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Suspended Zambrano no longer has rotation spot

CHICAGO (AP) — Carlos Zambrano no longer has a spot in the Chicago Cubs' rotation after a wild outburst in the dugout that led to an indefinite suspension from the team.

How long he'll be gone remains to be seen.

Assistant general manager Randy Bush says he's not sure how long the suspension will be, that the Cubs sent a letter to the league on Friday and were awaiting feedback on how to proceed.

Manager Lou Piniella says he expects the volatile pitcher to return at some point after blow-up with Derrek Lee on Friday that put his future with the team in doubt. Piniella, speaking before Saturday's game, says Zambrano will pitch out of the bullpen when he returns, and the move is "not short-term, that's for sure."

Tom Gorzelanny will take his spot in the rotation. Adding to the Cubs' anger is the fact that Zambrano went to dinner with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen after the game rather than stay at home.

"I would have hoped that he would have stayed private and reflected on this," Piniella said.

And Bush said he was "disappointed in that," and he "would have thought with the events of yesterday, Carlos would have went home, spent some time reflecting on what happened."

Guillen said he told his friend and fellow Venezuelan to "face it like a man" and added: "He didn't kill anybody. He made a mistake. He has two or three but we can't resent this kid for that. That's the way he is."

The latest outburst came after he allowed four runs in the first inning of a 6-0 loss.

Zambrano was seen screaming as he walked down the dugout steps past Lee after allowing four runs and stormed toward the other end. Lee appeared to yell something, and as Zambrano headed back toward him, Piniella, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bench coach Alan Trammell stepped between them.

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto then grabbed the pitcher from behind and pulled him away. Zambrano appeared to say something to the manager on his way to the clubhouse after being lifted for Tom Gorzelanny and sent home.

Piniella initially thought Zambrano was simply venting after a rough inning and would have kept him in the game if that were the case. It quickly became apparent that wasn't the case.

Zambrano was upset because some teammates didn't try to make diving stops on some balls that were hit hard.

That includes a leadoff double by Juan Pierre down the right field line past Lee and another with one out by Alex Rios down the left field line past third baseman Aramis Ramirez to drive in the first run.

After Paul Konerko singled, Carlos Quentin hit a three-run homer to left-center to make it 4-0.

Zambrano then struck out Mark Kotsay and retired A.J. Pierzynski on a grounder to first, taking the throw from Lee to end the inning. But the real action was just starting, and for the Cubs, it was an all-too-familiar scene.

Last season he was suspended for six games by Major League Baseball after an outburst during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And in 2007, he got into a fight with former teammate Michael Barrett in the dugout that resumed in the clubhouse, resulting in fines for both players.

Now, this.

Zambrano's tirade wiped out much — if not all — of the goodwill he earned by not causing a public stir when the club sent him to the bullpen for five weeks following a rough start to the season. He's in the middle of a $91.5 million, five-year contract extension that includes a full no-trade clause.

When asked about possibly trading him, Bush said, "We haven't heard any kind of talk." For now, the Cubs are going with 24 players.

It doesn't help that Zambrano is just 3-6 with a 5.66 ERA and hasn't pitched to the form that led to the big contract, but the Cubs insisted there's no connection between his performance and his punishment. Piniella also said Zambrano owes the team an apology.

"Is it a relationship that can be repaired with the team? I definitely believe so," Ted Lilly said.

Alfonso Soriano said he planned to call Zambrano to "see how he's doing." A year ago, Soriano had strong words for Milton Bradley after he got sent home by Piniella following an outburst in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, but he called this "a totally different situation."

"When Milton did it, he'd been doing it the whole year — getting upset for nothing," Soriano said.

The Cubs have been struggling all year, and Piniella decided to hold a meeting before the game to address the Zambrano situation and let players express their gripes with the manager.

"The whole thing here basically is stick together," Piniella said. "Play hard, be aggressive."

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