Big Z to rejoin Cubs' starting rotation Wednesday

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zambrano headshot.jpgVeteran right-hander Carlos Zambrano was moved to the bullpen in late April in a highly criticized move by manager Lou Piniella and the Cubs front office.  According to the Chicago Tribune’s Dave van Dyck, that will all change Wednesday when he rejoins the starting rotation and faces the Pirates.

Big Z allowed six earned runs and 16 hits in 13 innings as a reliever for the Cubs and opposing hitters batted .301 against him, but Piniella seems to think he’s shown signs of confidence and will do well in his return to starting.

“He’s been throwing the ball well here the last 10 days or so. Now we need for him to carry it over into the rotation and then win some ballgames for us,” Piniella said.  “He’ll make our rotation stronger if he pitches the way he’s capable of pitching.  So let’s see what happens.”

Tom Gorzelanny, 2-5 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP through nine starts this season, will be moved to the bullpen to clear room.  It seems like a misguided move, but moving Zambrano to a relief role made no sense in the first place.  Two wrongs make a right?

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.