DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Carlos Zambrano pitched a shaky scoreless inning in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Iowa since being put on the restricted list by the Cubs after his latest confrontation with a teammate.
Zambrano received a warm welcome from the standing room-only crowd when he came out for the seventh inning. The volatile right-hander allowed a pair of hard singles to visiting Oklahoma City before getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia to ground out.
Zambrano was suspended without pay for three days and later put on the restricted list following a heated dugout argument with Derrek Lee on June 25.
He'll likely make at least one more appearance in relief for Iowa before the Cubs evaluate if he's ready to return to Chicago.
Zambrano threw 15 pitches and topped out at 91 mph Thursday night, but he needed a little help to get out of the seventh inning unscathed. Hernan Iribannen hit a long fly ball to center with one out, only to have Sam Fuld make a leaping catch at the wall.
Zambrano reported to Arizona last week after completing anger management sessions, tossing a scoreless inning for the Cubs rookie league team in Mesa, Ariz., on Monday.
Zambrano reported to Des Moines on Tuesday and was supposed to speak with reporters Wednesday for the first time since his dugout dustup at U.S. Cellular Field. He left Iowa after a morning workout, though, and wasn't in uniform until Thursday.
An Iowa Cubs spokeswoman said Zambrano planned to address his Chicago teammates before speaking with the media.
This was Zambrano's first stint back in Iowa since making three starts in 2002. Zambrano first arrived in Des Moines as a 19-year-old reliever in 2000, and the following year he went 10-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 150 2-3 innings.
The I-Cubs still hang a banner featuring Zambrano outside their gift shop, partly because of his accomplishments in the majors and partly because they thought they'd never see him again — unless he was coming back from an injury.
Zambrano's return certainly didn't hurt ticket sales. There were lines around the block at the ticket office nearly two hours before the game — though in all fairness, it was also Bobblehead Night for Indianola, Iowa, native and Dodgers infielder Casey Blake — and Zambrano obliged a long line of autograph seekers beforehand.
Zambrano's brief appearance to Des Moines capped an unusually hectic homestand for the I-Cubs.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Tuesday that current Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg would be considered for manager's job in Chicago, which will be open once Lou Piniella retires after the season. Sandberg, a Cubs great, has made no secret of his desire to succeed Piniella.
Sandberg wasn't on hand Thursday to watch Zambrano pitch, though. The Hall of Fame second baseman left for Cooperstown earlier in the day to be on hand for former teammate Andre Dawson's induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, although he did speak with Zambrano before he left.
"I just talked to him about how we had a good thing going here, we've got some good players here, we're having a good season. A very positive year, and I want him to join in on that, be part of the team," Sandberg said Wednesday. "Get his work in, get his innings in, and hopefully get back him to the big leagues where he belongs."