Win-win? Life after Zambrano starts with Volstad

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Win-win? Life after Zambrano starts with Volstad

MESA, Ariz. There is never going to be another Carlos Zambrano.

Hes freakishly athletic, a soccer player built like an NFL defensive end who could control the entire game, but not his emotions. He could make everyone laugh, or refuse to talk to anyone.

Here was a family man with strong religious beliefs, who has done noble work in Guatemala, adopting a boy and making contributions through his charitable foundation. Cubs employee No. 38 was also moody and immature, and had trouble connecting with teammates, an island in his own clubhouse.

So it really didnt matter who the Cubs got from the Miami Marlins in the Zambrano trade. It would still be easy to draw a very sharp contrast.

Chris Volstad wasnt quoting RoboCop or Rocky, instead dropping the standard line about how hes just trying to help the team win.

He was a big presence, Volstad said. For me personally, I dont really think about that. Im here doing my best, working hard and getting ready for the season.

There are reasons to believe that this deal was more than just spending some 15 million to get rid of Zambrano. In the 6-foot-8-inch Volstad, the Cubs are getting a rotation piece that will be under club control for the next three seasons.

Volstad, whos still only 25 years old, was the 16th overall pick in the 2005 draft, nine spots ahead of Matt Garza.

We just forget that the guy got to the big leagues really young, manager Dale Sveum said. He had to learn at the big-league level. With that kind of height (and) sinker, sometimes it just takes a little longer to get big-league hitters out.

As much as Zambrano needed a fresh start, there is the sense around the Cubs that Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., could also use a change of scenery.

More than 2,000 miles away from Fitch Park, Zambrano went through his first official workout in Marlins camp. People close to him agreed that he needed to get away from the Cubs, and fully expect him to be motivated to have a monster season.

In my mind and my heart I just wanted to help the club and do good for them, Zambrano told reporters on Wednesday in Florida. The fans deserve a championship in Chicago. Hopefully they can get it soon. They were outstanding for me, and I appreciate that. I have nothing but thanks for everybody in Chicago, but I have to move forward and help this team win a championship.

Showtime cameras are going to be following the Marlins for The Franchise. They now have a celebrity manager in Ozzie Guillen, who helped broker the Zambrano trade. They brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. They are about to move into a gleaming new stadium in Little Havana.

Volstad said he doesnt feel like hes missing out on anything in Miami because of the opportunity thats now in front of him. He wants to prove hes more than the pitcher with a 32-39 career record and a 4.59 ERA. He could be much more than the guy traded for Zambrano.

I definitely dont think Ive pitched to my ability, Volstad said. Ive shown flashes of it, games here and there, or maybe a little streak here and there. But I havent put a whole season together yet.

Ive had my ups and downs, but I think theyre all learning experiences, and if you (add) them all together, this could be the time.

Today on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

Today on CSN: Kyle Hendricks, Cubs face Reds

The Cubs face off against the Cincinnati Reds today, and you can catch all the cation on CSN. Coverage begins at 3 p.m.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks vs. Robert Stephenson

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World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

World Series thank-yous follow Kris Bryant to Las Vegas

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant didn’t need to pose for a Crate & Barrel billboard in Wrigleyville or walk a goat around a Bed Bath & Beyond commercial shoot. Cub fans just kept sending him free stuff.

The wedding gifts actually shipped to his parents’ house in Las Vegas, where he honed the swing that landed him on a new Sports Illustrated cover that asked: “How Perfect is Kris Bryant?”   

This happens when you mention your registries on a late-night show with another Vegas guy (Jimmy Kimmel) after leading an iconic franchise to its first World Series title in 108 years.        

So Bryant will be the center of attention in Sin City this weekend when the Cubs play two split-squad games against the Cincinnati Reds. But that spotlight will pretty much follow the National League’s reigning MVP wherever he goes. 

At least this gives Bryant a chance to chill at the pool and organize the house he moved into in January. 

“My mom just kept throwing stuff in my car: ‘Here, take it!’” Bryant said. “Opening all those boxes, I can’t believe how many presents we got from fans. It was unbelievable. Jess is going to have to write all the thank-you notes. I’m just signing my name on them. You have literally like 700 thank-you notes to write.

“I said: ‘You need to just go get the generic thank-you.’ She’s like: ‘No, they took the time out of their day to buy us a present.’ This is going to take her the whole year. So if there’s anybody out there that’s waiting for one…”    

The wait is finally over for generations of Cub fans. Spring training will always have a “Groundhog Day” element to it. But this camp – with no major injuries so far or real roster intrigue or truly wacky stunts – has felt different. As the players get ready for a new season – one without 1908 looming over everything – they can’t escape what they did. 

“Every day something reminds me of it,” said Kyle Hendricks, who will start Saturday in Las Vegas. “Even going to throw in these spring games, when they announce your name and the whole crowd erupts because of the World Series. That wasn’t happening last year. 

“Little things like that make me notice. Something every day is brought to my attention, so it’s still getting used to that part.”  

The Cubs insist there won’t be a hangover effect in 2017, believing that this young group is too talented and too focused to get derailed by distractions and overconfidence. But the Cubs could go 0-162 this season and Bryant would still probably be breaking down boxes for recycling.   

“It’s funny,” Bryant said. “We just put cameras on my house for security and I’ll just look at it sometimes. I’ll randomly see my mom just unloading boxes. I’m like: ‘Mom, what’s going on? Are we getting more stuff?’ She’s like: ‘Yeah, we keep getting more boxes.’”