Big Z suspended indefinitely after tirade
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
06/25/10 7:25 PM ET
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was suspended indefinitely after throwing a tantrum in the dugout Friday, apparently upset over what he perceived as a lack of effort from his teammates on defensive plays behind him in a 6-0 loss to the White Sox."His conduct was not acceptable," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "His actions toward his teammates and staff were not acceptable. He will not be at the ballpark [Saturday]. We'll play with 24 [players].
"From my point of view," Hendry said, "we'll play with 24 before we tolerate that kind of behavior."Hendry said there's no timetable for the suspension because both Major League Baseball and the Players Association have to investigate the incident. When a player is suspended, the team is not allowed to replace that player on the 25-man roster during the pending investigation.Zambrano started unraveling after the first batter he faced, as Juan Pierre lined the ball down the line past first baseman Derrek Lee for a double. One out later, Alex Rios doubled to drive in Pierre. Paul Konerko then singled and Carlos Quentin homered on an 0-2 pitch to put the White Sox ahead, 4-0.Zambrano was able to retire the next two batters but when he headed back to the dugout, he was screaming and pumping his arms. He walked past Lee, then the two started yelling at each other. Manager Lou Piniella stepped in between the two, and catcher Geovany Soto guided Zambrano away.
"It was unacceptable behavior is what it was," Piniella said. "He was upset that some of our players didn't dive for those balls. A few of those balls were hit really hard and one of those balls was in the seats with two strikes."Regardless, he was ranting and raving and out of control," Piniella said. "We just couldn't tolerate that. We told him to go back in [to the clubhouse]."Before exiting, Zambrano knocked over a cooler and some cups, drawing cheers from the fans who could see into the Cubs' dugout. Piniella told Zambrano to go home, and Hendry talked to the pitcher on the phone, not face to face. The conversation was short, and Zambrano did not apologize for his behavior.
"There wasn't time for apologies," Hendry said.
This isn't the first outburst by Zambrano, who got into a fight with catcher Michael Barrett at Wrigley Field in 2007. Lee, one of the most mild-mannered players in the game, refused to answer questions about the incident. The first baseman misplayed a ball Thursday in the seventh inning that led to the Mariners' tying run.
"We're all out there playing hard," infielder Mike Fontenot said. "Nobody wants to lose, nobody wants the other team to get hits. Maybe sometimes we should dive, but we're still playing hard."
This was Zambrano's fifth start since being reinstated to the rotation and the shortest start of his career. The right-hander gave up four runs on four hits on 21 pitches against the White Sox in one inning. His previous low was Opening Day this year, when he lasted just 1 1/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves.
Some of the Cubs could be guilty of playing on little sleep, because they had a 13-inning game Thursday in Seattle. But Zambrano had flown ahead to make sure he got enough rest."I kind of like it," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said about seeing Zambrano and Lee go toe to toe.
No punches were thrown. "Boxing is going so bad, if Don King sees that, he will put that in Vegas. Those are two big boys. That always happens when teams aren't playing well -- stuff, the intensity of the game. That can happen a lot. Coming out here and playing in this type of game with the fans out there, all the media around, that's part of the game.
"I know in a couple of days it will be fine," Guillen said. "Carlos will be out there, and Derrek Lee will be behind him. A lot of people will take this over the top, but over the years, when you play 162 games and you're not playing well, stuff goes that way."
Maybe. Maybe not."I know one thing, he's going to have to apologize to his teammates, that's for darn sure," Piniella said. "And that's the least. There's no need for this, none at all. We've got our share of problems.
"I'm embarrassed. Carlos should be embarrassed. We'll see exactly what comes out of this. There's no question he has to control his emotions better than that. He's a grown guy and there's no need for it. I know darn well it's not going to be tolerated."Every spring, Zambrano says he's more mature, he's going to settle down and keep his emotions in check. On March 31, Piniella said Zambrano said he had changed. Did the manager believe him?"To me that means there might be a little slippage at times," Piniella said in March.
"Let's not expect perfection. I see a guy who is really focused and has really worked hard and he's been under good control."
Zambrano is coming off a disappointing 9-7 season, and cooperated in April when Piniella asked him to move into the bullpen after four starts. In 13 relief appearances, he compiled a 4.15 ERA. In his previous start before Friday, he gave up eight hits over seven innings and picked up the win.
"He went to the bullpen because the other five starters were pitching better than he was, nothing more, nothing less," Hendry said, downplaying any notion that the frustration from that demotion had anything to do with Friday's explosion. "That was the best thing for the Cubs. Where I come from you get paid to do a job and paid to do what's best for the team."Hendry said this was not the first time he's had to intervene with Zambrano, who is in the third year of a five-year, $91.5 million contract. Friday's incident was more than a little slip.
Don't expect the pitcher to be signed up for anger management therapy."I think 'Good Teammate 101' would be before [anger management]," Hendry said.The Cubs favor stringent discipline.
"It's a recurring situation," Hendry said, "and everytime it recurs it's disappointing."
Zambrano apparently screamed at some of the Chicago television camera crews outside U.S. Cellular Field when he left the ballpark.When Hendry suspended Milton Bradley last September, it was for the remainder of the season. It's June 25, and there's a lot of baseball to be played. Can Zambrano pitch again for the Cubs this year?
"I hadn't given that any thought," Hendry said. "I certainly wouldn't rule it out. The rules of the game usually don't allow long, long-term suspensions. It's a very good question, and I'm not as prepared to answer it. I would say the possibility exists that he would [pitch again for the Cubs]."Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.