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Guzman on track to pitch simulated game

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

MESA, Ariz. — Nearly a year after major shoulder surgery, right-hander Angel Guzman is throwing from a mound again.

Guzman was stretching to the full 60 feet, 6 inches Monday for the first time since the operation that was considered career threatening.

He’s still considered a long shot to return to top form.

But the Cubs’ best reliever in 2009 is on track to pitch a simulated game by mid-March and said the shoulder has ‘‘been feeling great, the last two weeks the best.’’

He’s careful not to get too optimistic as he progresses, he said.

‘‘I don’t want to get myself into a situation where I get [excited about] how I feel,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just going to go out and throw the ball, and if it hurts, it hurts. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.’’

‘Z’ wants opener

Make no mistake: Carlos Zambrano wants to run his streak of Opening Day starts to seven this year, but he also says he’ll understand if manager Mike Quade opts to go with Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster instead — as Quade says he might.

‘‘I finished strong, but there’s two more qualified pitchers who can do it, and I’m OK with that if it happens,’’ Zambrano said. ‘‘Of course, I want to be the opening guy for the Cubs, but there’s nothing I can do about it if he decides on Dempster or Garza. .  .  . It’s about feeling good and helping each other.’’

The left stuff

The only left-hander among the Cubs’ long list of candidates for the fourth and fifth rotation spots is second-year pitcher James Russell, who spent his entire rookie season in the bullpen. Why?

‘‘It’s twofold,’’ Quade said. ‘‘We don’t have a left-handed starter. You can win this thing without one, but let’s see [if he can do it].’’

The other reason: The staff consensus is that Russell, whose dad, Jeff, was an All-Star pitcher, was the one lefty kid who could be stretched out for a chance to start and still go right back into the bullpen if necessary without it affecting him negatively.


Carlos Silva was sent home Monday morning with a 103-degree fever.

◆ The Cubs debuted the “10’’ sleeve patches they’ll wear this season, honoring legendary player and broadcaster Ron Santo, who died in December. ‘‘We’ll miss him,’’ Quade said. ‘‘Let’s win one for him. And I’m not talking about Opening Day.’’

◆ Who’s on first? Outfielder Tyler Colvin finally learned it will occasionally be him for at least a few games this season. Quade caught up with Colvin on Monday to let him know he and Jeff Baker are getting looks as backups for $10 million starter Carlos Pena — news Quade told the media a day earlier. “I’m sure it’s not going to be a big role,’’ Colvin said, smiling.

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