Gatorade, H20 may cure Zambrano's cramping woes

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
 
 
Published4/3/2008 12:05 AM

Carlos Zambrano going bananas?

The Cubs' ace right-hander has often been accused of that, but now, it'll take on more of a literal meaning.

 

Zambrano came out of Monday's opening-day start after 6¿ innings because of cramping in his right hand and forearm. The Cubs have discovered the problem is related to low potassium levels in Zambrano's body and dehydration.

It would be simple to say Zambrano will be eating more potassium-rich foods, such as bananas. He'll do that, but he'll also take in more fluids such as Gatorade and water and less caffeine, especially in the form of coffee and "energy" drinks such as Red Bull, which he likes.

"Drink more water," Zambrano said moments after twisting the top off a bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade in the clubhouse Wednesday.

The Cubs took blood and urine samples from Zambrano on Monday, and the pitcher spent much of Tuesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital getting checked out by the Cubs doctor and a kidney specialist.

The club would like to have Zambrano monitor his own intake of good and bad fluids in addition to the support they give him while he's at the park. He was taking in 12 to 16 ounces of water and Gatorade between innings Monday, and he was frequently changing his undershirts.

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Zambrano has been bothered by cramps the last several years, including in 3 of his 4 opening-day starts. The only opening-day start that didn't affect him this way came in 2005, when the Cubs opened in Arizona.

Interestingly, Zambrano has not had problems during spring training, which the Cubs hold in Mesa, Ariz.

The team also is working with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, which will go as far as analyzing Zambrano's sweat to help determine his nutritional needs.

"He's fine," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "I asked specifically about that this morning. His potassium level was a little low. I think that was the problem. It's something that shouldn't recur."

Dempster ready: Ryan Dempster, the Cubs' closer since early into the 2005 season, will start today for the first time since May 4, 2005, in Milwaukee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I'm sure I'll have tons of adrenaline," he said. "My first start in a long time. I'm excited for it. I've just got to control those emotions and go out there and settle myself down and make pitches."

Dempster's old role now is filled by Kerry Wood, who had a rough go Monday, giving up 3 runs in the ninth inning. Although Dempster said he'd give Wood any advice he asked for, he predicted Wood will be fine.

Dempster also said he has heard the boos Wood heard Monday.

"Here is one of the few places that I notice it," he said. "You don't see it in a lot of other places. I don't know the reason because I'm not a guy that boos. I'm sure everybody has a good reason for it if they feel it's necessary. Hopefully, there are not a lot of those this year."

The Cubs heard booing frequently in Wednesday's sloppily played 8-2 loss to the Brewers.

New duties: Longtime clubhouse man Yosh Kawano, who has been with the Cubs since 1943, will be leaving the clubhouse for new and unspecified duties. In recent years, Kawano has worked the visitors clubhouse after years in the home locker room. According to people with the team, Kawano is being moved for health reasons.

In a news release, the Cubs announced they would honor Kawano with a first-pitch and pregame ceremony sometime later this season.

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