Former Cub Zambrano eyes return to big leagues

Former Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he thinks that he can overcome his age, his reputation and a long major league absence to make it back to the big leagues.

''Why not?'' Zambrano said Monday from Marlins Park, where the Cubs are playing this week. ''Bartolo [Colon] pitched until he was 45. I'm 37.''

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Zambrano showed off an email from the independent Chicago Dogs that welcomed him to this season's team. The Dogs play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, and their season starts May 17.

Zambrano hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2012. From 2003 to '08, however, he won double-digit games each season, leading the league with 16 in 2006. He has a career 3.66 ERA with 1,637 strikeouts.

But he also got into a fistfight in the dugout with catcher Michael Barrett in 2007. In 2009, he got into a heated argument with an umpire and beat up a Gatorade dispenser, earning a six-game suspension.

These weren't his only outbursts, but in 2011 he had his last with the Cubs. After giving up five home runs in an August start in Atlanta, Zambrano erupted and was ejected. He cleaned out his locker and left the stadium, reportedly telling teammates he was retiring. The Cubs suspended Zambrano, and he never pitched for the team again. One of new president Theo Epstein's first acts was to trade him to Miami.

Zambrano now credits God for changing him. The pivotal event happened at a Christian youth conference in his native Venezuela.

''I went to that conference, and something happened to me and changed my life,'' he said, according to the newspaper. ''I had an encounter with God. I used to believe in God. And now I'm committed.''

Zambrano played in the Mexican League last year, and his fastball topped out at 89 mph. In winter league, he said he hit 94.

''I want to see if I can throw 95 again,'' Zambrano said.

In his prime, Zambrano had some of the best stuff of a group of Cubs pitchers that included Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, but he could not control his emotions. He feels that his stuff can translate to a relief role in the majors and that he has a new emotional perspective.

''What happened with me was for a purpose," he said, according to the Sun-Times. "God can convert the most evil guy into the most dedicated man in a ministry. I'm not saying I'm perfect now. I think I can handle myself.''