UPDATE: Big Z’s next start might be put on hold, at least for precautionary reasons. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that in addition to receiving 10 stitches as a result of the comebacker, Zambrano also suffered soft tissue damage. He is scheduled to undergo more tests in the coming days.
10:45 AM: According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Carlos Zambrano was hit in the face with a line drive during a start last night with Los Caribes de Anzoátegui in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Zambrano was removed from the game and received stitches at a local hospital, but expects to make his next scheduled start.
Big Z was having his best outing of the winter before being hit by the comebacker, allowing one unearned run on two hits over five innings while striking out four and walking a pair. He has a 3.29 ERA and 12/6 K/BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings over his first three winter league outings.
Zambrano met with new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in Chicago last week and was told that he will have to “earn his way back” to staying with the team. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a disappointing 4.82 ERA this season before being placed on the restricted list in mid-August and is owed $18 million in 2012.
Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.
According to an official team announcement, the Nationals have acquired catcher Derek Norris from the Padres in exchange for right-hander Pedro Avila.
Norris, 27, batted a career-low .186/.225/.328 in 458 PA with the Padres in 2016. He hit career highs with 14 home runs and nine stolen bases, but his dismal production rate through the second half of the season spelled the end of his time in a starting role in San Diego. Norris’ departure from the Padres also confirms 24-year-old Austin Hedges‘ spot on the roster, as reported by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell:
Heading to San Diego is 19-year-old right-handed starter Pedro Avila, who was acquired by the Nationals as an international free agent in 2014. The 19-year-old spent his first season in Single-A Hagerstown and went 7-7 with a 3.48 ERA and 2.42 K/BB rate in 93 innings.