On a day that has Michael McCaskey retiring and getting replaced by his younger brother George, and the day after the Bears schedule is released, the Blackhawks lose to the seventh-seed Nashville Predators, and LeBron James gushes about how awesome Chicago is, we have news that trumps all those stories.
Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan has reported via his Twitter page that three-time all-star starter Carlos Zambrano will be moving to the bullpen when Ted Lilly returns to the rotation this weekend.
Sullivan says there's more to come, so when the details roll in I'll be chiming in on this (and I'll be nice for now) "curious"— but perceived panic—move by Lou Piniella.
UPDATE: USA Today is reporting the story as official, with a quote from Piniella:
"This makes all the sense in the world," Piniella said. "This is an area that needs some attention. (Lilly's return) gives us an opportunity to do it."
Zambrano commented on the matter saying,"like Arnold Schwarzenegger says, I'll be back!"
The following quotes have been obtained via chicagobreakingsports.com obtained by Cub beat writer Paul Sullivan.
Piniella said, "I talked to Carlos today and told him we really needed him in the bullpen, and I felt he could do a really nice job there for us," Piniella said. "He said he would do what's best for the team. I'm very appreciative. You know, he talked about maturing. This proves it to me."
Zambrano was asked if it was temporary. He then answered it this way: "Temporary?" Zambrano said. "He told me that probably Randy (Bush) or Jim Hendry was looking for an eighth inning guy. And when they find a guy and trade (for a) guy and get that guy here, I will be back to the rotation. Right now they need somebody to step up in the eighth inning. I don't like to be a reliever. I don't want to be a reliever, but this team needs somebody to step up and help the bullpen."
Piniella was asked the same question, but had quit a different answer: "Temporary?" Piniella said. "We're trying to stabliize things and win some baseball games. This will give Jim (Hendry) and the front office more opportunities to hopefully do something (via a trade). If not, this could be not temporary."
Zambrano seems to be completely on board with the move. He went on to say, "I said, 'Whatever you want me to do, I'm here for this team,'" Zambrano said. "I'm here to help this team. If you want me to go to the bullpen, I'll go. If you want to keep me in the rotation, I will."
He then went on to compare it with Cub left fielder Alphonso Soriano moving to second base saying, "If Soriano wants to do it and thinks of this team, he would do it because he's a team guy," he said. "I understand the situation. We need a little help. Look, we already lost 3-4 games in the eighth inning. I'm not saying I will be a Superman. I'm not saying I will be the best set-up man in the business... I think I can be good. I think I can be great. It's up to me, the challenge."
Lou then confirmed that Zambrano would be available to work back to back games saying, "His arm is in great shape from starting," Piniella said. "I mean, we'll watch him. I've got (John) Grabow also that can do it. Now we have two experienced pitchers out there in late innings. I think it will help stabilize everything and help make everyone a little better."
Aparently Zambrano is real conmfortable with the move going on to remark, "Why?" he said. "I can be the ace in the eighth inning. Mariano Rivera is the ace on (the Yankees). In that category, he's the ace.... Look, man, I'm not looking for a contract here. I have three more years to put up numbers, and who knows? I may still be playing baseball. I may not. But this is not the last year of my contract. I just want to get a ring, and I just want to help this team."
Then Paul Sullivan went on to ask Zambrano if he'd be ok with the move the entire season.
"I told Lou I want to help this team until you find somebody," he said. "But I told him I want to be back for the playoffs. When, or if we go to the playoffs i want to go back in the rotation because i want to pitch in the playoffs."