After trading Ted Lilly and placing Carlos Silva on the DL, the Cubs found themselves in sudden need of starting pitchers. Carlos Zambrano will fill one of those open rotation spots. The Cubs announced today that Big Z will start on Monday against the Giants.
Zambrano has shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen all season, initially as an experiment by Lou Piniella to try and fix the Cubs’ poor performance out of their eighth inning pitchers. When that experiment failed, Zambrano returned to the rotation until his June 25th blowup in the dugout. The team suspended Zambrano, and said that when he returned to the team he would once again pitch out off the bullpen. That did not last long though, since Zambrano pitched just once (a 53 pitch mop-up effort) before returning to the rotation.
So after losing two starters, and receiving multiple underwhelming performances from two potential rookie replacements (Casey Coleman and Andrew Cashner), the Cubs are back to starting Zambrano. It should be very interesting to see how he performs as a starter this time around (his third attempt at starting this season) considering how poorly he has performed in that role all season. As a starter Zambrano has a 6.12 ERA, and has allowed an opposing OPS of .844. That kind of performance is far from what fans are used to from Zambrano, who has a career 3.51 ERA.
There will probably be some backlash from fans and critics of Zambrano for this move, but it really benefits all parties involved. The Cubs are desperate to rid themselves of Zambrano and the $36 million left on his contract after this season, the best way to give him any trade value is to work him as a starter. Zambrano wants to start, and there is not much reason to expect him to continue to pitch so poorly. Perhaps stability in his role for the final eight weeks of the season will allow Zambrano to show he can still be a quality starting pitcher, even if he is not the same guy who led the Cubs’ staff for the past few years.