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Cubs can’t find taker for Carlos Zambrano as deadline nears

Geovany Soargues with home-plate umpire Marty Foster after called third strike Wednesday night. | Morry Gash~AP

Geovany Soto argues with home-plate umpire Marty Foster after a called third strike on Wednesday night. | Morry Gash~AP

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Updated: November 2, 2011 12:43AM

MILWAUKEE — Was this Carlos Zambrano’s last start as a Cub?

Not likely with only three days left before the non-waiver trade deadline and no interest in the enigmatic right-hander at this point, even with the Cubs’ offering large bags of cash to offset the
$24 million left on his contract.

But after pitching well in another Cubs loss Wednesday night — 2-0 to the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers — even Zambrano acknowledged the clock appears to be ticking on him and other team personnel.

“I do want to stay here,’’ said Zambrano (7-6), who pitched 62/3 innings in a losing duel against former Cy Young winner Zack ­Greinke (8-4).

“But,’’ he added, with a long sigh before continuing, “at the same point, I want this team to make some changes. If we want to win here, we need to make some changes. If I have to go, I have to go, but I [will] still have the Cubs in my heart.’’

Before the Cubs extended their scoreless streak to 17 innings Wednesday night and fell to 20 games under .500 again, they reached out to the New York Yankees with an offer to reunite Zambrano with former pitching coach Larry Rothschild, re-igniting long-dormant trade rumors involving Zambrano.

A source on the other side of that call confirmed no interest from the Yankees, who are after bigger fish this week, such as the Colorado Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez.

Whether interest picks up as other pitchers are moved in the next few days — or even next month, considering Zambrano is certain to clear waivers after Sunday — he is among at least a half-dozen players the Cubs would move if takers are found.

Zambrano, who has dealt with far more distracting off-field ­issues throughout his career, seemed unfazed, looking strong and in command through most of the start.

“I hope nothing comes of it,’’ manager Mike Quade said before the game, “and that he pitches lights-out and entices whoever is here looking at him.’’

We’re still waiting for the enticement part to kick in. But Zambrano looked back to full strength in his third start since a stint on the disabled list for a sore back. He lobbied briefly to stay in the game with a runner on and Z killer Nyjer Morgan at the plate in the seventh.

“I felt good,’’ said Zambrano, who seems willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Cubs find a buyer for his services, though he said the Cubs haven’t asked him to waive it yet.

“I don’t want to talk about a trade,’’ he said. “If it comes, it comes, and I will think about it if they say something to me. If the change has to be me, that’s OK.’’

General manager Jim Hendry has said repeatedly that he doesn’t plan a fire sale at the deadline and that he’s under no orders to move salary. But he also has said he plans to be aggressive, and he looks to be trying hard to move some of the bigger contracts standing in the way of the change Zambrano seems to be talking about.

Asked to elaborate on his cryptic “changes” reference, Zambrano said, “Change. Change. A lot of change.’’

What kind of change?

“A lot of change.’’

Players? Something else?


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