Mooney: The Zen of Carlos Zambrano

Mooney: The Zen of Carlos Zambrano

Tuesday, March 8, 2011Posted: 6:40 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Are you a new man? You are asking the wrong question, Carlos Zambrano says.

Has the anger-management counseling helped? Yes, Zambrano says without much hesitation.

Zambrano sees a fundamental difference between those two ideas. Thats how hes framed the maturity issues that have too often sabotaged the Cubs.

Of course, all this is much easier to say on March 8 during the middle of yet another meaningless exhibition game.

But Zambrano pitched well again in Tuesdays 4-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Just as important, he virtually ignored the shaky defense behind him at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

I have to do my job, Zambrano said. I dont worry about anybody (else). This year I want to concentrate on what I can do. I dont want to worry about left field, center field, whatever. I want to worry about whats going on at the mound.

Zambrano does not want to change his entire personality. Family is central to his life and he has a good sense of humor, recently joking that he was cured and received approval from the psychologist to be alone by himself.

But Zambrano would like to remake his image. He openly acknowledges that he needs to better control the emotions churning inside. Hes got to the point where he felt comfortable exchanging text messages with Carlos Silva after Mondays brutal start.

The two are good friends, but they had pretty much avoided discussing any similarities between their disputes with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

I told (Silva) to relax and just be the same guy that he was in Minnesota, Zambrano said. Dont let anything affect your preparation for the season.

Whoever needs a little bit of support or tips Ill be there for anybody.

Mike Quade will back Zambrano because he needs another front-line starter. The manager owes a lot to Zambranos 8-0 finish to 2010.

Im aware of everything that happened in 19-whatever with this organization, but none of it applies this time, Quade said. Im here every day living in this moment and looking forward and not looking back. (Hes been) fantastic this spring. He was really good for us and for me last year at the end of the season. So theres no reason for me to look anywhere but at that.

Its not unique to Z. When things come up, you deal with it. But I certainly dont sit around going: Are things going to get crazy? When? No, Im just happy when things are smooth. And when theyre not, we deal with them and move on.

Zambrano, who had mentioned that his right arm felt tired after his last start, said that physically hes back to normal. He lasted three innings, scattered five hits and allowed his first run of the spring.

The Cubs werent charged with any errors on Tuesday, but they again showed that defense will be an ongoing issue. Blake DeWitt had trouble handling two balls at second. Scott Moore had to make two nifty plays at first off wild throws. One ball bounced in front of a charging Tyler Colvin in left.

It wont matter as much when Zambrano throws like this: Carlos Gonzalez got so tangled up on one check swing that he struck out and fell into the dirt, flat on his stomach.

The Rockies slugger hit 34 homers and drove in 117 runs last season, and Zambrano correctly quoted his average (.336) off the top of his head.

We cant give up to big hitters, Zambrano said. I have my best stuff for them.

At the end of the third inning, Zambrano walked off the mound and past Quade, who was sitting on a cooler. They locked hands. Their high-five turned into a kind of extended handshake. At that moment it all looked good in the Cubs dugout.

Changed man? Zambrano said afterward, repeating the question. No, Im the same.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."