If Cubs willing, Zambrano ready to start

DENVER -- After his first game action in more than a month, Carlos Zambrano said he will do what is asked of him but claims he is ready to return to the Chicago Cubs' starting rotation.

"I'll be ready to pitch in any role they want me to pitch [in]," Zambrano said after the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. "That's the question [Cubs manager] Lou [Piniella] has to answer [whether Zambrano starts]. I'm ready, I'm ready to pitch Tuesday, Thursday, anytime they want me to pitch. And I'm ready to go back into the starting rotation if they want me to go back.

"I'm excited about the opportunity. Like I said, I need to build myself to be a successful pitcher again. And I think this is the opportunity for me."

There is a spot in the rotation after Ted Lilly was traded with second baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier on Saturday. For now rookie Thomas Diamond will be recalled to take Lilly's spot and will start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.

Zambrano, who spent just over a month on the restricted list in the aftermath of a dugout altercation with teammate Derrek Lee, was activated Friday after a stint with Triple-A Iowa.

He got off to a rough start Saturday when he relieved starter Tom Gorzelanny with one out and a runner on first and the Cubs trailing 5-2 in the seventh inning. Zambrano walked Troy Tulowitzki and then gave up a single to Melvin Mora to load the bases. But Zambrano struck out pinch hitter Seth Smith on a 95 mph fastball and retired Brad Hawpe, who hit a popup to end the inning.

"It was just another game for me," Zambrano said. "That's the way I think every time I go to the mound. You know I just wanted to get the hitters out and do my job."

Bruce Levine covers baseball for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000