Carlos Zambrano had a problem-free bullpen session yesterday, clearing the path for him to return from the disabled list when eligible tomorrow against the Marlins.
Zambrano has been out since July 1 with a lower back injury, but allowed zero earned runs over four innings in a rehab start last Friday at Single-A and will slot in behind Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster in the Cubs’ second-half rotation.
While he wasn’t particularly effective before the injury, posting a career-worst 4.34 ERA in 18 starts, Zambrano’s return will be a big help to the Cubs if only because it presumably will bump Ramon Ortiz from the rotation after the 38-year-old predictably went 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in a pair of fill-in starts.
Ortiz simply doesn’t belong in the majors at this point, although in fairness I’ve been writing that since around 2007 and he’s earned about $5 million while throwing 144 innings during that time. With a 5.75 ERA, of course.
Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale made a hasty exit from his final Grapefruit League outing on Saturday after sustaining a left hip contusion. He was struck on the leg with a line drive from the Astros’ J.D. Davis in the first inning and immediately collapsed on the mound. He was able to walk off the field without a noticeable limp, however, and later told reporters that the ball struck a nerve and temporarily stunned his leg. As a precautionary move, the Red Sox pulled him after the incident and will have the left-hander undergo X-rays to rule out any further injury to his hip.
This was expected to be Sale’s last start of spring training. Prior to Saturday’s matinee against the Astros, the 28-year-old southpaw made three starts in camp, allowing five runs, one home run, three walks and striking out 18 batters in 14 innings. He’s still on track to start the season for the Red Sox during their road opener against the Rays next Thursday.