No hard feelings for Carlos Zambrano


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.

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

WATCH: Blackhawks play Blues in NHL 17 ahead of Winter Classic showdown

For the third time since the event was created, the Blackhawks will participate in the Winter Classic, facing the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 2, 2017.

To build some hype for the Central Division showdown, which will feature two teams that find themselves battling for the top seed in the Western Conference, Ryan Hartman and Trevor van Riemsdyk of the Blackhawks squared off with Joel Edmundson and Robby Fabbri of the Blues in EA Sports' NHL 17.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Edmunson and Fabbri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the finish would be determined in 3-on-3 overtime.

Check out who came out on top in the video below:

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle


Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces for Cubs’ offseason puzzle

Tyson Ross could be one of the final pieces of the offseason puzzle as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title while still planning for the future.

The Cubs left this week’s winter meetings in Maryland still involved in the Ross talks, sources said, monitoring an intriguing pitcher they had targeted before the 2015 trade deadline.

The San Diego Padres didn’t really buy or sell during that pennant race and made another curious decision last week when they didn’t offer Ross a contract for 2017. MLB Trade Rumors projected Ross would have made $9.6 million during his final year in the arbitration system.

After issues involving his right shoulder wiped out almost his entire season, Ross underwent surgery in October to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

Ross was San Diego’s Opening Day starter during a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but didn’t pitch again, clouding a future that once had him looking like a trade-deadline chip and one of the best pitchers in the free-agent class after the 2017 season.

That’s when Jake Arrieta will be looking for his megadeal and John Lackey might be in retirement and Jon Lester will be turning 34. That’s why the Cubs are so focused on pitching this winter and trying to balance out an organization tilted toward hitters.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

Kyle Hendricks proved he will be a pitcher to build around – and the Cubs believe Mike Montgomery can evolve from a swingman into a fifth starter and maybe something far more valuable – but depth is a real issue.

Ross made 30-plus starts in 2014 and 2015, when he earned an All-Star selection and accounted for almost 400 innings combined. He will turn 30 in April and is seen as a positive force within the clubhouse. He has a 6-foot-6 frame, a second-round-pick pedigree and a Cal-Berkeley education.

Reports have already linked the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates to Ross and not completely ruled out a return to San Diego. During an offseason where the free-agent market is essentially devoid of reliable frontline starters, there could be sticker shock, even with a rehabbing pitcher.

Trading for Wade Davis meant the Cubs were out of the bidding for Greg Holland, another All-Star closer who helped turn the Kansas City Royals into World Series champions. Holland spent this year recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but he will still be in position to capitalize after Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman and eventually Kenley Jansen reset the market for closers.

With Ross, the Cubs will have to get a better sense of the medical picture and the price for all that upside.

Beyond a winning culture, the Cubs can sell the pitching infrastructure that helped turn Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Hendricks into an ERA leader and keep the rotation remarkably healthy.

“Those really talented pitchers are going to be in demand, even those that are coming off an injury,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this week at National Harbor. “We’ll stay engaged on some of those guys, but they’ll have to be just the right talent.

“We’ll have to feel good about the medical and the return to play. And the fit on the club would have to be right, too. But the true elite guys have a real market, even if they’re coming off down seasons.”