Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

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Cubs-Sox wont have the same buzz without Ozzie and Big Z

GLENDALE, Ariz. Dont expect to hear Robin Ventura barking to the media about the (bleeping) rats at Wrigley Field.

I dont think hell be kicking facemasks or anything either, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said.

Ozzie Guillen did that to Geovany Sotos catching gear last summer on the South Side, after arguing a call at home plate and getting thrown out of the game. There almost always seems to be fireworks whenever the Cubs play the White Sox.

That night, Carlos Zambrano walked into the interview room at U.S. Cellular Field and asked reporters if they had seen the one where Rocky fought in Russia. Zambrano decided that Rocky Balboa said it best: Its not too late for people to change.

Less than two months later, Zambrano cleared out his locker during the middle of a game at Turner Field and headed to the team hotel in downtown Atlanta. He told team personnel that he was thinking about retirement and sent text messages saying that he felt like he was stealing money.

As soon as Guillen jumped to become the Miami Marlins manager, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Zambrano would take his talents to South Beach, creating a dream team for the media.

As much as Guillen appeared to need a new challenge, and Zambrano couldnt walk back into the Cubs clubhouse, it still leaves a void. Its hard to imagine the Cubs-Sox rivalry will have the same juice.

I was an Ozzie fan growing up my whole life, said Samardzija, whos from Indiana. I enjoyed watching Ozzie play. I like how he manages. Yeah, it will definitely be a little different. Obviously, I think the rivalry will still be where its always been, but he always seemed to be a big part of it.

In front of 10,327 fans the announced crowd at least the Cubs beat the White Sox 5-1 on Friday at Camelback Ranch. The pivot point came in the third inning, when Randy Wells inherited a bases-loaded jam from Travis Wood.

Auditioning for a spot in the rotation, Wells threw Paul Konerko a sinker that induced an inning-ending double play, preserving a two-run lead.

Its quieter, Wells said of the difference without Guillen around. The Cubs-Sox rivalry is going to be as good as it always is. Its just one of those games you dont want to lose to your crosstown rival. I dont think spring trainings got quite the hype, but were definitely gearing up for those guys.

Cubs infielder Adrian Cardenas played at Monsignor Pace High School just before Guillens youngest son Ozney did and knows the family. When Cardenas would go home and work out in Miami, Guillen would watch batting practice and talk to the 16-year-old kids who dream of the big leagues.

The Ozzie you see in high definition on TV every night, Cardenas said, is the exact same Ozzie youll find on a high school baseball field in February.

Hes just real all the time, and you either like it or you dont, Cardenas said. Thats it. You have to learn to accept it or have a problem with it. But one things for sure is he loves the game.

Ventura will project calm in the roughly 400 times he will have to meet the press this season. New Cubs manager Dale Sveum who briefly played with Ventura on the South Side in 1992 looks past the coaching inexperience and sees a natural leader.

Hes got an incredible personality, but you wouldnt know it. Hes quick and very sarcastic, Sveum said. Hes definitely the right guy for the job. (Hes) capable of just stepping right in and doing things. He knows the game as well as anybody (and) hes the kind of guy who people will follow.

Ventura wont be filming Pepsi commercials with say, Matt Garza, in Venezuela, the way Guillen and Zambrano once did.

And Cubs officials were furious when they found out Zambrano went to dinner with Guillen hours after jumping Derrek Lee in the dugout and being sent home from U.S. Cellular Field (and eventually into anger-management therapy).

When Theo Epstein took over at Clark and Addison, the president publicly allowed for the possibility of Zambrano earning his way back onto the team. But in polling players privately, the response was overwhelming: Big Z had to go.

Zambrano isnt necessarily a bad guy. Hes deeply committed to his faith and his family and can show a terrific sense of humor. His emotions, Kerry Wood once observed, are a double-edged sword that can lead him pitch at an extremely high level or completely lose control.

Guillen pushed for this trade, predicting that Zambrano can still be a 15-game winner. Their friendship plus the roughly 15 million the Cubs kicked in closed the deal.

His baseball talent is still there, utility man Jeff Baker said. If Ozzie can get him going, who knows what can happen?

The Cubs and White Sox have enjoyed distraction-free camps, but their rivalry wont be the same. The Marlins become a Showtime reality series with Ozzie and Big Z.

If its going to work anywhere, Samardzija said, it should work there.

Tim Anderson's birthday present from home plate umpire was first major-league ejection

Tim Anderson's birthday present from home plate umpire was first major-league ejection

On his 24th birthday, Tim Anderson’s present from home plate umpire Jim Wolf was his first major-league ejection.

In the fifth inning of the White Sox 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics, Anderson fouled off a pitch that landed in the opposing batter’s box. But A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell picked it up in what was ruled to be fair territory and threw the ball to first for the out.

Anderson pleaded his case saying the ball went foul. Wolf agreed, according to Anderson, which only further confused the White Sox shortstop.

“I told him that was BS,” Anderson said. “And he tossed me.”

Anderson said that he was surprised to be ejected so fast. So was manager Rick Renteria, who was thrown out moments after Anderson.

“I don’t want to get in trouble,” Renteria said. “The players having emotion, they are battling. I just think we need to grow a little thicker skin.”

Anderson said that he was appreciative of his manager coming to his defense.

“He kinda had a point and let me know he had my back,” Anderson said of Renteria. “Speaks a lot of him.”

A day after scoring nine runs on 18 hits, the White Sox failed to generate any offense on Friday. The team’s best chance came in the ninth inning.

But with runners at the corners and two outs, Matt Davidson put a good rip on the ball to center field, only to fly out at the warning track.

Anderson and Renteria were watching the game together in the clubhouse, and both believed the White Sox had tied the ballgame.

“We all jumped up and were excited but it kind of fell short,” Anderson said.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Exclusive interview with Mark Buehrle

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Exclusive interview with Mark Buehrle

On the latest edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien goes 1-on-1 with the star of the weekend, Mark Buehrle.

Buehrle tells an absolutely amazing bachelor party story and discloses why he wore No. 56.

Take a trip down memory lane and listen to the White Sox Talk Podcast here