Big Z makes first start in Winter League

Big Z makes first start in Winter League

CHICAGO -- Carlos Zambrano felt like a rookie again pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Zambrano made his first start on Sunday for Carbies, giving up two runs on four hits -- including a solo homer to former Cubs teammate Bryan LaHair -- over 2 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss to Magallanes.

Zambrano, who did not get a decision, also walked two, struck out three, made a throwing error and hit a batter. LaHair led off Magallanes' third inning with his seventh long ball in Venezuela.

Zambrano reportedly told the Venezuelan media after the outing that he felt like a rookie again because he had not thrown much. The right-hander received a huge ovation from the crowd when he took the mound.

The Cubs did have someone watching Zambrano's outing, his first since Aug. 12 with the team in Atlanta. He was expected to make nine starts for Caribes between now and Dec. 20.

Last week, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he approved of Zambrano pitching in Venezuela, saying it "could be good for his state of mind to get out there and perform."

Epstein has talked to Zambrano's agent, Barry Praver, and said he hoped to talk to Zambrano, possibly as soon as this week.

Former big leaguer Julio Franco is Caribes manager and reportedly said he may use Zambrano as a pinch-hitter.

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.