Zambrano masking best stuff vs. rival Reds

Zambrano masking best stuff vs. rival Reds

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs won't face the Reds again until May 6, but Carlos Zambrano didn't want to show his National League Central rivals too much too early.

Zambrano gave up six runs on seven hits, including two homers, over 4 2/3 innings Friday in the Cubs' 14-13 loss to the Reds.

"I don't want to show them how [I can] get them out in Spring Training," Zambrano said. "On the other hand, you have to give them credit because they're good. I'll face them a lot during the season, and we'll figure out how to get them out."

The Reds' lineup was loaded with regulars, such as Scott Rolen, who hit a three-run homer in the third, and Joey Votto, who belted a two-run shot in the fifth.

"A team like that, you can't make a mistake," Zambrano said.

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The right-hander has never experienced Spring Training anywhere but Arizona but said the dry air has made it difficult for him to get a good grip on his pitches.

"I was telling [Kerry Wood] that, for some reason, with the air here, you can't have a good grip," Zambrano said. "It makes it tougher for the pitchers. I like to throw other pitches besides my sinker. I like to throw my split finger and slider. Today I threw one good one, one bad.

"Thank God we play in Chicago and not Arizona," he said. "It's better air."

Cubs manager Mike Quade pulled Zambrano in the fifth inning, one batter after Votto's homer. The two appeared to have an animated exchange on the mound.

"I told him, 'What if I don't want to leave?'" Zambrano said. "He said, 'Then we're going to fight here.' He said, 'Get out of here.' It's about having fun, too. You come in and work hard, but at the same time have fun."

"For him to be in that frame of mind, even in a Spring Training game, is a good thing," Quade said of the joking between the two. "I thought he threw the ball really well, and there are days in Arizona when you throw well and you still give up four, five, six runs."

Quade has made it easy to laugh this spring.

"He's a great guy," Zambrano said. "He's always in a good mood. He's a straight guy. Whatever he thinks, he comes to you or calls you in his office. ... He always has respect for us. That's why we get along good with him."

Zambrano could've argued with Quade over the lineup. The Cubs used a designated hitter to give Blake DeWitt a chance to hit and also as a precautionary measure because Zambrano has a sore left wrist. He apparently was jammed in batting practice swinging from the right side.

The Big Z Foundation will be hosting a home run derby on Monday in Gilbert, Ariz. Zambrano says he won't be taking any swings. But if he does compete, he'll hit left-handed.

"I don't know if I'll compete," he said.

Carlos Silva took over in the sixth and had a tough-luck outing as the Cubs made two errors behind him. He gave up eight runs -- five earned -- on 11 hits over three innings. His ERA ballooned to 15.88.

"I think, right now, we look at [Silva] as a starter, and that's the only way we look at him," Quade said. "I don't think that's worth addressing now. This guy is trying to be in our rotation, and I think we should look at it that way specifically. The kids are a different story."

Casey Coleman will pitch in the Minor League camp Saturday to get innings. The Cubs also have yet to pencil Todd Wellemeyer into the mix because he's been bothered by a sore hip. One name that can be dropped from the list of candidates for the final two spots in the rotation is lefty James Russell. He pitched one-third of an inning in relief on Friday.

"[Russell's] best chance right now as this thing has played out is out of the bullpen at the moment," Quade said.

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.