Carlos Zambrano has positioned himself as the Cubs ace heading into the 2006 campaign. He recently signed a one-year $6.5 million deal that sets the stage for a huge payday next year. Read on as Zambrano shares his enthusiasm for the coming season, his goals for the year, and what it’s like playing for Dusty Baker.

The Heckler: Are you looking forward to the coming season?
Carlos Zambrano: I’m excited for the coming year and hopefully we’ll stay healthy and do a good job.

TH: Do you have any goals set for yourself for this year?
CZ: Oh yeah. I think anybody who plays any sport has to have a goal. One of my goals is to win 20 games and help the team go to the World Series.

TH: What do you think of the moves the team has made so far in the off-season?
CZ: We have a strong bullpen now and we have  more speed in our lineup with Jacque Jones and Juan Pierre. I think we have an advantage right now. We have defense, we have offense, and we have speed and pitching.

TH: Is there anything that you think is missing yet?
CZ: I don’t think so. I think we are complete. I think we can compete and like I said before, hopefully we’ll stay healthy and everything will go well.

TH: Dusty Baker gets a lot of criticism in this town and was just booed at the Cubs Convention. Do think the fans are being fair to him?
CZ: Sometimes the fans think everything’s the manager’s fault. It’s not the manager’s fault. It’s not his fault that last year a lot of the key guys didn’t stay healthy. When you have a healthy team, you can compete.

TH: Dusty takes a lot of criticism for being too easy on his players. He doesn’t like to call anyone out in the media. When guys on the team screw up, does he take them behind closed doors and let them know he’s not pleased with their performance?
CZ: He’s very professional. When he’s got something to say he calls you into his office and he tells you he’s mad or he’s cool and he’s calmed down. If he has something to say to you, he comes to you and doesn’t say it in front of your teammates. He doesn’t like to embarrass anybody in front of their teammates. When he has to say something to the team, he says it. He’ll call a meeting and we listen to him.

TH: As a player, you probably appreciate that he doesn’t embarrass you in the media.
CZ: As a man, you don’t like to be embarrassed in front of anybody, so when a manager thinks like that, he deserves respect.

heckler editorial staff