Cubs manager Lou Piniella moved former staff ace Carlos Zambrano(notes) into a relief role to steady a beleaguered bullpen that has a 5.85 ERA with four blown saves in seven opportunities. Piniella also hoped to spark the mercurial Zambrano, whose 7.45 ERA through four starts was the worst in the rotation.
Zambrano is expected to be available for relief duty in this game.
Lilly, who has gone 44-26 in three seasons with the Cubs (7-10), started 2010 on the disabled list following arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in November. Now the No. 2 starter, he threw 88 pitches in a rehab assignment with Class A Peoria on Monday, striking out nine while allowing one run in seven innings.
“The real test, I think, is going to come Saturday,” Lilly told the team’s official website after his outing Monday. “Obviously, we’ll get some questions answered. I feel good. I don’t have any reservations as to whether I should be going out there. I’m confident to go out there and I’m healthy and ready to contribute.”
He won his only start against the Brewers last year, improving to 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts since joining the Cubs in 2007. Lilly, though, has struggled against sluggers Prince Fielder(notes) and Ryan Braun. The duo is a combined 15 for 34 with three homers and three doubles against him.
Fielder and Braun contributed little in Friday’s 8-1 defeat to the Cubs, totaling one hit in six at-bats - Fielder’s first-inning double that barely missed being a game-tying homer - as Milwaukee’s four-game winning streak ended. The lack of offense was in stark reversal to the winning streak, when the Brewers (8-8) totaled 47 runs and 57 hits.
Doug Davis(notes) (0-1, 11.25) is hoping some extra time in the bullpen between starts will help end his season-long struggles for Milwaukee. The lefty has failed to last five innings in any of his three outings.
Sunday’s start against Washington was particularly frustrating. Staked to a 10-0 lead before taking the mound, Davis failed to get the victory, lasting 4 2-3 innings and allowing five runs and 11 hits.
“Right now, I have more control of my cut fastball than I do my fastball,” Davis explained to the team’s official website Wednesday. “I’m working one-dimensionally with my cutter and curveball - everything is going from left to right. If I were spotting my fastball, everything would work so much better.”
Little worked for Davis on April 12 at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, who ripped him for six runs and seven hits - two of them homers - in 3 1-3 innings of a 9-5 defeat. He is 9-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 17 lifetime starts versus Chicago.