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Carlos Zambrano’s situation affects Randy Wells’ status

Shortstop StarlCastro smacks an RBI single eighth inning Saturday night. | Scott Cunningham~Getty Images

Shortstop Starlin Castro smacks an RBI single in the eighth inning Saturday night. | Scott Cunningham~Getty Images

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Updated: October 19, 2011 3:08AM

ATLANTA — Randy Wells peered into the empty locker next to his and looked back up in surprise.

‘‘Man, I didn’t even notice anything,’’ said the Cubs pitcher who had a locker next to Carlos Zambrano’s on this trip. ‘‘I was pitching today, and nobody told me anything.’’

Potential Emmy nominations aside, Wells’ continued efforts to regain form — and status in the Cubs’ starting rotation — gained significance with the events Zambrano set in motion Friday night.

Wells pitched five good-enough innings before stumbling in the sixth to earn his third win in five starts Saturday, beating the Atlanta Braves 8-4.

And with the Cubs potentially down to only Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster locked into next year’s rotation, how Wells does in his last eight starts could go a long way toward determining how much pitching the Cubs feel they need to add over the winter.

‘‘Wellsy was OK,’’ manager Mike Quade said. ‘‘It’s not vintage Wellsy, but he’s getting there. I thought his velocity was a little better.’’

Wells (4-4), who pitched at least six innings in his five previous starts, said he wasn’t comfortable discussing the Zambrano situation or its possible effect on him.

‘‘I haven’t heard the whole story, and I’m going to stay out of it,’’ he said.

Cubs apologize for Z

General manager Jim Hendry called Braves counterpart and friend Frank Wren on Saturday to apologize for Zambrano’s attempt to hit Chipper Jones with a pitch and for upstaging Friday’s Bobby Cox tribute with his ejection-worthy antics.

‘‘I felt that anything at all that detracted from Bobby Cox’s night besides the normal competition of the game was quite distasteful,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘It’s a class organization. It was uncalled for, the pitch to Chipper Jones and anything at all that tarnished the evening for such a great baseball man like Bobby Cox.’’

The Braves hit five home runs, including one by Jones, off Zambrano in 41/3 innings, but the players didn’t pimp their shots.

Big step for Cash

Righty Andrew Cashner, who has been sidelined since the first week of the season with a rotator-cuff strain, threw his first simulated game Saturday since a May setback.

‘‘It went great; I couldn’t be happier,’’ said Cashner, who threw 44 pitches between warming up and the one-inning equivalent. He’s scheduled to increase the pitch load in a similar session Tuesday in Houston.

Cashner hopes to return to the mound for the Cubs by the end of the season, and the Cubs project the converted reliever as a starter candidate next spring.


Unless the bullpen takes a major hit in the next day or two, Casey Coleman likely will be recalled from Class AAA Iowa to start Wednesday in Houston in Zambrano’s spot, which is also Coleman’s next scheduled start day. The Cubs could make a short-term move for the bench in the meantime, Quade said.

◆ Atlanta’s Dan Uggla extended the longest hitting streak in the majors this year to 33 games with a first-inning single off Wells.

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