Zambrano tried to lend support to his friend Silva
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 28, 2011 9:24PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — One day after the unconditional release of a finger-pointing, perspective-challenged Cubs pitcher, Carlos Zambrano was the voice of sympathy and calm, if not reason.
“It was kind of sad. He was sad, too,’’ Zambrano said of the conversation he had with longtime friend and former Venezuelan winter-league teammate Carlos Silva after Silva’s release Sunday. “I spoke to him, and he was kind of worried. He didn’t want to talk about it much, but I just gave him some good words.
“I told him just to be confident, that he’ll get another job and I know he can play for another team.’’
Those close to Silva — whose criticism of the team after failing to make the roster prompted the quick release — say he’s nervous and disappointed, and constantly monitoring a phone he typically ignores. He is expected to clear waivers Wednesday morning, after which teams are free to sign him for the major-league minimum ($414,000).
“I wish him the best,’’ Zambrano said. “We will keep in touch.’’
Meanwhile, the other big Carlos who opened spring training with something to prove has had the kind of easy, businesslike demeanor and production during camp that has team officials saying they believe this is the new leaf that finally stays turned over.
Is he actually “cured,’’ as he proclaimed last month when asked about the results of months of anger-management counseling last year?
The proof, of course, will be in the next six months, when it counts. And when he’ll be looking for his first season uninterrupted by a major meltdown in at least three years (if you don’t count the Gatorade cooler homicide in Los Angeles in ’08).
For now, he departs one of his smoothest spring trainings prepared for an unaccustomed second-day start to the season after six consecutive Opening Day assignments.
“I had my chance,’’ he said when asked how weird it will be to sit while somebody else pitches Friday’s opener. “Now it’s [Ryan] Dempster’s chance, and he deserves it. Dempster was pitching for the last two years [as the] No. 2, and he did a good job. It’s about doing the job. It’s not about who’s this guy or what number you are in the rotation.’’
Signed to that $91.5 million extension in the summer of 2007 to be the Cubs’ ace over the next five years, Zambrano might not have lived up to that billing. But the teammate he has been since finishing anger therapy — and certainly the pitcher he has been since returning from a six-week exile after the South Side tirade last year — is more than enough for the Cubs this season.
In his last spring start Monday, he was forced to pitch around mistakes in the field during a two-run fifth but didn’t seem to flinch.
“Spring training,’’ he said with a smile afterward. “Even when it’s during the [regular season], I just want to worry about what I do.
‘‘My job here is to pitch, not to criticize or do other things. Just pitch.’’
While nobody’s counting on a full season like that 8-0, 1.41-ERA finish last year, Zambrano said his body and mind are ready for when it counts.
“Let’s get it on,’’ he said.