02/13/09 4:53 PM EST
Zambrano will pass on Classic
Cubs ace may have Lasik eye surgery, cautious with shoulder
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Zambrano, who reported to Fitch Park on Friday, said he has been having some problems with his eye. He was examined in Chicago in January and said at that time he was to have the procedure done before Spring Training began. But his eye is now infected.
"The doctor gave me some eye drops, like four different kinds," Zambrano said. "I'm using them right now. For three weeks, I have to use the drops and see what happens to my vision. I feel much better, and the most important thing is I'm here and happy for this weather and happy to have Spring Training."
The problem, according to Zambrano, is doctors have told him his vision is supposed to be like a baseball and "my right eye is like a football."
"It's something I have to correct," Zambrano said. "I can do it right now, or do it during the season."
He didn't seem to have any problems during batting practice at Fitch Park, hitting balls over the fences.
Zambrano pitched for the Venezuelan team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and was on his country's provisional roster this year.
"Believe me, I want to represent my country, I want to be out there," Zambrano said. "But if you can't do something, you can't force things because it can get worse. We'll see what happens."
When he does have the eye surgery done, Zambrano said he'll likely be sidelined about two weeks. There are no problems with his shoulder.
"I feel good, my shoulder feels good and I'm ready to go," Zambrano said. "I think -- I'm sure this past offseason was the most rest for my shoulder ever since I've been in baseball. I didn't play catch until the second week of January. I think the rest helped a lot."
The Cubs sent one of their trainers to Venezuela to check on Zambrano's shoulder and his exercises. Everything went well.
It was quite an offseason for Zambrano, who was celebrated in Venezuela for his no-hitter Sept. 14 against Houston. The game was replayed on Venezuela television every month.
"One time, I was going to the beach with my family, and I was deciding whether to watch the game or go," Zambrano said. "My daughters were saying, 'Let's go, Daddy. Let's go, Daddy.'"
Zambrano has been the Cubs' Opening Day starter the last four seasons, but when asked if he'll get the assignment April 6 in Houston, the right-hander deferred.
"It's up to Lou [Piniella]," Zambrano said. "I want to be [the starter], but it's up to him. If I'm the Opening Day starter, the second-day starter, the third-day starter, it's good for me. I've told [the media] I don't like being the Opening Day starter, but if I have to be the Opening Day starter, I have to do my job. It's up to Lou. It doesn't matter to me."
Piniella isn't ready to name his starter just yet. He did select Ryan Dempster over Zambrano in Game 1 of the National League Division Series last year against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"We don't know yet," Piniella said. "We've got four very experienced starters here, and they're all very good. I feel comfortable with any of the four on Opening Day.
"I told you that last year in the playoff situation, the thing that hurt me the most -- outside of the fact that we got beat -- was that I didn't get [Ted] Lilly into a baseball game," Piniella said. "How about if we make Lilly the Opening Day starter and make it up to him?"
Zambrano has not won an Opening Day assignment. Maybe his new mustache will change his luck?
"Lou told me I look more intimidating," Zambrano said. "That's good."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.