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Cubs forgive Carlos Zambrano

ST. LOUIS MO - JUNE 5: Starter Carlos Zambrano #38 Chicago Cubs pitches against St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium June

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 5: Starter Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on June 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 3-2 in 10 innings. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0065025794.jpg

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Updated: September 29, 2011 12:27AM

CINCINNATI — The last thing Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano told reporters on his way out of the clubhouse Sunday after ripping teammate Carlos Marmol was, “We’re a Triple-A team.’’

The first thing he said Monday: “What’s the big deal about this?’’

In fact, that was the prevailing message throughout the team Monday, from the clubhouse to the front office.

Once Zambrano apologized to Marmol early in the day, they were BP buddies again by mid-afternoon, scooping grounders at shortstop ­before Monday night’s series opener against Cincinnati.

And after a sit-down with manager Mike Quade, Zambrano was back to business as usual.

No fines, no suspensions, no threat of imminent trade.

Just another loss on a road trip to ruin Matt Garza’s return from the disabled list. The Cubs, now losers of seven in a row and nine of their last 10, dropped an 8-2 decision to the Reds at Great American Ballpark.

As Zambrano said Sunday, “We stink. … This is embarrassing.’’

What are you going to do? Punish the guy for being right?

To be fair, Zambrano added some clarification Monday — but he didn’t back down from the larger point.

“I apologized to [Marmol] for the comments that I said, but at the same time, like I said [Sunday], we all need to get better,’’ Zambrano said. “I don’t say the team needs to get better. I say we need to get ­better. That’s my point. That’s the reality.

“It was moment of frustration that made me say what I said, but whoever on this team doesn’t feel embarrassed, doesn’t feel like it’s time to do something, I don’t think he’s part of the team.’’

The only issue management and teammates seemed to have was that the message was sent through the media and that a teammate was called out.

“I see frustration [in it]. That’s obvious,’’ veteran pitcher Kerry Wood said. “But it’s not the first time something like that’s happened, and it’s not going to be the last time.”

Quade said he talked briefly with general manager Jim Hendry on Monday, who’s in Arizona for this week’s draft, and punishment for Z wasn’t considered.

In fact, most of the team spent more than an hour together before BP watching Hangover Part II in the clubhouse, Marmol and Zambrano laughing among them.

No team apology was requested or made. Hendry had Quade handle it without having his own talk with Zambrano.

“It’s a man’s game,’’ Quade said. “People get upset, and things get blown out of proportion way too much. As long as two people deal with it, then that’s that.’’

And for those back home calling for Zambrano’s head — or at least a suspension or trade?

“People react in different ways,’’ Quade said. “Carlos has been really, really good since his [anger-management] sabbatical last year, and I’m not just talking about performance. And a little bit of frustration’s not going to change that for me. I think that’s people overreacting, but people are entitled to their opinions.’’

But the larger school of thought outside the team on the subject seems to be that Zambrano was right. And maybe it was simply time for somebody on this lethargic, sinking team to say something.

“You tell me,’’ Zambrano said. “I mean, somebody has to say something. It doesn’t have to be me, because every time I open my mouth, obviously it’s a big thing.’’

Not that all the clubhouse veterans agree with the “Triple-A team’’ message.

“I can only speak for myself, but I don’t feel that way,’’ veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. “Everybody’s different. We’re struggling right now. That’s the bottom line.

The other bottom line: Marmol said he’s good with Zambrano.

“It’s over. Any negative stuff is gone,’’ Marmol said. “We’re fine, and he’s not going to change [around] me, and I’m not going to change.”

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