Zambrano wants to look ahead, not back
MESA, Ariz. – Carlos Zambrano wants to leave his troubled past behind him — if that's possible — and be the pitcher he was at the end of last season.
The Chicago Cubs emotional right-hander spent time in anger management counseling following his tirade in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field after giving up four first-inning runs against the White Sox.
"Let's talk about this year now. I never talk about what happened last year or what happened in the past," Zambrano said Monday at his locker before pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time this spring training. "I want to talk about this year and be a better player and better pitcher and that's what everybody is looking forward to."
In 2009, he went on tirade against an umpire, throwing a baseball into the outfield and slamming his glove against the dugout fence, a tantrum that led to a suspension.
But a year ago in spring training, Zambrano said he had straightened up and was ready to put a plug in his outbursts and concentrate on pitching.
"Believe me. I think I passed that stage where everything gets me mad," Zambrano said. "That's why you will see a Carlos Zambrano smiling and laughing with everybody."
It didn't happen.
Zambrano became unhinged in the game against the White Sox, supposedly upset because he didn't think some of his teammates dove for ground balls.
After the outburst in which he had a verbal altercation with former teammate Derrek Lee, Zambrano was sent home by then manager Lou Piniella, put on a restricted list and then sent to counseling.
When he finally was reinstated, he pitched his best ball, going 8-0 in his final 11 starts to finish 11-6. He spent an early portion of last season in the bullpen before being reinstated to the rotation.
Asked Monday if he was going to stay out of trouble this year, Zambrano said:
"I don't want to say anything this year. I just want to talk with my numbers, that's what I want to do," he said.
Zambrano broke in with the Cubs in 2001 and now at age 29 he acknowledged he has to watch his diet and work even harder to be in shape. He's in the running with Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster to start the opener.
"We're all making adjustments, we're all getting old," said new Cubs manager Mike Quade, who had the job on an interim basis during the final six weeks last season when Zambrano was pitching his best.
"He looked like a young guy those last six weeks," Quade said. "I believe he's motivated to pitch like that and time will tell. I'm looking forward to seeing the same guy."
Zambrano, who in 2007 signed a deal adding $91.5 million over five seasons through 2012, is no longer the Cubs' ace. That distinction most likely falls to Garza, acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay.
So does Zambrano have anything to prove after his season of a year ago?
"No, no. Leave that for rookies. They need to show they can pitch in the big leagues," he said. "I don't need to do that. Thank God I showed and I proved I can pitch in the big leagues. I just want to stay healthy and try and do my job."
NOTES: Right-hander Carlos Silva was sent home with a 103-degree fever. ... Quade, a veteran of spring training, downplayed his first day as full-time manager. "Obviously it's a much bigger deal than when you go manage Des Moines. In some respects, it's not."