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08/20/09 10:10 PM ET

Zambrano delivers strong rehab start

Cubs right-hander appears ready for Tuesday return

Carlos Zambrano struck out five over five scoreless innings in a rehab start on Thursday for Class A Peoria, and the right-hander appears on track to return to the Cubs rotation on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

Zambrano, pitching for the first time since Aug. 1, gave up four hits and did not walk a batter in front of a standing-room-only crowd. He threw 76 pitches, 45 for strikes in the Chiefs' game against Clinton in Peoria, Ill..

Zambrano, on the disabled list because of back spasms, retired the first five batters he faced, then gave up a single to Jacob Shaffer in the second. In the fourth, he needed just nine pitches to retire the side, all on fly-ball outs.

He got in a little trouble in the fifth. The first two Clinton batters grounded out, but Daniel Carroll then singled, stole second and advanced on a wild pitch. Zambrano struck out the next batter to end the inning and his outing.

If Zambrano comes out of this outing without any problems, he will start on Tuesday when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

He also tuned up for his return to the plate by hitting six home runs during batting practice in Peoria.

Michael Brenly, son of Cubs television broadcaster Bob Brenly, caught Zambrano in the game. The youngster has had quite the summer, catching Angel Guzman and Ted Lilly in their rehab starts as well.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.