Cubs

No hard feelings for Carlos Zambrano

736982.png

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.

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

willson_contreras_usa_today.png
USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Big changes to the Cubs roster

Doug Glanville and Ozzie Guillen join Leila Rahimi on Baseball Night in Chicago to discuss all things baseball.

The talk about the trade that sent Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Royals in exchange for Martin Maldonado, Willson Contreras' injury that sent him to the injured list and an update on the White Sox roster moves and rebuild status.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

 

How Cubs plan to maneuver catching situation moving forward

how_cubs_manage_catching_situation_moving_forward_slide.jpg
AP

How Cubs plan to maneuver catching situation moving forward

Willson Contreras was just put on the 10-day injured list Monday night, but by Tuesday afternoon, he was already pain-free in his right foot.

The Cubs All-Star catcher is dealing with a strain/bruise in the arch of his right foot, but he saw a specialist Tuesday and plans on taking a couple days off before resuming baseball activities Friday.

The Cubs back-dated the IL stint a couple of days, so Contreras would be eligible to return in the middle of next week if all goes according to plan. 

"If it was me, I'd be playing today or every single day," Contreras said. "But gotta be smart. It's still July and I know the team needs me. I'll be cheering for them right now, but I hope it's less than 10 days."

Contreras said he is getting some orthotic inserts to put into his shoes after initially experiencing the issue while wearing a brand new pair of cleats that hadn't yet been properly broken in. He also said the hard ground played a contributing factor and had a similar injury back in 2015 when he used a new pair of cleats for the Double-A All-Star Game.

When Contreras does return, the Cubs will have an interesting problem to maneuver with their catching situation now that they traded for veteran Martin Maldonado and they still have young backstop Victor Caratini enjoying a breakout campaign.

It's a problem they hope to have.

"It would present differently [having three catchers]," Joe Maddon admitted. "We'd have to parcel out the work in a manner that satisfies all of them, which would not be easy. But it also opens up pinch-hitting opportunities for guys in a good matchup situation, also. We haven't decided exactly [how it's going to work]. 

"But it's hard to not acquire Martin Maldonado if he's available. It's really difficult to walk away from that. So this is one of those things that could be a classic win-win-win, according to Michael Scott. I really believe this will be a great opportunity for Mikey Montgomery in Kansas City and it's a great opportunity for us and Martin here.

"So let's just play it out. I don't want anything negative to happen. I want us to have to figure this out."

Maddon inserted Maldonado into the starting lineup in his first day in Chicago Tuesday and already said Caratini will catch the day game Wednesday with Yu Darvish throwing.

Beyond that, the Cubs don't have a set plan in place for how this is all going to work — in the short-term or when Contreras comes back.

With the Cubs coming off the All-Star Break and getting regular off-days coming up over the next couple of weeks, Maddon doesn't anticipate needing to give first baseman Anthony Rizzo much time off. So, he admitted there's not much of an opportunity for Caratini to play there.

And with Kris Bryant and David Bote already seeing regular time at third base plus the possibility of Robel Garcia and Daniel Descalso able to play the hot corner, Maddon doesn't see much time for Caratini there, either. 

Contreras is coming off a foot injury, so occasionally moving him to the outfield upon his return doesn't necessarily make the most sense at the moment, but maybe that would be an option moving forward. 

Or maybe the Cubs include Caratini in a deal before the trade deadline, though he is a really nice long-term option for the club, especially as a switch-hitter. 

However the Cubs figure it out, the move for Maldonado makes a ton of sense in the big picture view of this 2019 season

Major League Baseball does not have an August waiver trade deadline anymore, so all moves would have to be done before July 31. The Cubs wanted to shore up their overall catching depth and saw an opportunity with Maldonado — a guy they've liked for some time — and jumped at the chance. 

"I've already gotten four texts from people I really respect about [Maldonado] and how much they love him and beyond that, the kind of influence he has in the clubhouse and with his peers," Maddon said. "Conversationally, that came through. I walked into the video room and he's in there talking to [Cubs strategy coach Mike Borzello] and Tommy [Hottovy] and it's like, 'whoa.'

"Handles himself extremely well — looks you right in the eyeballs and he's very confident. So as a catcher, kind of an interesting skillset he's got."