Hendry stays calm after Zambrano's ultimatum

The "Big Z" issued his pay me or lose me ultimatum, but Cubs general manager Jim Hendry isn't panicking.

"I'm not concerned about that at all. In fact, I think when he gets here, he'll probably clear that up," Hendry said of Carlos Zambrano's contract talk, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. ''That wouldn't make much sense to take that stance. I think what he probably meant -- well, I'll let him speak for himself -- but what his agent has represented to me is that if we don't have something done by Opening Day, we'll table it for another time. That's the Carlos that I know, but I'll let him speak for himself. But [the ultimatum] would certainly be totally different than what I have been told."

Zambrano and the Cubs are currently due to go to salary arbitration Feb. 20, with Zambrano seeking $15.5 million and the Cubs offering $11.025 million.

"Whatever happens, I don't want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts," Zambrano said in an interview on WGN-TV. "If they don't sign me, sorry, but I must go. That's what Carlos Zambrano thinks."

The Cubs spent lavishly during the offseason, forking over nearly $300 million to bring aboard Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly and re-sign Aramis Ramirez in an effort to turn around last year's NL-worst 66-96 record.

During the annual Cubs Convention, Zambrano, when asked whether he will test free agency next season, repeatedly said "This is a business" and noted that Barry Zito's seven-year, $126 million deal helped raise his value on the free-agent market.

"When you're a great pitcher and have talent, you deserve the money no matter who gives it to you," he said. "Zito is a great pitcher. Good for him he has that contract, and I think that will help me.

"[Cubs general manager] Jim [Hendry] spent a lot of money. I hope he has more for 'Big Z,'" he said.

Zambrano, who became the Cubs' staff ace when Kerry Wood and Mark Prior went down with injuries, went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 2006. For his career he's 64- 42 with a 3.29 ERA in 977 innings.