Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
The Cubs cant seem to pinpoint exactly what has transformed Carlos Zambrano and they cant know for certain it will last.
There are theories about his mechanics and finding the proper arm slot. Zambrano talks about faith in his secondary pitches and being able to throw them in any count. The media wonders about the impact of those anger-management sessions.
We are left with Zambranos numbers 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA in nine starts since returning to the rotation and even those are skewed by September rosters and the decreased pressure of pitching for a non-contender.
But the Cubs have known Zambrano, whos still only 29, since he was a teenager, and their eyes will be wide open as they assemble their pitching staff for 2011.
Zambrano emerged after a 71-minute rain delay Tuesday night and shut down the San Francisco Giants for six scoreless innings at Wrigley Field. It was a game the Giants needed to stay in first place in the National League West, and they got it 1-0 in front of an announced crowd of 36,364.
Im really impressed with the way hes kind of reinvented himself, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. There was a time where you didnt think hed be a factor for anybody this year.
Afterward Zambrano was asked to assess this season as a whole and he came up with one word: Bad.
The Cubs pay me to win, Zambrano said. The fans want me to win and I only have nine wins. For me, its a disappointing season, but the most important thing is I have my confidence back.
I will be back next year with the same attitude and with the same passion for the game and ready to do some damage.
Family is why Zambrano says he will finish out his current contract, which will likely run two more years, and then retire. His mother and in-laws are in the process of receiving their visas and passports. He hopes his mother will be able to see him pitch in the majors for the first time next week in Houston.
The day before Zambrano called his nephew in Venezuela, who turned 12 and was recently released from the hospital. The young boy cant walk yet, but he is talking again and has begun his rehabilitation.
What a birthday, said Zambrano, who flew home last month to visit him in intensive care. I (wished) him many, many more birthdays.
There will always be skeptics, but he seems more focused and is starting over in a sense with a different group of teammates and a new manager, whos now 17-8 on the job.
Im a big believer in what Ive seen the last six weeks, Mike Quade said. (Zambranos) been great this entire stretch. So Im more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that hes still a guy thats passionate about pitching, (but) maybe is channeling it a little differently.
Im really happy with the guy Ive seen. And I have no reason to doubt that thats the guy Im going to continue to see.
This game pivoted in the eighth inning the frame the Cubs hope Andrew Cashner can one day dominate when Giants rookie catcher Buster Posey drove a 96 mph fastball that ricocheted in and out of the basket in front of the batters eye in center field.
Cashner who was taken 14 spots behind Posey in the first round of the 2008 draft has been growing into the role. Since Quades promotion on Aug. 23, Cashner had been 1-0 with eight holds and a 1.38 ERA in 13 relief appearances.
Thats the best stuff Ive had in awhile, Cashner said. I tried to go away there and the ball ran back in, but its still a good pitch. You just got to tip your cap and go on to the next guy.
The Cubs (68-82) are hoping the experience gained here during moments like that will pay off in 2011. You can believe it when you see it.
If we stay healthy and we start the season the way we finish, Zambrano said, its going to be very interesting next year.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.