Can the Cubs trust Carlos Zambrano for the 2010 MLB schedule? It is a great question. Zambrano continued his surprisingly good return from his anger management treatment with a 4th straight positive start. This one was clearly his best as his control – both mental and physical – were clearly on display. Big Z has yet to let up more than 2 ER in any of his last 4 starts, and although his control has been suspect in 2 of the starts (7 walks in 5 innings against the Giants and 6 walks against the Padres in 6 innings), he is putting the Cubs in position to win ball games. He is 2-0 in the 4 starts. In last night’s 5-4 win, Zambrano worked into the 8th inning, striking out 8 batters along the way. He ran out of steam in the 8th inning after giving up a 1-out hit to Nyger Morgan on his 108th pitch. Manager Mike Quade (I’m still having trouble saying that) decided to go with the usually-reliable Sean Marshall who promptly loaded the bases with walks to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. So Quade had to call upon Carlos Marmol to put out the threat, which he did when he struck out Ian Desmond. Marmol made things interesting in the 9th inning when he loaded the bases on 2 walks, a balk and hit and then gave up a bases-clearing double to Adam Kennedy to turn a 4-run lead into a 1-run lead. But he got Zimmerman to fly out to right field to end the game and preserve the win for Quade and the Cubs.
It would have been interesting to see Big Z’s reaction had Marmol fully blown the save with his disastrous 9th inning. Would the “old-angry” Zambrano have erupted if the Cubs ended up losing the game, costing Zambrano a win. Or would we have seen the “softer-compassionate” Zambrano give Marmol a hug after he blew the game, consoling him with words of kindness and “Go Get ‘Em tomorrow kid.” While I’d like to think that Zambrano would have been “fine” with a loss, part of me can’t help but wonder when the next “Z-eruption” will occur. He is 5-6 on the season, but it’s tough to judge his 1.68 WHIP and 4.64 ERA. He had so many poor starts early in the season and a few bad relief outings which has really skewed his numbers. The recent walk issues haven’t helped his WHIP at all either. I guess we’ll have to see how he pitches the rest of the way. He is dealing with a sick nephew in Venezuela who could die at any moment from an infectious disease, so Big Z’s focus could be a bit limited over the remaining 6 starts or so, but it would be nice to see him continue to pitch well down the stretch. It wouldn’t completely convince me that the Cubs need to keep Big Z on the roster in 2010, but it would make that decision that much tougher.
I guess if Big Z’s trade value improves with more good starts, then I would be open to dealing him, but only if the Cubs don’t have to pay a good chunk of his salary. But if a team is only going to take him IF the Cubs take on 50% of his salary (he is owed just under $40 million over the next 2 seasons), I would advise against it. For as much of a headache as he can be, he is still young at 29 years of age and if he can give the Cubs innings and wins over the final 2 years of the deal, it may be worth it to keep him and then use him as a trade chip for a contender in July 2012 – the year before he becomes a free agent. Sure, Big Z is clearly not worth the $91.5 million GM Jim Hendry agreed to pay him in his new deal back in 2008, but to get pennies on the dollar for Big Z in an off-season move now, might not be the best move for the Cubs for the 2010 and 2011 MLB seasons.
Alfonso Soriano and Tyler Colvin continued to respond to their new spots in the lineup under Quade. In the 7-hole, Soriano crushed a 3-run home run to deep left field that gave the Cubs an early 3-0 lead in the 2nd inning. In the 4th inning, Colvin extended the Cubs lead to 5-1 with a 2-run homer to deep right that scored Soriano (who had reached on an error). Colvin was the only Cubs player with more than 1 hit on the night.
Ryan Dempster and the Cubs go for the sweep over the Nationals tonight in Washington, DC. They will take on their former teammate Jason Marquis who has yet to win in 2010 – he has lost all 6 of his starts during the 2010 MLB schedule, pitching 5 innings only once all season long. He has a hefty 11.39 ERA and 2.25 WHIP as he is still dealing with elbow surgery recovery 3 months ago…