Zambrano's tenure with the Cubs, which has been filled with high profile blow-ups, took a serious turn after he was ejected from Friday's game against the Braves and cleaned out his locker, telling those in the clubhouse that he planned to retire.
The team responded by placing him on the disqualified list, a rarely utilized portion of the rulebook that allows a team to punish a player without compromising the rest of the roster. Players can only be placed on the disqualified list if they violate the terms of their contract or of the collective bargaining agreement.
In addition to those requirements, players cannot be placed on that list without the approval of the Commissioner. If that's granted, the team may recall another player to take his place. Sanctioned players are not paid and do not accrue service time while on the list.
Prior to Zambrano's punishment, the last prominent player to be placed on the disqualified list was reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who was sanctioned by the Mets for getting in an altercation with a family member at the ballpark. The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance in support of Rodriguez in that case, and the two sides ultimately reached an agreement.
"If the Cubs welcome me, I'll be with the team again," Zambrano told CSN Chicago. "If they decide to do something else, I'll have to play for somebody else. In the bottom of my heart, I will be a Cubbie forever."
While many -- including manager Mike Quade and some Cubs teammates -- expressed disappointment in Zambrano over the weekend, he has received support from others around baseball, including former Cubs star Sammy Sosa and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, according to the CSN Chicago report.
Cubs closer Kerry Wood also offered his support for Zambrano after Chicago's win Monday in Houston.
"You hate to see it happen like that to him," Wood told CSN Chicago. "Seriously, baseball-aside, Z's a good person. He really is. He's a good guy. He's got a good heart. He gets it. He knows what this game is about. Unfortunately, he's had a history of not being able to control his emotions.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time he's in a great mood and keeps the clubhouse loose. [The] same thing that made him great -- and makes him great -- is the emotion that he pitches with. But, again, it's a double-edged sword for him. It just happened one too many times."
It's been a rocky past few seasons for Zambrano, who got into a fight with former catcher Michael Barrett and also stirred things up in the dugout with former teammate Derrek Lee last season. The string of incidents led to Zambrano being placed on the restricted list for six weeks and sent to anger management classes.
This season, the pitcher called the team "embarrassing" and a "Triple-A team" and also criticized closer Carlos Marmol.
Zambrano, who is 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts for the Cubs this season, has one year remaining on his five-year, $91.5 million contract, with a vesting option for 2013.