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Cubs' Zambrano hurt

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The Cubs' Carlos Zambrano left yesterday's game with elbow pain, becoming the latest casualty in the thresher that is Dusty Baker's starting rotation.

Kerry Wood, of course, is on the d.l. for at least another few weeks, and there are whispers that he's done for the year. Mark Prior has been activated from the d.l., but has been struggling with arm issues since last season.

And now Zambrano, at 23 the youngest of the Cubs trio of aces, is hurting.

Dusty Baker rode Zambrano hard last season, with Zambrano being scored as one of the most abused pitchers in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus's PAP scores. Compounding the problem is Zambrano's age...pitchers in their early 20s are much more vulnerable to overuse than older pitchers are, making Baker's treatment of Zambrano -- who was only 22 at the start of last season -- all the more egregious.

Zambrano threw at least 120 pitches in an outing 10 times last season, and was second to Livan Hernandez in average pitches per outing.

In his previous start, Dusty left Zambrano in for 136 pitches -- well into the danger zone for any pitcher, much less a 23 year old who has been pushed as hard as Zambrano has. And of course, Dusty and the Cubs training staff now seem surprised that Zambrano is hurting.

The Cubs have been blessed with three terrific young arms -- Prior and Zambrano have a chance to be among the best pitchers of their generation, and Kerry Wood has electric stuff. But Dusty Baker seems dead-set on running these guys into the ground, and as a baseball fan, I'm hoping against hope that the Cubs axe Baker before he has a chance to destroy the futures of Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano.