Notes: McDonough happy to ink Big Z
Team president wanted to sign Zambrano before stretch run
CHICAGO -- Cubs president John McDonough said he felt confident the team would sign Carlos Zambrano, who agreed to a five-year contract extension Friday. The question was when.
"We just wanted to try to complete this before the end of the season," McDonough said Friday. "We think that this pennant race is going to go down to the bitter end, and nobody really wanted to have those distractions going forward."
Zambrano's $91.5 million, five-year deal, with a vesting option for a sixth year, presents him with the highest average salary awarded to a pitcher in a multi-year contract. The right-hander would have been a free agent at the end of the season, and could have probably found an even more lucrative deal with another team. But McDonough said it was Zambrano's clear desire to remain in Chicago that got the deal done.
"He would absolutely be an asset to any organization, but we all wanted Carlos to be an asset to our organization," McDonough said. "I think he's now one of the pillars of this foundation. We have high expectations going forward, and we want to be in the winning business, and we want to stay in the winning business."
Negotiations were delayed when the Tribune Co. announced the sale of the ballclub on Opening Day. Now, it's back to baseball and the chance to complete the "mission" Zambrano said they're on, which is to win the World Series.
"It's not acceptable to say that you hope to play meaningful games in September, we hope to win the Wild Card, or it's going to be great to win the division," McDonough said." There's no point in us trying to stop there.
"Our goal, as I think it should be the goal of any organization, is to win the World Series," McDonough said. "This is what drives everybody in this organization, and everybody in this city. More importantly, we have to reward these tens of millions of people here, our fan base that comes to see this great product and comes to this ballpark and gives their allegiance to this franchise. And we're doing everything we can to reward them."
The Cubs entered Friday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals trailing the Milwaukee Brewers by a half-game in the National League Central.
"We feel good about where we are, to be a half-game out of first place on Aug. 17, but where we want to be at the end is what I stated before," McDonough said. "[Signing Zambrano] I think is going to help. It's going to provide some enthusiasm, certainly I think it will for Carlos, and I think it will be infectious."
First swings: Josh Vitters, the Cubs' first-round pick and third overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was at Wrigley Field on Friday, and took batting practice with the team.
"It was amazing," Vitters said with a smile after hitting. "My heart rate was up there pretty high -- it still is, actually. [It was] one of the best experiences of my life."
Wearing No. 1 on his back, the 17-year-old Vitters said he felt a little more comfortable at the plate after hitting two balls into the left-field bleachers.
"It felt really good to get those under my belt," Vitters said. "Made me feel a little more relaxed throughout the rest of the BP, to just go up there and take relaxed swings and calm down a little bit."
Vitters signed for $3.2 million Wednesday, and will report to Mesa, Ariz., to join the Cubs' Rookie League team, and hopefully will get to short-season Boise before its season is over. A third baseman at Cypress High School (Calif.), Vitters said he is comfortable in any of the outfield positions. He hasn't played much baseball lately, but said that would not be a problem for him.
"I've just been waiting to sign, not even really playing, just because I didn't want to get hurt before I signed," Vitters said. "I've just been working out, taking swings in the batting cage, and stuff like that, to stay ready to go for the season."
He was comfortable and excited to be at Wrigley and wear a Cubs uniform, but admitted he was not actually wearing his own shoes. Vitters borrowed a pair of Cliff Floyd's shoes to warm up with the team.
"It's definitely a surreal experience being out here with all the big leaguers," Vitters said. "Playing on the field, getting treated like a big leaguer by all the players, it's just amazing."
Minor matters: Sean Gallagher gave up one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings in Triple-A Iowa's 6-4, 11-inning loss to Omaha on Thursday. Neal Cotts took the loss, giving up two runs over one-third of an inning. ... Jemel Spearman hit a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the 12th to give Double-A Tennessee a 5-2 win over Chattanooga on Thursday. Starter Donnie Veal gave up one run on three hits over six innings while striking out eight. ... Paul Schappert gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits over four innings in Class A Daytona's 13-6 loss to St. Lucie on Thursday. ... Class A Peoria committed three errors Thursday in an 11-1 loss to Cedar Rapids. Jake Renshaw gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings for the loss.
Peoria also made some roster moves, sending outfielder Clark Hardman to rookie level Mesa, and adding outfielder Ty Wright and infielder Marquez Smith from short-season Boise.
On deck: Lefty Sean Marshall will start Game 2 of this four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Marshall has made two starts against the Cardinals in his career, and has yet to get a decision. First pitch is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on FOX TV.
Marc Zarefsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.