Inbox: Why move Big Z back to the rotation?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
Carlos Zambrano, Bob Howry and quality starts are among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your full name and hometown.
With the Cubs' rotation going great, why is there all this talk about Carlos Zambrano coming back to the rotation? Zambrano was moved out of the rotation because he wasn't performing like everyone else, right? If he can perform to the level of the other five guys, I'd like to see him back in there, but he's not. Even as a setup man he's been lacking at times. The Cubs need offense now, not a rotation jumble. So why mess up a good thing?
-- Jameson S., Indianapolis, Ind.
Zambrano was not moved out of the rotation because of performance issues. He was moved because Ted Lilly was coming off the disabled list and needed a spot. With Esmailin Caridad hurt, they also needed a right-handed setup pitcher. Zambrano's switch to the 'pen took care of both of those issues. With the exception of two games, Big Z did very well in the relief role. In his final five appearances, Zambrano gave up one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless innings. But he told Lou Piniella he wasn't comfortable pitching out of the bullpen, and now he's back. What's happening with the rotation has nothing to do with the offense.
How can general manager Jim Hendry justify the re-signing of Bob Howry? He did nothing but blow games during his first stint with the Cubs and he currently has an 8.35 ERA for the year. How is this possibly a good move?
--David D., Vista, Calif.
The Cubs have been looking for an experienced right-hander since the offseason. Howry had two good years with the Cubs and a tough third season in 2008, when he compiled a 6.93 ERA in 27 games after the All-Star break. That year, he had a stellar May (1.76 ERA, four holds in 13 games). The hope is that by reuniting with Larry Rothschild and being used in specific situations, Howry can help.
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How does the All-Star voting work now that Ryan Theriot has changed positions from shortstop to second base? What if he's voted in or comes in second in the voting?
-- Robert G., Summerville, S.C.
The Cubs' situation is a little discombobulated. The shortstop on the All-Star ballot (Theriot) now is at second and the second baseman (Mike Fontenot) is on the bench. But if Theriot got the fan vote at shortstop, he'd go to Anaheim July 13. However, he's not in the top five. Unless every Cubs fan votes the maximum number of times, Theriot will be taking a family vacation in mid-July. Despite limited playing time, Fontenot hit .347 in May. You can still vote for The Riot and Font. In-stadium balloting ends at Wrigley on June 16, but you can vote online until July 1.
It's June 6. Ted Lilly has started eight games. He has a 3.61 ERA and 1-5 record. Tom Gorzelanny has started nine games. He has a 3.63 ERA and a 2-5 record. Ryan Dempster has started 11 games. He has a 3.76 ERA and 4-5 record. All three have an ERA below the league average of 4.18, yet all three have losing records. My question: How many quality starts have the starting pitchers delivered this season, what is their record in those quality starts, and how do those figures compare to the rest of baseball?
-- Josh O., Fort Wayne, Ind.
Heading into Sunday's game, Cubs starters have combined for 34 quality starts, and the pitchers are 14-10 with a 2.21 ERA (57 earned runs in 232 1/3 innings) in those games. The team has a 19-15 record in those games. The Cubs are tied for third in the National League and tied for fourth in baseball with the 34 quality starts.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.