Zambrano optimistic about contract

Zambrano optimistic about contract

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Carlos Zambrano kicked the mound when Cubs manager Lou Piniella came out in the sixth inning on Sunday to pull him from the game. Yes, it's only Spring Training, but Zambrano wanted to go the distance.

"It was a natural reaction," Zambrano said. "I like to finish."

That's a good attitude for the Cubs' Opening Day starter to have. Zambrano gave up four runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings and struck out four Angels on Sunday in the Cubs' 4-0 loss. The good news was that Zambrano didn't walk anybody.

"That's a good point," Zambrano said when reminded that he didn't issue a free pass. "You forget about [the runs] when you're in command and can attack the strike zone, and that's what I did today."

The right-hander not only wanted to finish the game, but he'd like to complete negotiations with the Cubs regarding a possible new deal. His agent, Barry Praver, settled on a one-year, $12.4 million deal with the team minutes before his arbitration hearing on Feb. 20.

Zambrano's is the largest single-season award given a pitcher in Cubs history, topping Kerry Wood's 2006 salary of $12 million. Zambrano would like a long-term deal, and Praver was in town this weekend, but there have been no formal talks between the agent and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

Asked about his contract status, the 25-year-old Zambrano said on Sunday that the two sides were "close."

Close to a deal?

"That's what I think," Zambrano said. "I always say that because I want to put my mind on positive things. I always say we will sign. I want to do that."

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Zambrano will not be worried if the two sides can't reach an agreement on a new deal before Opening Day. That's his deadline. Zambrano, who went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA last year, will be a free agent after the 2007 season.

"I have a good contract this year," he said. "I just have to see what happens. You have to play baseball, you have to pitch your games, help your team and see what happens."

Zambrano does not want to discuss a contract during the season.

"I'll wait until after the season when we win the World Series," Zambrano said.

That's positive thinking.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.