Controversial Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano caused some confusion Thursday when he told reporters covering his minor-league tuneup opener Thursday at Class AAA Iowa that he would speak after his outing, then abruptly changed course and said he wasn't allowed to talk.
Did the Cubs tell Big Z to zip it?
''No,'' general manager Jim Hendry said Friday. ''It's up to him.''
The fact Zambrano has not apologized to his teammates after going ballistic on many of them June 25 during a start at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox remains a sore spot on the North Side.
''He's got ground to make up in there,'' one key member of the Cubs said Friday, pointing at the clubhouse.
According to sources, Zambrano wanted to address his teammates two days after the June 25 incident, but was told to first take care of his anger-management counseling -- ordered by Major League Baseball -- and complete a minor-league rehabilitation stint before making verbal amends. And, sources stressed, this is far from the first apology Big Z has had to make in front of the full squad.
Does manager Lou Piniella prefer that Zambrano address his teammates first, then the media?
''I think so,'' Piniella said. ''I think it's more important for him to clear that hurdle first, and once he does that, then he can talk to the media. I think that's the right approach for him.''
Piniella said Zambrano, who will return to the Cubs as a reliever after being their Opening Day starter, will likely join the team next weekend during a three-game series in Denver against the Colorado Rockies.
''We are just going to let him talk to the team, whatever he wants to say,'' Piniella said. ''Whenever he gets here, we'll have a little meeting and let Carlos say what he needs to say.''
Zambrano's teammates can't wait for the next Big Z big apology.
''When he comes back here, he has to change the attitude and apologize to the team,'' veteran left fielder Alfonso Soriano said. ''I think that's the best thing he can do for us. If he does that, if he comes back willing to help the team, he's more than welcome.''