CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano made sure he got some swings at Fenway Park during the Cubs' trip there last weekend. On Tuesday, Cubs manager Mike Quade used the pitcher as a pinch-hitter, and Zambrano delivered a two-run single in the seventh.
With three starting pitchers currently on the disabled list, did Quade have any second thoughts about using Zambrano? Not at all.
"He always wants a reward," Quade said of Zambrano. "There's always an at-bat [involved] -- it's rarely more time on the mound."
Quade watched Zambrano in batting practice in Boston as he hit one over the Green Monster and another on top of the left-field wall. Zambrano holds the team's all-time record for most home runs by a pitcher.
"He's an animal," Quade said. "He's some kind of an athlete."
Zambrano then joined the discussion in the dugout where the manager was holding court.
"We're trying to win the Silver Slugger," Quade said, giving Zambrano a fist pump.
Soto sees game action in Arizona rehab stint
CHICAGO -- Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, rehabbing from a strained left groin, had five at-bats Wednesday and was behind the plate for three innings in an extended Spring Training game in Mesa, Ariz.
Soto will join Double-A Tennessee on Thursday and play five to six innings, getting three at-bats, and then play seven to nine innings on Friday. If all goes well, he will rejoin the Cubs on Saturday in Chicago.
Soto has been on the disabled list since May 11. He was batting .226 in 31 games before he was injured, with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Dempster rounding into form after slow start
CHICAGO -- Ryan Dempster appears to be back on track.
On Tuesday, the Cubs' right-hander gave up one run over seven innings against the Mets to notch consecutive wins at home for the first time since July 15-Aug. 4, 2010.
"Last night, he probably wasn't as sharp," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Dempster, who went 1-3 with a 9.58 ERA in April, but is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in May.
"He had people to deal with on base and pitched a great fourth inning," Quade said of Tuesday's game. "He was able to control things. When he's had trouble this year is when there's a long ball that gets in the way of this mess instead of a single."
Teams were batting .318 off Dempster early in the year and he served up nine homers over 31 innings in his first six starts. In 32 innings in his last five outings, he's given up two homers.
Quade pulled Dempster after 98 pitches over seven innings. He has topped 100 pitches twice in his last five starts; he threw more than 100 in four of his first six starts.
"I'm sure he wanted to go out in the eighth," Quade said, "but enough's enough. Let's finish this on a good note and get some bullpen people in there."
Which the Cubs did, posting an 11-1 win over the Mets.
Jeff Baker was available to pinch-hit in an emergency, Cubs manager Mike Quade said Wednesday. Baker has a strained left groin, injured Sunday during an at-bat.
Quade wants to make sure Baker, who is batting .525 against lefties, is healthy for the upcoming series against the Pirates. The concern isn't running the bases, but his stride and hip rotation on his swing.
Lou Montanez has yet to catch up on all the text messages and phone calls he's received since being called up to the Cubs on Tuesday. He admitted to feeling a little "overwhelmed" by all the messages. "It always feels good to get some love," he said.
Rookie Darwin Barney has shown good instincts in the field and on the basepaths.
"That's the only way he knows how to play," Quade said of the rookie. "He has no idea what the scoreboard is and he's not going to coast. ... He's a pretty solid guy in almost every way."
Barney is the top rookie in the Majors in hits (54), multi-hit games (19), and batting average (.318) entering Wednesday's game. He also ranks third among National League players who have the fewest strikeouts per plate appearances. And he has no fear of hitting deep in the count. Barney has a .286 average with two strikes on him, which is fifth highest among NL hitters, trailing Pablo Sandoval, Matt Holliday, Prince Fielder and David Freese.
Rookie Welington Castillo was behind the plate Wednesday. Quade said he likes the way Castillo is able to control the running game. He's also improved at the plate. How does the manager know? He was the one throwing batting practice to the young catcher.
"You'd be surprised what you can learn doing that," Quade said. "I actually thought his swing looked a lot better and his approach was better. He's going to hit, and hit for power. Given the injury [to his hand] and down time, I didn't think he was near as sharp offensively this year as he was last year when he arrived."
On Sunday, Tyler Colvin missed hitting for the cycle by a home run while playing for Triple-A Iowa, and on Monday, he homered. On Tuesday, he went 0-for-4. Colvin was batting .292 since joining the Minor League team.
"Mechanically, I'm fine," Colvin told the Des Moines Register. "It's just about getting my timing back."
Colvin was sent down to Iowa after hitting .113 in 28 games with the big league team.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.