Carlos Zambrano is “climbing mountains and running on the beach”

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Carlos Zambrano took the mound in the Venezuelan winter league yesterday for the first time since a line drive off the face on November 18 left him needing 16 stitches.

Zambrano faced 13 batters and tossed four hitless, scoreless innings, with Carrie Muskat of MLB.com noting that eight of his twelve outs came on ground balls.

Earlier in the week Zambrano told reporters that he’s preparing for the season by “climbing mountains, running on the beach, and exercising hard so that I can arrive at spring training in optimal shape.”

Whether or not that will be with the Cubs remains to be seen, but the team’s new regime is certainly more willing to live with Zambrano for one more season than the previous front office was. He’s owed $18 million for 2012 and the Cubs would certainly love to deal Zambrano for a decent prospect or a little payroll relief, but short of that they’ll let him at least eat some innings.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.