Cubs’ Zambrano likely to start next week

Carlos Zambrano will likely be back in the Chicago Cubs' rotation next week after throwing 75 pitches in a simulated game on Monday.

Manager Lou Piniella says Zambrano will be available for short relief beginning on Thursday and probably start during the three-game series at Pittsburgh early next week, ending an uncomfortable stint in the bullpen.

Piniella says Zambrano “threw the ball very easy'' on Monday and is “ready to go.''

The $91.5 million right-hander opened the season by going 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts and was moved to the bullpen on April 22.

Meanwhile struggling Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez was out of the lineup for the third time in four games because of a sore left thumb. He is hitting .160.