Ozzie: If Cubs dont want Zambrano, Id take him

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Ozzie: If Cubs dont want Zambrano, Id take him

DALLAS Ozzie Guillen said he has a bet with a friend he wouldnt say who or for how much that Carlos Zambrano will win more than 14 games for the Cubs in 2012.

Guillen and Zambrano regularly send each other text messages and have plans to meet up soon. Theyve shot commercials together. Theres the sense that these two friends from Venezuela could be reunited as Miami Marlins.

He wants to be in Chicago, Guillen said Wednesday while walking through the lobby of the Hilton Anatole. Now if they trade him, well, Id take it.

People close to Zambrano have suggested that he could really use a fresh start in a new city. In theory, he would be motivated to prove all the doubters wrong. He will turn 31 next season and could be had at a discount.

The Marlins manager predicted that Zambrano will bounce back for the Cubs in 2012 and floated the idea that theyre going to handle him a little bit better with Theo Epstein in charge.

This kids got a lot left, Guillen said. (If) he wins some games the fans are going to forget (about it). Thats the way it is in Chicago. He plays good, hell be fine. People love him in Chicago. You watch. People are just mad at him because of what he did. But you win a couple games and you put the fans back in your pocket.

Epstein knows all about Zambranos long history, his conflicts with teammates and management and walkout last summer. The president of baseball operations has offered the enigmatic pitcher a chance to earn his way back to being a Cub again if relationships are repaired and certain conditions are met.

As far as his attitude, I think its in the right place right now, Epstein said. (I) listened when I first got here. A lot of people told me that hes been in this place before and its fallen apart when theres been any kind of adversity on the field or in the clubhouse.

So hes got to prove himself. Its not enough to say that things are better. I told him that to his face when we met: You have to go out and prove it. Words dont matter anymore.

There are going to be a lot of people who dont believe it no matter what you say or do. So theres an even bigger burden than usual on you and its your last strike.

Am I hopeful or optimistic? I think it can work, but hes got to demonstrate through his actions (that) it can and will work. And I think we have a chance to have a really good pitcher if he does those things.

The Cubs dont view this as a gamble. They absolutely need pitching and can let it play out for a few months. Zambrano has begun throwing again in Venezuela after a line drive gashed his face in winter ball.

The Marlins arent in a rush either, because they can try to lower what theyd have to kick in for the 18 million left on the final guaranteed year of Zambranos contract. There wont be much of a market. Only one team can leverage this relationship.

We talk as friends, Guillen said. We talk about the problem he had in the past (and) we talk about how (much) better its going to be. (We) talk about what type of pitcher he could be.

Guillen might be the only one who could convince Zambrano to waive his no-trade rights and realistically try to maximize his talents.

Its something that (gets) confused, Guillen said. Because every time I say I talked to Zambrano, all of a sudden people think I talk about contracts and moving him to the Marlins. Thats tampering.

Guillen paused and cracked a joke that got people laughing: We do that on the side.

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."