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.

Red Sox beat Yankees 11-6 to clinch AL East for third consecutive season

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The Red Sox have clinched the AL East for a third consecutive season, beating the Yankees 11-6 in the Bronx on Thursday night. It’s the third consecutive season in which the Red Sox have won the division, the first time that’s ever been done in club history. In fact, the only other times the Red Sox won the division in back-to-back years were 1903-04 and 1915-16.

AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts went 4-for-5 with a two-run single in the second inning off of Masahiro Tanaka and a three-run homer in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman to put the game out of reach. Jackie Bradley and Brock Holt also hit homers. Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez was on the hook for five runs in 3 2/3 innings, but three of them scored when Heath Hembree inherited a bases-loaded situation, then served up a grand slam to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth. The rest of the bullpen combined to fire five scoreless innings. Steven Wright had three of them followed by zeroes from Ryan Brasier and Craig Kimbrel.

With the loss, the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics for the first Wild Card slot shrinks to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox will try to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With a 104-49 record, their closest competitor is the 95-57 Astros. With nine games remaining in the regular season for the Red Sox, they would have to lose every game remaining in the regular season and the Astros would have to win their 10 remaining games in order to fail to claim home field advantage.