Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

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Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

MESA, Ariz. As soon as the Cubs acquired Matt Garza from Tampa Bay last winter, there were questions about how he would control his emotions, fit into the clubhouse and handle a bigger market. There were suspicions that he could be Carlos Zambrano 2.0.

One year later, the Cubs are under new management and at least considering the possibility of signing Garza to a long-term extension. Zambrano has been shipped to the Miami Marlins, where he will be reunited with Ozzie Guillen, an old friend from Venezuela.

The Cubs kicked in roughly 15 million to get rid of Zambrano, and the comparisons to Garza didnt really prove to be accurate.

When this idea was mentioned minutes before the 2012 Cubs went through their first formal workout for pitchers and catchers on Sunday at Fitch Park Garza predicted big things for his former teammate.

Id love to get compared with Zambrano on the field, the way his numbers were, the way he threw the ball, Garza said. Hes one hell of a pitcher. But that guy I tell you what hes going to have one hell of a year. I kid you not hes going to go out there and go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is still electric. It still bottoms out.

I wouldnt be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race (this) year. I kid you not. Hes got (good enough) stuff and I think just playing with Ozzie, getting his own comfort zone, hes going to have one hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy.

To complete last months deal with the Marlins, Zambrano had to waive his no-trade clause and void a potential vesting option for 2013, which could have been triggered with a top-four finish in this seasons Cy Young vote.

Zambrano has never won 20 games in a season, and hasnt reached 200 innings since 2007. He went 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA last year before packing up his stuff and walking out on the team in a moment of frustration.

That night in Atlanta last August was the point of no return. The Cubs will pay almost all of Zambranos 18 million salary this season, minus the 2.655 million owed Chris Volstad, the intriguing 6-foot-8-inch right-hander they got back in the deal.

Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is still only 25 years old and a former first-round pick. The sense around camp is that he will benefit from a change of scenery and become a good bet to make the rotation.

Either way, it wont be nearly as entertaining or as potentially explosive as the reality show Ozzie and Big Z will put together in Miami.

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."
 

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here: