Keep your eye on Cubs castoff Carlos Zambrano
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org February 19, 2012 9:48PM
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:14AM
MESA, Ariz. — Matt Garza listed nearly every member of the Cubs’ spring pitching roster when singing the praises of this year’s staff. But the guy he singled out for Cy Young potential is the one the Cubs paid $15 million to go away.
‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race this year,’’ Garza said of Carlos Zambrano, the former ace who was traded with all that money to Ozzie Guillen’s Miami Marlins for pitcher Chris Volstad. ‘‘I kid you not. He’s got that good of stuff.
‘‘I think just playing with Ozzie and getting in his own comfort zone, he’s going to have one hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy, man. . . . He’s going to go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people.’’
Cut the cutter
Manager Dave Sveum said he and new pitching coach Chris Bosio did more than tell closer Carlos Marmol to wipe the slate clean from his rough 2011.
‘‘We might have just told him to wipe out the cutter he threw last year,’’ Sveum said of the cut fastball some Cubs personnel didn’t even seem to know Marmol was trying to add to his repertoire. ‘‘I think he admits it caused him a lot of problems and got him a little out of whack. He is what he is. He’s an impressive closer, but he’s a slider guy with one of the best, unhittable sliders we’ve seen in a long time.
‘‘You don’t want him doing anything Carlos Marmol isn’t used to, and I think he’s going to be back to that this year.’’
The Cubs are using a new tool in spring bullpen sessions to help pitchers visualize the bottom of the strike zone, running yellow string across the front of the bullpen plates, roughly a foot off the ground. Sveum said his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, sometimes used it.
‘‘It’s something I really liked and Bosio really likes a lot,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just something else to focus on besides the glove. It’s a nice guideline, and guys always respond to it and like it a lot.’’
Garza said his parents got a call Saturday from the police in Fresno, Calif., informing him they were suspending the investigation into his stolen 2008 American League championship ring for lack of leads on last month’s burglary.
‘‘It’s one of those where they’re telling me, ‘You might as well go and get a replacement,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘So it’s a tough break. But I got better news because camp starts, so I’m ready to go try and earn another one.’’
◆ Lefty John Gaub (back spasms) was the only Cub held back on the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Sveum said it’s not serious.
◆ Sveum on his first day of spring training as a big-league manager: ‘‘It feels like I got hired two years ago, just waiting for this day to come, finally getting on the field.’’