Cubs

Win-win? Life after Zambrano starts with Volstad

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Win-win? Life after Zambrano starts with Volstad

MESA, Ariz. There is never going to be another Carlos Zambrano.

Hes freakishly athletic, a soccer player built like an NFL defensive end who could control the entire game, but not his emotions. He could make everyone laugh, or refuse to talk to anyone.

Here was a family man with strong religious beliefs, who has done noble work in Guatemala, adopting a boy and making contributions through his charitable foundation. Cubs employee No. 38 was also moody and immature, and had trouble connecting with teammates, an island in his own clubhouse.

So it really didnt matter who the Cubs got from the Miami Marlins in the Zambrano trade. It would still be easy to draw a very sharp contrast.

Chris Volstad wasnt quoting RoboCop or Rocky, instead dropping the standard line about how hes just trying to help the team win.

He was a big presence, Volstad said. For me personally, I dont really think about that. Im here doing my best, working hard and getting ready for the season.

There are reasons to believe that this deal was more than just spending some 15 million to get rid of Zambrano. In the 6-foot-8-inch Volstad, the Cubs are getting a rotation piece that will be under club control for the next three seasons.

Volstad, whos still only 25 years old, was the 16th overall pick in the 2005 draft, nine spots ahead of Matt Garza.

We just forget that the guy got to the big leagues really young, manager Dale Sveum said. He had to learn at the big-league level. With that kind of height (and) sinker, sometimes it just takes a little longer to get big-league hitters out.

As much as Zambrano needed a fresh start, there is the sense around the Cubs that Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., could also use a change of scenery.

More than 2,000 miles away from Fitch Park, Zambrano went through his first official workout in Marlins camp. People close to him agreed that he needed to get away from the Cubs, and fully expect him to be motivated to have a monster season.

In my mind and my heart I just wanted to help the club and do good for them, Zambrano told reporters on Wednesday in Florida. The fans deserve a championship in Chicago. Hopefully they can get it soon. They were outstanding for me, and I appreciate that. I have nothing but thanks for everybody in Chicago, but I have to move forward and help this team win a championship.

Showtime cameras are going to be following the Marlins for The Franchise. They now have a celebrity manager in Ozzie Guillen, who helped broker the Zambrano trade. They brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. They are about to move into a gleaming new stadium in Little Havana.

Volstad said he doesnt feel like hes missing out on anything in Miami because of the opportunity thats now in front of him. He wants to prove hes more than the pitcher with a 32-39 career record and a 4.59 ERA. He could be much more than the guy traded for Zambrano.

I definitely dont think Ive pitched to my ability, Volstad said. Ive shown flashes of it, games here and there, or maybe a little streak here and there. But I havent put a whole season together yet.

Ive had my ups and downs, but I think theyre all learning experiences, and if you (add) them all together, this could be the time.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 5th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 5th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is starting to heat up, drilling a homer on back-to-back days in late April. His fifth blast came on April 24, a 430-foot solo shot off Dodgers starter Ismael Valdez during the first inning in Los Angeles.

Sosa wound up only playing six innings in that game, however, as he was eventually replaced as a part of a double switch while the Cubs got thumped by the Dodgers. Kerry Wood struggled to get 5 outs, allowing 7 earned runs as L.A. scored 9 in the second inning alone en route to a 12-4 win.

Mike Piazza homered off Wood in that second inning while former Cubs Todd Hollandsworth and Eric Young combined for 3 RBI in the Dodgers lineup.

Fun fact: Jose Hernandez entered the game in place of Sosa and went 2-for-2 with a double, homer and 3 RBI in his only two trips to the plate.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Willson Contreras throws shade at Yu Darvish

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Willson Contreras throws shade at Yu Darvish

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Rich Campbell (Chicago Tribune) and Jay Cohen (Associated Press) join Kap on the panel. Willson Contreras says Yu Darvish lets up with two outs. Was the young catcher right to criticize the veteran pitcher? And what’s your level of concern with the big free agent hurler?

Plus Matt Forte and Devin Hester retire as members of the Bears. Is Devin Hester’s next stop in Canton? And will the franchise’s career passing leader get a day like this?