Carlos Zambrano throws simulated game

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Zambrano yells.jpgCarlos Zambrano threw 73 pitches in a simulated game at Wrigley Field on Monday, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. As announced last week, the Cubs have begun the process of stretching him out for a return to the starting rotation.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com isn’t a fan of the whole idea, but Cubs manager Lou Pineilla said on Sunday that “Big Z” will return to the starting rotation on the team’s next roadtrip, which begins on May 31 in Pittsburgh.

Who goes when Zambrano returns? It’s hard to tell.

The Cubs are still waiting to see if Tom Gorzelanny will be able to start on Wednesday after being hit in the left hand by a batted ball last week. On the surface, he’s the most likely one to go, but keep in mind that the Cubs already have three left-handers in the bullpen.

Carlos Silva is 6-0 with a 3.52 ERA through his first nine starts, so he hardly deserves a demotion, but it’s easy to see some regression down the road here, too (76.9 percent strand rate, .202 BAA vs. left-handed batters). It’s worth mentioning that Silva has a 3.73 ERA in 136 career relief appearances compared to a 4.83 ERA over 168 career starts.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.