Carlos Zambrano should have a locker room full of teammates pissed off at him right now. Slated to start the opener of a big weekend series at Coors Field on Friday night, Big Z told Manager Lou Pinella that he couldn’t go 15 minutes before the start of the game. Big Z left his start in the 3rd inning last Saturday because of a mild back strain. He didn’t receive any special back treatment all week, and he told the team that it was nothing to be worried about. But during pre-game warm-ups, Zambrano experienced some back spasms and then told Pinella he couldn’t go. Pinella had this to say about the situation: “When he went out there to warm up, he says after he threw two or three pitches, his back tightened up and he started getting spasms. This is something that happened right before the ball game. If he had been complaining about anything, obviously, we wouldn’t have scheduled him to pitch.”
Not a smart move from Zambrano. Especially since the Cubs had an off-day on Thursday, and the club could have moved Ryan Dempster up a day to start with his normal 4 days’ rest on Friday night. Then Wells, Gorzelanny and Harden could have each moved up a day too, allowing Big Z a few more days off, or giving the Cubs an opportunity to call someone up from the minor leagues. Instead, Zambrano gave the team no indication that his back might be a long-term issue, and forced the Cubs to go with Sean Marshall on no notice to make the start. As it turned out, Marshall did not have his good stuff – 3 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk in 2 innings of work. Jeff Samardzija then had to do a little bit off long-relief work, pitching 4 innings and allowing 2 ER on 5 hits and 1 walk. Not a good way to start a 4-game series in hitter-friendly Coors Field.
The Cubs offense didn’t do much to help out the Cubs pitching staff. The Cubs managed just 2 runs and 5 hits off of Ubaldo Jimenez and 3 Rockies’ relievers. Alfonso Soriano was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit and he also had the only Cubs RBI of the game. The Cubs did draw 6 walks, but never seemed to come through with a big hit to break an inning open. The Cubs had 2 runners on in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th innings, but could only push across 1 run in the 1st and 6th innings. Not good.
The only good news – sort of – catcher Geovany Soto returned to the Cubs lineup after a month stint on the DL. Soto hit in the 5-spot, however, going 0 for 4 with 3 K’s. Not the kind of spark we were looking for.
At 57-50, the Cubs trail the Cardinals by 1 game in the NL Central race and the San Francisco Giants and the Rockies by 2 games in the NL Wild Card race.