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Cubs’ rotation has held up its end

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija

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The facts: 1:20 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.

The pitchers: Alexi Ogando (2-0, 1.08 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75 ERA).

Updated: April 17, 2013 11:23PM

When Carlos Zambrano was spotted driving into the players lot at Wrigley Field on Wednesday ­afternoon, it didn’t take long for the rumors to start buzzing around the ballpark.

“Rumors are rumors,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum deadpanned.

If Zambrano was looking for a job, he would have discovered fast that the Cubs surprisingly don’t have any openings for a starting pitcher — even if his old fastball was back and his old attitude wasn’t.

Maybe that’s why he left so quickly after stopping in to see a few old friends.

The help-wanted sign is out just about everywhere else on the team — with infielder Cody Ransom and relievers Kameron Loe and Kevin Gregg hired this week alone — and with the team already sunk into last place in the National League Central.

“I don’t know what the earned-run average is, but it’s pretty stellar up to this point,’’ Sveum said of his starting pitching. “There’s been some great outings, and we have nothing to show for them. It’s frustrating for them.”

In fact, the Cubs have the ­seventh-ranked starting staff in the majors (fourth in the National League) with a 3.20 ERA and .216 batting average against. Travis Wood is tied for the major-league lead with three quality starts, and Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Villanueva have two each.

This despite the facts that Matt Garza hasn’t thrown a pitch and that $52 million free agent Edwin Jackson has yet to come close to putting together a strong, lengthy start.

The problem for the Cubs has been literally everything else — a lineup that ranks near the bottom of the majors in scoring (3.4 runs per game) and fielding (11 errors), and the worst bullpen in the majors (6.06 with more blown saves than saves).

The team has had “some sloppy play that we need to eradicate sooner rather than later,” team president Theo Epstein said. “The bullpen is off to a slow start, which makes for some tough losses. … We’re not that talented that we can get away with playing sloppy baseball at all. We need to fix that.”

Meanwhile, if the brass wasn’t so focused on the No. 2 pick in the June draft, they might be drafting lists of possible trade candidates by now, the way everybody but the rotation have looked so far.

Starters have been in line for wins five times when leaving games, but haven’t been credited with a victory since the opening series in Pittsburgh.

“Those guys are doing their job, and unfortunately, we’re not putting it together for them,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “There’s a lot of games left. It’s definitely pleasing to see those guys pitch well, and go deep into the game and give us an opportunity.”

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