"What do they want from me?"

Is anyone else as confused as I am?  What is the Cubs’ overall plan for Carlos Zambrano?  Is he a starter?  Is he a reliever?  Is he trade bait?  Will he be serving PV and me beers in the bleachers next week?

The answer to those question got even murkier yesterday when manager, Lou Piniella announced the grand Big Z Reliever Experiment is over… for now:

We’re going to stretch him out to get him back in the rotation. We’ll see exactly when he’s ready. I don’t know how long it’s going to be. Let’s see how long he needs. We’d like to get him two or three appearances out of the bullpen stretched out.”

While Z hasn’t necessarily been spectacular in relief, I fully supported the original move (see “Big Z to the Pen?!“) as it seemed like they had a revolutionary plan—improve the bullpen, make room for Lilly in the rotation and make overpaid players accountable for their performance on the field.  But this reversal really makes me wonder if there’s any real long-term planning going on at Clark and Addison.

The move pretty much puts everything back to square one now.  We’re still asking the same questions we did a few weeks ago: Who will be their 8th inning stopper?  What will the starting rotation be?  Are Hendry, Piniella & Co. panicking?

When pressed on the rotation issue, Lou didn’t have any answers:

We’ll look at that situation and make a determination. Let’s hope it’s a real, real tough choice.”

Doesn’t sound like much of a plan to me.

The move also makes you wonder if there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Could they have been hiding an injury? Their track record for transparency about injuries is about the same as BP’s about the risks of unconventional oil extraction.

Whatever the “plan” was originally, it seems all the Cubs have done is befuddle their fan base and alienate their most expensive pitcher.  Nice work.