07/10/06 4:53 PM ET
Short rest not hindrance for Zambrano
Cubs' lone All-Star says he's available for an inning ... or two
By David Briggs / MLB.com
So, for all the unsuspecting knew, the burly Cubs ace may have been in the Steel City on Monday for the night's CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby on ESPN. The 255-pound right-hander suggested an interest in participating in the event earlier this month.
"Nah. I was just playing with the media," Zambrano said on Monday at his hotel. "I think they took that too seriously. It's too much pressure."
As it is, Zambrano said he has talked with Cubs manager Dusty Baker and will likely be available for an inning in Tuesday's showcase.
National League manager Phil Garner has made it clear he is playing to win with home-field advantage on the line come October. And the Senior Circuit, which has not won an All-Star Game since 1996, could certainly use him.
Perhaps nobody this side of Minnesota's sensation, Francisco Liriano, has been as dominating in recent months. Since April, Zambrano is 7-1 with a sub-two ERA. Overall, he is 8-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and his 124 strikeouts are third-best in the Majors.
If anybody can pitch on short rest, it's Zambrano. He has pitched into the sixth inning all but two times, and his 125 innings pitched are the sixth-most in the league. Most would see these numbers as only more reason for Zambrano to rest his right shoulder.
Not the man himself. Not at the All-Star Game.
"I can pitch. One inning, maybe two," Zambrano said, smiling.
The 25-year-old will be making his second Midsummer Classic appearance and is the Cubs' lone representative. In 2004, Zambrano became the youngest Cub in franchise history to pitch in an All-Star Game. He gave up a run in his one inning of work, but it was an experience he still cherishes.
Whatever happens this time, he said, he'll be sure to enjoy it. It's time spent with "almost all" of his family and a few days to get away from what has been a forgettable first half on the North Side.
"It's a good break," he said.
Then, the second half was brought up. And then, the controversy surrounding Baker and his future with the club. And then ...
"You just move on and make the next step," Zambrano said. "There's nothing you can do about that. You're just out there to play the game."
Zambrano, though, was mostly unwilling to look ahead, instead engulfing himself in a week of celebration.
If the opportunity to pitch arises, "great," he says. If not, it won't tarnish his week in the least. And certainly not his family's.
"They're all here, but they're not excited to see Carlos Zambrano pitch," he joked. "They're here to see all the other players."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.