Cubs' Zambrano suspended after tirade

Updated: June 26, 2010, 4:25 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com news services

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano has been suspended indefinitely after a dugout tirade Friday.

Zambrano had to be separated from teammate Derrek Lee in the visitors' dugout after surrendering four runs to the Chicago White Sox in the bottom of the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field.

It was unclear what upset Zambrano, but his frustration was directed at Lee. The two were face to face before manager Lou Piniella and others intervened. Zambrano also walked up and down the dugout shouting and knocked over a Gatorade cooler before Piniella told him to go home.

"His conduct wasn't acceptable," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "His actions toward his teammates and staff were not acceptable.

"He will not be at the ballpark tomorrow. We'll play with 24. We'll play with 24 before we tolerate that kind of behavior."

Asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Zambrano would pitch again for the Cubs this year, Hendry said he "certainly wouldn't rule it out" and added "the rules of the game usually don't allow long, long-term suspensions."

Zambrano is in the middle of a $91.5 million, 5-year contract extension he signed in August 2007, and Hendry said he doesn't think his behavior could nullify the deal.

"It becomes a bit of a tired act," Hendry said. "People think that he hasn't been spoken to by Lou and his staff or the general manager before. Things are sometimes construed as being let go or let slide by -- that's certainly not true. You have every right to say it like that, that it's a recurring situation. And every time it recurs, it is a little bit more disappointing."

Tom Gorzelanny replaced Zambrano in the top of the second, and the Sox went on to win 6-0 for their 10th straight victory.

"He was ranting and raving and out of control," Piniella said. "We just couldn't tolerate that. It was embarrassing. There's no excuse for this, none at all."

Piniella said he would support Hendry's decision.

"It's a serious matter," Piniella said. "There's no need for this, none at all. I'm embarrassed. Carlos should be embarrassed."

Lee wouldn't discuss the matter after the game, but he said it wouldn't divide the team.

"We'll definitely stick together," Lee said. "Sometimes it's not easy. Right now, it's not an easy time. But you stick together, stay positive and fight through."

There was speculation Zambrano was mad that Lee didn't make the play on Juan Pierre's leadoff double down the right-field line. But Piniella said Lee was pinching in anticipating a bunt, and Pierre said there was no way Lee could have made the play.

"No, because he's in for the bunt and I hit it right down the line," Pierre said. "Due to the fact he was playing in for the bunt, it limits your range from side to side.

"Derrek Lee is a Gold Glover. If he can't get to the ball, then it was a hit."

It's been an unusual season for Zambrano, who struggled early before being sent to the bullpen. Zambrano was making his fifth start since returning from the bullpen. He was 2-2 in his last four before Friday.

Piniella said it's the first time he had to send a player home before a game ended since sending Milton Bradley home from a game last season. That game also happened to be against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

"Boy, every time we come here," Piniella joked.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who is friends with Zambrano and said they were scheduled to have dinner Friday night, said temper is part of the game.

"That happens when teams aren't playing well," he said. "It's not the first time, and it won't be the last time to happen.

"I know in a couple of days they'll be fine. Carlos will be out there, and Derrek Lee will be playing behind him. Carlos likes to compete, likes to do well. That's part of the game. That's the way he is. He's not going to change that. He has to talk to his teammates. He'll be all right."

Zambrano has faced disciplinary action for his antics before.

Last season he was barred for six games by Major League Baseball after an outburst during a game against the Pirates. And in 2007, he got into a fight with former teammate Michael Barrett in the dugout. The fight then resumed in the clubhouse. Both players were fined.

Zambrano had been on good behavior this year, though. He didn't complain when the Cubs banished him to the bullpen after he struggled in his first few starts. And although he dominated in his previous start against the Angels, he hasn't shown the form that led to the big contract for the past year and a half.

"He really hasn't been up to the standards that he was before for two seasons," Hendry said. "If you look at his last 50 starts, he probably ranks in the bottom third of the National League of overall performance, and I'm not saying that critically. That's not something that I'm tying in with today, but that's part of the decision that was criticized at the time, like we were taking our ace out of the rotation.

"At that time we did it," Hendry continued, "I think it was a 40-start lookback that we did, and it really didn't wind up very well. ... I expect him to win more than nine wins like last year, and certainly, he deserved to be given a large contract. He was one of the best pitchers in the game for four, five years and did a tremendous job."

Information from ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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