Zambrano, who last pitched in relief in 2002, becomes the primary setup man in front of closer Carlos Marmol. Ted Lilly returns from the disabled list this weekend to join the Cubs rotation. Zambrano, who made his fourth start of the year Tuesday night against the Mets, will be available in relief beginning Friday night in Milwaukee.The bullpen has been a major problem for the Cubs, who are off to a 5-9 start and have already fallen four games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central. The Cubs have allowed 16 eighth-inning runs, the most in the major leagues.
"This makes all the sense in the world," said manager Lou Piniella, who called Zambrano into his office this afternoon to tell him of the move.
Actually, it was more to ask Zambrano, because Piniella said he wouldn't have made the move if Zambrano hadn't been willing to do it. Piniella told Zambrano that the move was temporary, designed to give general manager Jim Hendry more time to find an adequate setup man in a trade.
"I said whatever you want me to do, I'm here for the team," Zambrano said. "I don't like to be a reliever, but this team needs someone to step up. I need to help this team. . . . We've already lost three or four games in the eighth inning. I'm not saying I'll be Superman, that I'll be the best setup man in the big leagues. But I think I can be good. I think I can be great."
Zambrano is making $17.875 million this year. He allowed eight runs to the Braves in 1 1/3 innings on opening day, but has pitched well in three starts since. Piniella explained that the move wasn't made because of how Zambrano has done as a starter, but rather because he thinks Zambrano is the best solution to the Cubs' bullpen problems.
Zambrano came to the big leagues as a reliever, but he hasn't pitched out of the bullpen since 2002.