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Monday, March 1, 2010
Zambrano, Dempster, Wells to open season

By Bruce Levine

Carlos Zambrano
All indications are Carlos Zambrano will start the Cubs' season opener.
Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella mapped out his early spring training starting rotation on Monday. Randy Wells will pitch Thursday, Carlos Zambrano on Friday, Carlos Silva on Saturday, Tom Gorzellany will start one game on Sunday and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the other game. Ryan Dempster will pitch on Monday.

This much is known, Zambrano, Dempster and Wells will be Piniella’s 1-2-3 starters to begin the season while Ted Lilly continues to recover from shoulder surgery.

Piniella has some concerns about his bullpen, and he mentioned that 2008 No.1 pick Andrew Cashner could possibly win a spot in the bullpen.

“How about if Kashner is lights out, and we put him in the bullpen?” Piniella said. Cashner was used as a starting pitcher all of last season. The organization has been split on whether his future is as a starter or reliever.

Angel Guzman, recovering from knee surgery and an achy shoulder, threw 30 pitches on flat ground Monday. Piniella said Guzman won’t be throwing off a mound for at last one week.

Another pitcher, right-hander Jeff Gray, who’s coming back from a groin strain, told me he’ll have clearance to throw off a mound in the next few days.

Piniella said Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will play in the Cubs’ Cactus League opener on Thursday. Alfonso Soriano will be held back until the weekend.

The Cubs manager said several American League teams have called him, asking to use the DH in games played at Ho Ho Kam park. One such request came from the White Sox.

“The White Sox asked, and I told them only because of Ozzie,” Piniella said. “Very diplomatic. We’re going to use the DH when we play the White Sox, and then probably again Las Vegas.”

The Cubs play the White Sox in Ho Ho Kam Park on March 6, then at Camelback Ranch on March 7, and then in Vegas on the 12th and 13th. The teams play for a fifth and final time this spring on March 19 in Glendale.

Shortstop Starlin Castro will get the start on Thursday in the opener, according to Piniella. The Cubs manager said the 19-year-old Dominican will get a lot of work this spring, but he’ll probably start the season at Triple-A Iowa.

“He handles himself very professionally for a young kid,” Piniella said. “The more experience we can get him out there, the better.”

Piniella was asked what he likes about Castro so far.

“He’s calm, he’s not awed by being here,” Piniella said. “He’s relaxed and not starry eyed. If you didn’t know he was 19 year old, you couldn’t guess he was 19.”