Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Anybody believe Cubs' Zambrano this time around?

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After addressing teammates today for the first time since airing them out in a raging dugout tirade June 25, Carlos Zambrano vowed to rebuild his image and performance level and be a calmer version of his former self.

He apologized to manager Lou Piniella and teammates, explained the thinking and frustration that led to his actions, and even got a few hugs after the five- to 10-minute meeting after being activated from the restricted list.

Now comes the hard part: showing why this vow to change should be trusted to succeed any more than several in the past, including as recently as five months ago in spring training.

``I don't want to talk about that,'' he said when asked why anyone should believe it will be different this time. ``You [media] are here because you want to talk about what happened June 25.''

Teammates and fans certainly can't be blamed if they're skeptical.

In Piniella's first season alone, in 2007, Zambrano held two media conferences to apologize for bad behavior - first for punching out teammate Michael Barrett in June and then in September after ripping the fans publicly for booing him.

The next year, he went off in the dugout at Dodger Stadium after pitching poorly, slamming two Gatorade jugs to the ground and whacking one with his bat. The year after that, he went off on an umpire so vigorously - pretending to throw the ump out of the game then throwing the baseball into left field - that major league baseball suspended him for ``violent' actions. A few days later, he blew off the team charter on his birthday, without telling anybody with the team.

And then before each season that followed came promises of a new outlook, a New Carlos.

Talk about a guy that has used up a career's worth of benefits of the doubt.

Leading up to Friday's anticipated reunion, several teammates took the idea of an apology with a shrug and suggested they'll believe he's a new man when they see it.

After the meeting , teammate Alfonso Soriano said he was impressed. ``This one is different, because I think it's the first one where he talked to the team in a meeting,'' Soriano said. ``I don't remember him doing that before''

Derrek Lee, who found himself in the middle of the issue when he intervened to stop Zambrano's tirade and got Z in his face for his troubles, said he was one of the players who hugged Zambrano Friday.

``He did a good job. I'm sure it had to be hard to do,'' Lee said. ``It's all over with as far as I'm concerned.''

Zambrano first meet privately with Piniella Friday, for about 10 minutes, and apologized in his first talk with the manager since the incident, before meeting with the team in the clubhouse.

``That was embarrassing for the organization, for myself, for the fans,'' Zambrano said. ``I apologize to the fans, too, and just want to move on and be at peace with everybody.''

Asked how he would have taken the apology if he were one of his teammates, Zambrano said, ``Well, this is like the war. Anytime one of your soldiers go down, you don't want to keep shooting him.

``I feel bad. Believe me, I feel embarrassed. ... I was the most affected. I got suspended for more than a month. I got demoted to the bullpen. A lot of punishment. But I have to accept it. I have to build my way back to what I was. I promise to myself and I promise to Cubs fans that I will do anything possible to coe back and be the same or better pitcher than I was.''

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on July 30, 2010 9:49 PM.

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