The Talk of the Town

Say what? Zambrano to bullpen

In a move that was the talk of Chicago, Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced Wednesday that he was moving the nominal ace of his rotation to the bullpen to be a setup man.

Carlos Zambrano, who has started six consecutive Opening Days, will be the team's eighth-inning man, beginning this weekend in Milwaukee. The move came in anticipation of lefty Ted Lilly coming off the disabled list to pitch Saturday.

The Cubs bullpen has struggled in April, and apparently, the team felt that neither lefty Tom Gorzelanny nor righty Carlos Silva was well suited to bullpen work. Silva turned in his third quality start in three outings Wednesday night against the Mets.

Zambrano last worked out of the bullpen in 2002, and he has been a mainstay of the rotation for most of this decade.

"I talked to Carlos today and told him we really needed him in the bullpen and that we felt he could do a nice job for us," Piniella said. "He said he'd do what's best for the team. I'm very appreciative. He talked about maturing (this year). This proves it to me."

Zambrano says he's going along with the plan but that he'd like to go back to the rotation eventually. Cubs brass says it has not talked of a timetable for the move.

"I told Lou I want to help this team until you find somebody," Zambrano said. "I told him I want to be back for the playoffs. If we go to the playoffs, I want to go back to the rotation."

Veteran left-hander John Grabow has had a rough April, and Piniella has all but buried him in the 'pen, which was hurt by the spring training shoulder surgery of right-hander Angel Guzman.

Zambrano is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA, having gotten shelled on Opening Day in Atlanta. On Tuesday, he worked six innings of two-run ball but took the loss as the Cubs were shut out 4-0 by the Mets.

CUBS 9, METS 3: The slumping Cubs bats finally awoke as they pounded out 14 hits. LF Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in the Cubs' three-run seventh. RHP Carlos Silva had his third straight strong start in three outings as he worked six innings, giving up two hits and one run.

NOTES, QUOTES

--OF Xavier Nady was not able to start because his surgically repaired right elbow needed a day of rest. He is on the mend from last season's Tommy John surgery on the elbow, and the Cubs have taken it easy on him. Nady walked as a pinch hitter.

--CF Marlon Byrd was the cleanup hitter, the fourth spot in the order Byrd has batted in this year. He's normally the Cubs' fifth hitter, but Piniella batted Byrd first in the series opener at New York. Byrd also has batted second and sixth. He went 2-for-3 with three RBIs on Wednesday.

--Soriano wound up a double short of the cycle. His triple was his first since last Aug. 19. Soriano played on a bad knee much of last year and had only one triple. He was 3-for-4 with a walk Wednesday and is now hitting .327. He has been working with batting coach Rudy Jaramillo to plant his front foot sooner when he swings.

--C Geovany Soto was 2-for-2 with three walks. It was Soto's third career three-walk game. He has 11 walks in his last eight games, and he has his average up to .333 after a slow start that had Piniella giving backup C Koyie Hill more playing time.

--Silva has three quality starts in his first three outings as a Cub. He's 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA. The pressure will be on both Silva and Gorzelanny, who starts Thursday's series finale in New York, to eat the innings left open by ace Zambrano's move to the eighth-inning setup role. Silva worked in only 30 1/3 innings last year in an injury-plagued season with Seattle. In 2008, he pitched 153 1/3 innings.

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