Cubs notes: Zambrano starts strong

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Cubs notes: Zambrano starts strong

Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Posted 7:10 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. This was quiet, boring, efficient exactly the way Carlos Zambrano wants it to be this year. Hes not here to talk about the past, or make predictions or call himself the ace.

Zambranos already been bumped from what would have been his seventh consecutive Opening Day start. Hes handled the news well so far, and got through the first Cactus League game by throwing two scoreless innings in a 15-7 loss to the Oakland As at HoHoKam Park.

It was good to see him attack that strike zone, first baseman Carlos Pena said. It looked like he had a lot of confidence going. You cant say too much about the first game of spring training, (but) its always nice to see good things happen.

Thats where the Cubs are at with Zambrano, cautiously optimistic that he can again be a front-line starter. He struck out the first two As swinging and faced the minimum six batters. He says the addition of Matt Garza hasnt changed the equation for him.

I have to go about my business, Zambrano said. I have to pitch my game and go out there every fifth day and compete, give the best that I have to win that game. . Hopefully we can all stay healthy and do some damage.

The Cubs havent always been certain that theyll get that from Zambrano. Theyll take any small step in the right direction.

It was fun to watch him, manager Mike Quade said. I dont know what his velocities were, but it looked like he was throwing the ball as well as Id seen, (which isnt surprising), because when hes got adrenaline going, look out.

Piniellas shadow

Before his first game as a major-league manager last August, Quade referenced John Wooden, and how the legendary UCLA basketball coach would always talk about the process. That player-development idea guided his 37-game audition, and ultimately won him the job. It will be the same in the Cactus League, where Lou Piniella would take losses harder than most.

I care a little bit, (but) Im more interested in performance and progress, Quade said. If we come out here and execute and play well and somebody beats us, (then) thats ok. But Lou didnt like to lose at anything and he was incredibly competitive. You pick up on that very quickly, as does the club.

The players have picked up a different vibe under Quade, who didnt attach much significance to managing his first spring-training game, or leading his own club against an As organization that once let him go. He concedes that he diverges from Piniella in style, but not substance.

Were running the same fundamentals, Quade said. There may be some really subtle differences, but if you look at the schedule every day, you see its pretty much the same. And then its just about how a veteran manager goes about his day, versus how a young guy who wants to be a veteran manager someday goes about his. Our personalities are different, but theres no question that our goals are the same.

Coming up

Monday vs. Milwaukee Brewers in Mesa: RHP Randy Wells vs. RHP Tim Dillard, 2:05 p.m., WGN-AM 720. Cubs pitchers Andrew Cashner, Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall are also scheduled to throw. Tuesday at San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale: RHP Ryan Dempster vs. TBA, 2:05 p.m., Cubs.com audio broadcast. Quade plans to play Tyler Colvin at first base this week, perhaps as early as Thursday.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

A step forward for Kyle Hendricks and Cubs rotation

A step forward for Kyle Hendricks and Cubs rotation

MIAMI – Kyle Hendricks got as excited as his buttoned-up personality would allow after finishing Saturday’s pain-free throwing session and feeling no lingering effects on Sunday in his right hand.  

“Effervescent, bubbly,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said at Marlins Park. “It sounds like he is encouraged by the whole thing. Again, I told him I just want you to feel the baseball when you throw it. So we’ll just play it along and continue to stay on this program.

“Of course, it’s probably aggressive right now to think prior to the All-Star break. But you never know. I don’t want to rule anything out. Just let him go throw.”

Hendricks – who has been sidelined since early June with inflammation in a tendon on the back of his right middle finger – played catch from 60 feet and will need several more days of throwing before moving to the mound.

Hendricks – a Cy Young Award finalist and major-league ERA leader last season – has been staying on top of his shoulder exercises and overall conditioning. But he would still probably need to work up to at least one start in the minors, leaving the details on any rehab plan fuzzy.  

“It’s kind of on me,” Hendricks said. “That’s why we’re taking it slow here in the beginning, so hopefully nothing creeps back up, because it was kind of a weird injury in the first place. We didn’t know exactly what it was. It took us a little while to figure it out.

“Obviously, it could get sore again or something could happen. I just got to go day-to-day here these first few days, take it easy and make sure that doesn’t creep back up. Hopefully, we can just go from there.”

Even while missing a World Series Game 7 starter, the rotation has been trending in the right direction, posting a 2.51 ERA in the previous 11 games to reverse a 5.28 ERA in the 11 games before that. But to pull away from .500 and make a second-half push, the Cubs will absolutely need Hendricks. 

“They’ve just really fallen into a groove,” Hendricks said. “They’re really taking the workload better. Just from the top, what (Jon) Lester’s been able to do, he’s carrying the rotation with the way he’s pitched. But right behind him, (Jake) Arrieta’s thrown the ball much better lately. Even ‘Lack’ (John Lackey) his last few starts, so they’ve been carrying the load.

“I feel that on me a little bit. I want to come back, obviously, and be part of it and help them out with that.”

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

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