DALLAS Ozzie Guillen said he has a bet with a friend he wouldnt say who or for how much that Carlos Zambrano will win more than 14 games for the Cubs in 2012.

Guillen and Zambrano regularly send each other text messages and have plans to meet up soon. Theyve shot commercials together. Theres the sense that these two friends from Venezuela could be reunited as Miami Marlins.

He wants to be in Chicago, Guillen said Wednesday while walking through the lobby of the Hilton Anatole. Now if they trade him, well, Id take it.

People close to Zambrano have suggested that he could really use a fresh start in a new city. In theory, he would be motivated to prove all the doubters wrong. He will turn 31 next season and could be had at a discount.

The Marlins manager predicted that Zambrano will bounce back for the Cubs in 2012 and floated the idea that theyre going to handle him a little bit better with Theo Epstein in charge.

This kids got a lot left, Guillen said. (If) he wins some games the fans are going to forget (about it). Thats the way it is in Chicago. He plays good, hell be fine. People love him in Chicago. You watch. People are just mad at him because of what he did. But you win a couple games and you put the fans back in your pocket.

Epstein knows all about Zambranos long history, his conflicts with teammates and management and walkout last summer. The president of baseball operations has offered the enigmatic pitcher a chance to earn his way back to being a Cub again if relationships are repaired and certain conditions are met.

 

As far as his attitude, I think its in the right place right now, Epstein said. (I) listened when I first got here. A lot of people told me that hes been in this place before and its fallen apart when theres been any kind of adversity on the field or in the clubhouse.

So hes got to prove himself. Its not enough to say that things are better. I told him that to his face when we met: You have to go out and prove it. Words dont matter anymore.

There are going to be a lot of people who dont believe it no matter what you say or do. So theres an even bigger burden than usual on you and its your last strike.

Am I hopeful or optimistic? I think it can work, but hes got to demonstrate through his actions (that) it can and will work. And I think we have a chance to have a really good pitcher if he does those things.

The Cubs dont view this as a gamble. They absolutely need pitching and can let it play out for a few months. Zambrano has begun throwing again in Venezuela after a line drive gashed his face in winter ball.

The Marlins arent in a rush either, because they can try to lower what theyd have to kick in for the 18 million left on the final guaranteed year of Zambranos contract. There wont be much of a market. Only one team can leverage this relationship.

We talk as friends, Guillen said. We talk about the problem he had in the past (and) we talk about how (much) better its going to be. (We) talk about what type of pitcher he could be.

Guillen might be the only one who could convince Zambrano to waive his no-trade rights and realistically try to maximize his talents.

Its something that (gets) confused, Guillen said. Because every time I say I talked to Zambrano, all of a sudden people think I talk about contracts and moving him to the Marlins. Thats tampering.

Guillen paused and cracked a joke that got people laughing: We do that on the side.