Nothing like waiting until the last minute, just ask Cubs general manager Jim Hendry who is apparently calling the bluff of staff ace to Carlos Zambrano who has threatened to seek greener pastures next year unless the Cubs finalize a contract extension by opening day.

“We already locked up Marquis and Lilly for a few years, do we really need Carlos that badly?” asked a defiant Hendry. “Plus when Wood and Prior are back in a month or so, Carlos will be even more expendable.”

While nobody knows for sure if the two sides will come to an agreement by game time Monday, Zambrano is slated to take the hill in the Cubs season opener against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark Monday afternoon.

Despite a $300 million off-season spending spree, many questions still remain unanswered for a team coming off a 96-loss season. Will the Swiss cheese outfield defense set a big league record for errors in a season? Can the starting rotation strike out more batters than they walk? Has skipper Lou Piniella taught Cub batters the terms “hit and run,” “take a pitch,” or “clutch base hit?”

With newcomer Alfonso Soriano at the top of the lineup, Derrek Lee healthy for an entire season, and a much-improved bench, the offense should put up some numbers. But a question mark at closer, where Ryan Dempster is coming off an atrocious ’06 campaign, and a starting rotation that showcases Jason Marquis and his 6+ ERA as their number three starter, begs the question of how many games will have to be won 15-14?

heckler editorial staff