Cubs

No hard feelings for Carlos Zambrano

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No hard feelings for Carlos Zambrano

MIAMI Carlos Zambrano smiled and shook hands with Chicago reporters. He flexed his muscles for a photo by the batting cage. He joked that theres nothing to write about now that hes gone. He talked in the third person.

The Cubs signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela, and he spent almost half his life in the organization. But they could never figure out which Zambrano they were going to get each night.

The Cubs never quite understood how someone so charming and funny, so devoted to his faith and family, could become so angry and violent. Its not their problem anymore.

When Zambrano cleared out his locker and talked about retirement in a moment of frustration last August, former general manager Jim Hendry called his bluff.

Zambrano said hes OK with Hendry, who negotiated the 91.5 million contract that changed everything. Zambrano wrote off the trade Theo Epstein engineered with the Marlins as just business.

No hard feelings, Zambrano said Tuesday. I know that I made a lot of mistakes in Chicago, but I know that I left and I gave a lot of good memories to the Cubs. I accept it. I accept my mistakes. Im responsible. I dont make excuses.

Im responsible for the things that happened in Chicago. Nobody else. It wasnt Jim Hendry. It wasnt the team. It was me, Carlos Zambrano.

When Epstein took over as president at Clark and Addison, he took a lunch meeting with Zambrano at a Wrigleyville brewpub last November. Zambrano, who was playing winter ball in Venezuela, flew to Chicago with the hopes of getting another chance.

Teammates didnt think Zambrano was a bad guy, but any real culture change meant Big Z couldnt walk back into that clubhouse.

By January, the Cubs had the deal that seemed inevitable from the moment Ozzie Guillen took his talents to South Beach. Zambrano waived his no-trade clause and voided a potential option for 2013 to play for his friend from Venezuela.

The Cubs transferred more than 15 million to the Marlins and got back pitcher Chris Volstad, a former first-round pick with change-of-scenery upside.

I talked to my family, my wife, my brothers, even my daughter, Zambrano said. She said, Daddy, whatever you decide, Im with you. That showed me.

It was a family decision. My family thought that it was better for me to move to Chicago.

Until Tuesday, Zambrano said he hadnt really spoken with any of his former teammates. He had no problem with the way Epstein handled the situation.

Believe me, he knows what hes doing, Zambrano said. I heard criticisms, people saying this and that about him, about the team. That teams good. (They) have good pitching.

He made some moves that he thought was good for the team.He came from Boston and did a good job over there and now he wants to do the same thing in Chicago. I think he can do it. Hes a smart guy. He thinks ahead.

Zambrano felt it was too soon to face the Cubs, so he wasnt disappointed his turn in the rotation didnt come up during this three-game series at Marlins Park.

Looking ahead, Zambrano wants the ball when the Marlins visit Wrigley Field just after the All-Star break (July 17-19). He loves Chicago and says he left his heart there. He isnt sure how the fans will react.

Whatever, Zambrano said. I know them I guarantee you one thing for sure if the Cubs are playing good by that time, and theyre in first place, I think I will be (received well). If theyre doing bad, I think I will be booed. But I dont care. Im a Marlin now.

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Joe Maddon has no easy decisions.

With the way his tattered bullpen has pitched this postseason, there's a very real possibility that any guy he calls on to pitch is the "wrong" guy or the right guy in the "wrong" spot.

For everybody wanting Maddon to ride Wade Davis as a workhorse this fall — something the Cubs skipper has already done just to get to this NLCS — remember how much flak he took for overusing Aroldis Chapman a year ago at this time.

Davis also hasn't been superhuman this postseason, allowing a pair of runs (including a homer) and seven baserunners in 4.1 playoff innings, good for a 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

So when Maddon sat in the dugout late Sunday evening watching helplessly as John Lackey served up a walk-off homer to Tormund Giantsbane Justin Turner, the "Madd Scientist" immediately found himself in the crosshairs of Cubs fans and the media.

The first question he fielded in his postgame press conference was about not using Davis and there were several follow-ups. That and the offensive futility is about all anybody wanted to talk about after the Cubs fell down 0-2 in the NLCS.

Maddon explained Davis was available only in a save situation due to workload issues — the Cubs closer was in uncharted territory Thursday night/Friday morning, throwing the most pitches (44) and innings (2.1) he's thrown since Aug. 24, 2013 when he was still working as a starter. That's a span of 1,511 days.

"Wade knew that going into the game, it was going to be with the say," Maddon said. "We caught the lead, he's in the game. So whatever the narrative was, it's really a false narrative. He was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That's it."

How does Maddon respond to his second-guessers?

"Doesn't matter," Maddon said. "First of all, social media, the moment I start worrying about that, I really need to retire. Second of all, that was all predetermined [Sunday] night again."

Davis also has a recent history of arm troubles (he was on the disabled list twice in 2016 for a forearm issue) and also saw his workload jump in September just to help the Cubs get to the postseason. In the final month of the regular season, Davis threw 237 pitches, 42 more than he threw in any other month of 2017. The last time he topped 200 pitches in any month was May 2015.

TV cameras showed Davis throwing in the Cubs bullpen alongside Lackey at one point in the ninth inning, leading to surprise by a huge faction of the (*looks around and whispers*) social media fanbase when the game broadcast resumed after commercials and the pitching change was to bring Lackey — not Davis — into the game.

"Wade was not warming up to come in that game," Maddon said. "Wade was probably just testing his arm at that point. We had talked about it before the game — up and in. 

"For those that aren't involved in Major League Baseball and professional baseball in general, when a guy's throwing too much, it's very important to not dry hump him, as the saying goes. Get him up and put him back down and bring him back in later. So I wasn't going to do that."

(Wow, really was not expecting to hear or write the phrase "dry hump" regarding this story.)

Maddon insists health is not the problem with Davis.

"Yes [he's healthy]. Oh yeah," Maddon said. "Listen, this guy just did yeoman kind of work — I love that word — in Washington and was not prepared to go more than three outs. I don't understand why that's difficult to understand.

"And furthermore, you have to also understand it wasn't the last game of the year or the second to last game. It was about winning eight more games. All these things are factors."

Maddon has a point. This isn't a Buck Showalter case where the Baltimore Orioles manager failed to use his best reliever — Zach Britton — in a non-save situation in a winner-take-all American League wild card game because he wanted the closer to be ready for a save.

The Cubs went down in a game that was tied 1-1 with their best reliever failing to get in the game even though he hadn't pitched in the last two days. 

But Davis can't cover every inning in relief, especially when the Cubs' two starters (Jose Quintana and Jon Lester) lasted just 9.2 innings against the Dodgers, leaving the Cubs bullpen to account for the other 8+ innings somehow.

The rest of the Cubs bullpen has to step up, too, which they did before the ninth inning of Game 2.

Still, Maddon couldn't resist getting one more defensive shot in before putting the matter to bed:

"I really hope you all understand that social media doesn't count at all," he said. "Twitter doesn't count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly."

Well then.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: