getting the final out before throwing the eighth and allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout and one walk. He had started 241 games in a row since his last relief outing.

Zambrano’s evening included a sacrifice fly in the eighth, accounting for the Cubs fourth run.

After the game, Zambrano wasn’t interested in talking, making only one comment, “I felt good, that’s it,” as he finished dressing and quickly walked away from reporters.

At that point there was some discussion among the reporters if Zambrano had said anything else as he walked away. Cubs media relations people as well as Zambrano clarified that nothing derogatory had been said, that he had said ‘Thank you.’ as he walked away from reporters.

Piniella was happy with the result of Zambrano’s contribution. “I was glad to see Big Z come in, and as the inning progressed he threw the ball better and better.”

Before Saturday’s game Piniella said he wouldn’t hesitate to use Zambrano in back-to-back games, so you can expect to see the Cubs $91M man pitching out of the bullpen again on Sunday.

  • As for Ted Lilly, he was superb in his first start of the season. The Cubs left-hander was removed after six innings due to tightness in his back, something Lilly said wouldn’t affect him making his next start. Lilly had previously experienced some back stiffness on April 14, pitching four innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Iowa.

    The Cubs veteran pitcher did admit that he had some butterflies before pitching against the Brewers.

    “I was a little more anxious than usual,” Lilly said. “Maybe not as calm internally. I tried not to show it too much. I seem to be much more excited, anxious, and a little too geeked up.”

    Lilly threw six innings of three-hit, shutout baseball. Piniella was pleased with Lilly’s first start.

    “How about the way he pitched,” Piniella said. “Six innings of really good baseball. His pitch count was low but his back stiffened up. What an effort. I’ll tell you, the guy can pitch.”

    Piniella did use Lilly to bunt in the seventh inning. The Cubs starter eventually struck out. Piniella said he’ll have a designated bunter ready for those situations in the future.

    Ryan Dempster is the best bunter on the team, and according to one source would have been used Saturday night in that situation if he had his baseball cleats on. Dempster was wearing canvas shoes on the bench.

  • Third baseman Aramis Ramirez was the other good-news story for the Cubs as he broke an 0-for-21 slump with an RBI single in the sixth inning.

    “That’s how it is,” Ramirez said. “That’s why you have to keep grinding and keep working. Keep swinging the bat and good things will happen.”

    Up until Saturday, Ramirez was 0-for-the-road trip and hadn’t had a hit since April 18.

  • Marlon Byrd is hitting .500 on the road trip, 13-for-26 after going 3-for 5 with an RBI Saturday night. Twelve of Byrd’s 14 RBIs have come with two outs.

  • Cubs starting pitchers have a 1.95 ERA over the team’s last 10 games [60 IP, 13 ER].

  • The Cubs won back-to-back games for the second time this season. Their last two-game winning streak was also against Milwaukee, April 12 and 13 at Wrigley Field.