Cubs plan to activate ace Zambrano on Friday

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Cubs plan to activate right-hander Carlos Zambrano (8-3) to start the series opener against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Zambrano has been on the DL since June 19 with a strained throwing shoulder.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella hopes Zambrano can throw 85 to 90 pitches in his first start back.

"If he does well he can pitch six innings for us," Piniella said.

On Thursday, the Cubs
activated outfielder Reed Johnson from the disabled list Thursday, and he was in the starting lineup batting leadoff and playing left field for the finale of a four-game series against the Giants.

Johnson had been sidelined since June 24, retroactive to June 18, with lower back spasms. The Cubs optioned infielder Eric Patterson to Triple-A Iowa to clear roster space for Johnson.

Johnson was batting .271 with three home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games before the injury.