'Big Z' to Cubs: Pay me or I walk

Associated Press
Carlos Zambrano: Cubs pitcher, a free agent at the end of the season, has given Chicago a small window to discuss a new contract.

MESA, Ariz. - Chicago Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano has a new message for the team: sign him to a new contract before the season starts or he'll leave and become a free agent after it's over.

"I'm ready to sign and I would do my job anyway with the Cubs this year," Zambrano said in an interview with WGN-TV that was reported Tuesday by the Chicago Tribune.

"Whatever happens, I don't want to know about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."

Zambrano, 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA and 210 strikeouts last season, asked for $15.5 million in arbitration. The team offered $11.025 million. He made $6.5 million last season.

At the team's winter convention in January, Zambrano first said that he wanted to have a new deal in place before the season starts. Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training today.

The Cubs spent millions in the off-season to overhaul their team, hiring Lou Piniella as manager and giving big deals to retain third baseman Aramis Ramirez and to sign free agent Alfonso Soriano.

Zambrano wants some of the money Cubs' general manager Jim Hendry has been doling out. The seven-year, $126 million deal the Giants gave to starter Barry Zito has changed the market.

"Zito is a great pitcher. Good for him he has that contract, and I think that will help me," Zambrano said then .

"Jim spent a lot of money. I hope he has more for 'Big Z.' "

l Chicago traded right-handed pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for two minor leaguers, outfielder Andrew Lopez and right-handed pitcher Gregor Reinhard.

RED SOX: It might have been the most photographed hamstring stretch in history.

Daisuke Matsuzaka worked out for the first time at the Red Sox spring training complex with about two dozen still cameras and a dozen television cameras focused on his simplest moves.

Bend at the waist? Click. Stretch his hamstrings? Click. Click. Smile? Click. Click. Click.

Photographers, most from Japanese organizations, kept busy for the 20 minutes they were allowed to watch the Japanese pitching star .

Some waited four hours outside the facility before Matsuzaka arrived behind the wheel of a black Cadillac Escalade just after noon.

A half hour later, wearing a red Boston Red Sox T-shirt, he walked out of the clubhouse for a brief tour of the grounds before starting his short workout.

At 12:35 p.m., he began stretching. At 12:40, he started jogging. At 12:46, he put on his glove. At 12:47, he made his first throw to catcher George Kottaras .

YANKEES: Reliever Ron Villone agreed to a minor league contract and was invited to New York's major league spring training camp.

The 37-year-old left-hander went 3-3 with a 5.04 ERA in a career-high 70 games with the Yankees last season. Villone has pitched for 10 major league teams and has a career mark of 55-57.

ARBITRATION: Baseball teams improved to 4-0 in salary arbitration when the Washington Nationals beat pitcher John Patterson and the Florida Marlins defeated reliever Kevin Gregg.

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel and Tampa Bay backup catcher Josh Paul were the first two players who went to arbitration this year and lost their cases Saturday.



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