There’s a belief among sports enthusiasts that a change in scenery can do wonders for struggling athletes. In Jan. 2012, the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins were hoping to successfully put that to the test when they exchanged Carlos Zambrano and Chris Volstad.
Both pitchers were coming off disappointing 2011 MLB seasons. Zambrano was supposed to benefit from his acquaintance with fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen. The Cubs wanted Volstad to progress into an innings-eater toward the bottom of a starting rotation that already had Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija.
This change of scenery was supposed to help both pitchers. Unfortunately, it expedited the downward trend that their careers had taken. Volstad lasted just one season with the Cubs after he endured a 24-game non-winning streak. Zambrano finished the season in the Marlins’ bullpen.
One disappointing season with the Marlins later, Zambrano can’t find work with any MLB franchise. With three weeks left until Opening Day 2013, Zambrano is pitching for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. At age 31, Zambrano wants to make an impression that will result in him getting one last opportunity in the big leagues.
Will any team take a risk on the hot-headed pitcher? For Zambrano, the problem is that three weeks isn’t enough to show that he has matured. He hasn’t pitched well enough to merit the risk of having his temper in the locker room. Only a team who is desperate for starting pitching (e.g. Minnesota Twins) should even consider giving him a minor league contract.
Zambrano is just another ex-Cubs pitcher who’s trying to make a comeback. Mark Prior, Dontrelle Willis and Rich Harden are all doing the same thing. Will any of them succeed in their missions?