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Zambrano says shoulder is fine, wants to look ahead
Associated Press

Chicago Cubs' Carlos Zambrano throws live batting practice during spring training baseball on Monday in Mesa, Ariz.


Associated Press

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Published: 2/24/2009 12:00 AM

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Big Z says his shoulder is just fine and he'd like to look ahead, rather than back to last season.

Carlos Zambrano is showing no signs of the problems that hampered him last season, although the team is taking a conservative approach with its ace this spring.

"Physically, I feel the best I've ever felt in spring training," Zambrano said Monday after a free-and-easy throwing session against hitters. "I'm not a rookie. I know what to do and I know my job here is to get ready."

Last season he had a stint on the disabled list in June - his first trip to the DL in six years - and needed an injection in early September for a sore shoulder. But later that month, he pitched a no-hitter against the Astros in Milwaukee.

Zambrano spent the off-season strengthening his shoulder, and the Cubs sent a trainer to his native Venezuela to work with him.

"It's important," he said. "I won't want that to happen to me again this year."

Zambrano went 14-6 with a 3.91 ERA last season. He was 10-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star Game - in which he pitched 2 innings. But after the break, he was 4-3 in 12 starts with a 5.80 ERA. He also was the loser in Game 2 of the playoffs against the Dodgers when shaky Cubs fielding led to 4 unearned runs.

He's not scheduled to pitch in a spring training exhibition until next Monday. The Cubs' first game is Wednesday.

"We're holding him back a little bit," manager Lou Piniella said. "Couple more throw days to face hitters and then maybe throw him in a little simulated game."

Marmol won't pitch in WBC: Relief pitcher Carlos Marmol made a tough decision. He's not going to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Marmol, in competition with Kevin Gregg for the closer's role with the Cubs, said he spent a restless night before making the decision.

He said he came to the conclusion that he should stay and work with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, adding the closer's competition was not the reason.

"I know what I have to do to keep my body ready for the season, and my arm and my mind, what I need to do," Marmol said. "It was a hard decision."

Dempster throws: Ryan Dempster has been bothered by a stiff neck but threw 50 pitches in a side session Monday.

Take it easy: With the start of the regular season still six weeks away, Piniella said the Cubs would have to keep a full roster and use a lot of younger players this spring. Especially with 39 exhibition games.

"No sense in rushing anybody," Piniella said.

He said he wanted starting pitchers to get 25-27 innings and hitters to have 60-65 at-bats. He called it a fine line between making sure the players are ready for the regular season and not overusing them because of the long exhibition schedule. The Cubs also have a pair of games against the White Sox in Las Vegas and wrap up their exhibition schedule in the new Yankee Stadium. "I got to pace myself," Piniella said. "Imagine the players."

Fehr on drug tests: Baseball union head Donald Fehr rejects the suggestion many players are under suspicion because 104 of them tested positive for drug use in 2003, including Alex Rodriguez.

The testing was confidential until Rodriguez's results were leaked to a reporter. Pitchers Curt Schilling and Brad Lidge are among those who have said all players who tested positive should be identified because otherwise everyone who played in 2003 is suspect.

"If that's the judgment, it seems to me that is entirely wrong," Fehr said Monday. "We know what happened in 2003. The number of positives we had was slightly over 5 percent. That means that slightly over 94 percent was negative."

Fehr said the union will try to ensure the list of players who tested positive remains confidential. Federal appeals court judges in California will determine the fate of the list, which was seized by federal agents in April 2004.

Anderson ordered to court: Barry Bonds' personal trainer was ordered Monday to appear before a federal judge in San Francisco and say whether he'll break his silence and testify at the slugger's perjury trial.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston summoned Greg Anderson for the unusual hearing, scheduled for Wednesday.

Around the horn: Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells has a left hamstring injury that could sideline him for most of spring training. ... Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley signed a multiyear extension to his contract to serve as a baseball analyst with TBS.