Let's get it started: Zambrano ready

Let's get it started: Zambrano ready

MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Zambrano is ready to start the regular season now, not in two more weeks.

The Cubs' Opening Day starter held the Angels to one hit over six innings Sunday, walking two and striking out six in a 4-1 win. The Cubs will take that strikeout-to-walk ratio any day.

"I'm way ahead compared to where I was last year," Zambrano said. "I'm looking forward to doing my job this year."

An 18-game winner in 2007, Zambrano doesn't have to think about his contract status or whether he can live up to bold boasts this season. He's focused on doing his job.

"He's calmer," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Big Z. "I think it's the fact that he got his contract situation out of the way, and the fact that he won 18 ballgames, and knowing he had some rough spots last summer. I think he's very confident that he's going to have good success here. It's a quiet confidence that you want to see. He's been ready to pitch every time and ready to compete every time."

On Sunday, Zambrano threw 74 pitches, and didn't give up a hit until Sean Rodriguez tripled into the gap in right-center with one out in the sixth. What was most encouraging was that after Zambrano issued a walk, he got the next batter to ground into a double play.

"I can be mad at the moment and [ticked] off [about the walks]," Zambrano said, "but I pick it up right away and throw a nice sinker and get a ground ball, double play."

Does he still have things to work on?

"No," Zambrano said. "I'm ready to go."

The right-hander's next outing will be at Fitch Park on Friday to avoid a second trip to Tucson. He'll throw six, seven innings, or about 80 pitches. Then it'll be one more tuneup before the season opener March 31 against the Milwaukee Brewers. How many pitches can he throw then?

"One hundred and twenty," he said, joking.

Zambrano was asked if he wanted to keep going Sunday if he still had a no-hitter.

"No chance," he said. "This is Spring Training. You have to save the bullets for the season."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.