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.