Carlos Zambrano Returns to the Rotation Tonight, Again

John WoelfelContributor IAugust 9, 2010

CHICAGO - JUNE 20: Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Wrigley Field on June 20, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Angels 12-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For the second time this season, Carlos Zambrano will “return” to the starting rotation.

After being sent to the bullpen after just four starts in an attempt to patch up a disastrous start to the season from the relievers, Zambrano made his way back to the rotation on June 4. He went 2-2, giving up no more than three earned runs in his next four starts until the dugout debacle with Derrek Lee at the Cell on June 25, after giving up four runs in the first inning.

He was then banished to anger management treatment until his return on July 31.

Since then, he has pitched three-and-two-thirds innings, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out four and walking four.

The numbers over his last stint suggest that he is ready to be a solid starter in the big leagues. He may never be dominant again, but that remains to be seen.

The numbers seem to indicate that even though he has struggled to find his command so far this year, he still has the stuff to be successful at this level. Zambrano has struck out almost a batter an inning this season, 57 in 59 1/3 innings.

His ERA sits at an ugly 5.61, but if you take away his Opening Day start against the Braves where he gave up eight earned runs in one-and-one-third innings, it lowers to 4.50.

Still, not numbers that are worth anywhere near $18 million a year, but it will do.

Zambrano’s issue has been that he’s just let too many guys get on base; his WHIP is 1.75. It’s hard to not give up runs when you’re letting almost two guys reach base in an inning via the walk or hit.

Carlos will be on a limited pitch count tonight, probably around 80 pitches. That should get him through four innings, and depending where the Cubs are in the batting order, he may start the 5.

My guess would be that he comes out and walks a guy or two in the first, and when all is said and done his line will look a little like this:

4.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 3 Walks, 5 K’s

I would view that as a successful outing.

The Cubs no longer are in the race (in case you have missed the months of June and July), and what they really need now is for Zambrano to prove to potential offseason trading partners that he can pitch again at a high level.

Let’s face it, Zambrano’s chances at being a Cub next season are about 10 percent. The only way he’s back is if Hendry can’t find any takers for him and he makes the decision that he doesn’t want to let him to and continue to pay him $18 million a year.

Regardless of how you feel about Zambrano, if you’re a Cubs fan, you need to be rooting for him to come out and be a stud.

That will be the best thing the Cubs could hope for from this point on.