Zambrano to rejoin Cubs during road trip

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella expects rehabbing pitcher Carlos Zambrano to rejoin the team toward the end of the Cubs' next road trip, which stretches from Monday to Aug. 1.

Zambrano, who was suspended June 25 and put on the restricted list after a dugout tirade directed at his teammates, including Derrek Lee, pitched Thursday for Triple-A Iowa in his first action since being activated. He threw 15 pitches in a less-than-impressive scoreless inning.

"We talked about [it being easier for Zambrano to return on the road]," Piniella said Friday before the Cubs opened a series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. "I think that [would] probably be a little easier.

"But at the same time, when he gets home, there will be a big media presence."

Zambrano, who completed anger management sessions, didn't talk to reporters Thursday. Piniella said it would be better for Zambrano to talk to his teammates first.

"I think so, I think it's more important for him to clear that hurdle first, and once he does that, he talks to the media," Piniella said. "I think that's the right approach for him.

"We'll just let him talk to the team, whatever he wants to say. Whenever he gets here, we'll have a little meeting and let Carlos say what he needs to say."

Piniella didn't want to read too much into Zambrano's outing Thursday.

"He threw the ball OK," Piniella said. "The velocity is in the 91 to 92 mph range, and he competed, but he could use more work.

"He hasn't been out there in three weeks or so, that's a long time. I think you get the rust off him first and then he can start getting ready strengthwise to pitch the way he's capable of. Let's not put too much into the few first appearances. It's been awhile for him."

Although Piniella said he hasn't talked to Zambrano, Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg did sit down with the pitcher when Zambrano reported on Tuesday.

"He showed up at the ballpark a day early," Sandberg said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "He was excited to be around. I had some words with him. I talked to him about being part of the team. We have a good thing going on here. We're in first place by a game and a half. We swept a doubleheader [Tuesday].

"I wanted him to feel part of the team, but also let him know he could have a big impact on the young players here, showing how a major leaguer should go about his business and he was joining something good.

"He seemed to act like he was all on board and ready to get started and get to work and hopefully have a short stint here in the minors and get him back to the major league level. [I] had good a conversation with him to get things started, and he'll start pitching [Thursday]."

ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed information to this story.