Zambrano likely to tune up in minors

CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano's next step after completing a treatment program may include a minor-league rehab assignment, according to manager Lou Piniella.

"I don't think we've gotten that far, but I would think that he'll need to go and pitch a little bit somewhere," Piniella said Thursday. "It's going to be probably three weeks or so ... that's a long time just not to do anything. I would think he would need a little work somewhere, yeah. But that subject hasn't been brought up yet."

Zambrano, currently on the restricted list, will not rejoin the team until July 15 at the earliest.

Nearly a week after Zambrano's dugout confrontation with teammate Derrek Lee, Piniella still hasn't spoken directly to the starting pitcher, but remains confident the clubhouse will welcome Zambrano back at some point.

"Well, it's a couple weeks from now, but like I said, time will heal wounds," Piniella said. "I think it was a very good idea to wait until after the All-Star break before he came in and addressed the team. It's two weeks from now, things will quiet down a heck of a lot, and I think the players will accept Carlos as a teammate.

"Personally, I like the young man, I really do. I thought what happened shouldn't, but personally I've enjoyed talking to Zambrano and having him on the team. Hopefully the help that he's getting now will help him and we'll leave it at that."

Jeff Dickerson is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.