Zambrano: Stay in bullpen temporary
CHICAGO -- Pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he has been promised his stay in the bullpen will be temporary as general manager Jim Hendry looks for another reliever to fill the eighth-inning setup role.
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In his first comments to reporters since his move to the bullpen, Zambrano on Monday said he is OK with his new role but was firm in answering a question about whether he now considers himself a bullpen pitcher.
"No," he said.
Zambrano was then asked if in his mind he was still a starter.
"Yeah, that's what [Cubs manager] Lou [Piniella] said, that's what we agreed [upon]," Zambrano said. "They are looking for a setup man. That's what they told me. I don't think I'll be here [in the bullpen] too long in this role. But I will be there when they need me."
Hendry has been looking for a veteran setup man for five months without any results so far.
"I never predict whether or not we're going to acquire anybody or not," Hendry said. "I don't have a time frame. This is just the best decision for the club. A month from now we might have an injury or someone might slip up, things can change."
Zambrano, who made his bullpen season debut on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, pitched Monday night against the Washington Nationals. He tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his second appearance out of the bullpen and first at Wrigley Field since his removal from the rotation. The Cubs won 4-3 in 10 innings.
Zambrano came on to loud cheers with one out in the eighth after Adam Dunn lined a single to right off Sean Marshall. Josh Willingham singled past a diving Ramirez at third to put runners on first and second before Adam Kennedy popped out and Wil Nieves struck out with the crowd on its feet.
Zambrano took off his cap and pointed toward the sky as he often does on his way to the dugout.
"It was pretty exciting," Zambrano said . "I was a little pumped up. I had to calm myself down and I did it."
Piniella said on Sunday that he won't use Zambrano in back-to-back games for at least the first three or four times Zambrano pitches out of the bullpen.
The assumption is that Piniella will be tempted at some point to use Zambrano as a closer if Carlos Marmol needs a day off. Zambrano says he's ready for anything.
"It's like the commercial," Zambrano said. "I can pitch. I can hit. I can play left field, I can play shortstop. As long as somebody pays, [Leon] can play. If [Marmol] needs a day off, I can be a closer. I will do my job in that spot if they want me to be the [closer]."
On Saturday, Zambrano got the final out in the seventh inning before allowing one run on two hits with one strikeout and one walk in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 5-1 win over the Brewers.
"I felt good, that's it," was Zambrano's only comment after the game.
Zambrano was asked Monday if he would have been able to handle this transfer to the bullpen a couple of years ago.
"What do you think?" Zambrano said. "A different Carlos wouldn't be smiling now. He'd be [expletive] off or disagree with the manager or he'd do other things. But I feel good. I'm happy with the way things are now."
Zambrano, who is 1-2 with a 7.40 ERA, had started 241 games since his last relief appearance on June 28, 2002.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.