Manager Lou Piniella said Tuesday their absences had a lot to do with the Cubs' 1-7 slide entering a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"With Harden, we've given him a nice rest for two turns and hopefully he'll finish up strong," Piniella said before the Cubs lost again, 4-3 on Tuesday. "Zambrano is basically the same thing.
"Sure, it's a relief. Not only do you lose two starting pitchers, but you lose two middle men."
Harden, 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA since joining the Cubs on July 8 in a six-player deal with Oakland, is set to rejoin the rotation on Thursday. He missed one start with discomfort in his arm. Zambrano was scheduled to go Saturday after missing one turn. Harden threw a side session on Monday and Zambrano threw Tuesday.
Zambrano, 13-5 with a 3.58 ERA, missed his last start with shoulder inflammation and rotator cuff tendinitis.
The pitching staff also has been hurt by reliever Chad Gaudin's back injury. Gaudin, 4-1 with a 4.63 ERA, is in Arizona working out after seeing a team physician in Chicago on Monday who diagnosed nothing serious wrong.
"He said he gets a tingling down in his buttocks when he throws the ball," Piniella said. "His absence has hurt us in the middle."
Piniella said he was not concerned about closer Kerry Wood, who has a blown save and two losses in his last two appearances while allowing five runs and five hits with three walks in 2 1/3 innings. Mainly, he chose not to be concerned.
"You know the amazing thing about managing a baseball team? If you're a little bit of a worry wart, you have something to worry about every single day," Piniella said. "Halfway through the year, you need a psychiatrist and by the end of the year you need a bed. So, no, I'm not concerned about anything."
Not even about the team's recent woes. Piniella noted the Cubs face the three teams chasing them in the Central, St. Louis, Houston and Milwaukee, the next nine games.
"We've gotten ourselves in good position. You've got to close the deal," Piniella said. "The teams that we need to beat are right in front of us. We can do it ourselves."
Shortstop Ryan Theriot was a late lineup addition and batted second, two days after he was taken out in the sixth inning in Cincinnati with dizziness and dehydration. Ronny Cedeno had been set to start the series opener and hit eighth.
"They gave him a couple of IVs and he's still having a little lingering effect on that," Piniella said. "The doctor assured him everything was fine."
Piniella also said he'd give struggling Kosuke Fukudome, batting .217 in his last 62 games, at least one start in the Cardinals series after leaving him out of the lineup for the third time in five games.
"We're just giving him time off to relax a little bit, more than anything," Piniella said.
The Cubs recalled outfielder Felix Pie from Triple-A Iowa and purchased the contract of right-hander Randy Wells from Iowa, moving pitcher Jon Lieber to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. Wells started on Sunday and will be available in the bullpen later in the week, Piniella said.