ORLANDO, Fla. — Imagine Carlos Zambrano grabbing the microphone and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in front of 40,000 fans.
OK, maybe it wouldn’t be that dramatic. And it doesn’t have to be something that would instantly go viral. But would Zambrano ever come back to Wrigley Field or make an appearance at Cubs Convention?
“I have no doubt that he would,” agent Barry Praver said Monday in the lobby of the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. “Carlos speaks very fondly of Chicago and Cubs fans. Always.”
As the general manager meetings began here, Praver confirmed that his client is trying to make a comeback, pitching back home in Venezuela and hoping for another shot at reviving his career.
In winter ball, Zambrano has given up 15 walks in 19.2 innings, posting a 3.20 ERA through four starts for Navegantes del Magallanes (a team that recently added another classic ex-Cub character in Ted Lilly).
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Zambrano signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013 and made seven starts at three different affiliates before injuring his shoulder and getting released last summer.
“He just had some kind of slight strain,” Praver said. “It wasn’t anything major. But the problem was that it occurred late in the season. So in order to shut him down, rest it and then start him up again, the season would have been over.”
The Cubs are already estranged from Sammy Sosa, their all-time leader in home runs (545) and a marquee attraction at Clark and Addison during what now seems like ancient history. It was another messy breakup with Zambrano.
In a Cubs uniform, Zambrano won 125 games, threw more than 1,800 innings and pitched for three playoff teams. But the enduring images are fighting Michael Barrett, going after Derrek Lee, throwing a ball into the stands and attacking Gatorade coolers.
The point of no return came one night in August 2011 after walking out of Atlanta’s Turner Field. Zambrano had cleaned out his locker and talked about retirement in another moment of frustration.
Zambrano then reunited with his old buddy Ozzie Guillen, going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA for the 2012 reality show Miami Marlins.
Big Z would apparently like to write a different ending.
“He is most definitely interested in continuing his career,” Praver said.