Marlins believe Guillen can get the most out of Zambrano
The Miami Marlins are counting on excitable Ozzie Guillen to have a calming influence on quarrelsome Carlos Zambrano. The plan may sound crazy, but say this for the Marlins: They've become harder to ignore.
Their latest off-season move was approved Thursday, when they acquired Zambrano from the Chicago Cubs for underachieving right-hander Chris Volstad. The Marlins believe Zambrano's career can be resuscitated by pairing him with fellow Venezuelan and good friend Guillen, the team's new manager.
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"Ozzie has a long and close relationship with Carlos," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "We went with Ozzie on this one. The bottom line was Ozzie just really, really felt confident about this deal."
In Chicago, Zambrano was a three-time All-Star, but he also feuded with teammates, management and umpires. The final straw came Aug. 12, when he was ejected from a game, cleaned out his locker and was suspended without pay.
As part of the trade, the Marlins will pay $2.55 million of Zambrano's $18 million salary this year. The Cubs are responsible for the rest.
"Every player that I talked to articulated to me that Carlos had really violated their trust," new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "When you're talking about physical altercations with teammates repeatedly, when you're talking about physically walking out on the team, it's very hard to then have that player come back into the clubhouse and be trusted."
Volstad has a career record of 32-39 with a 4.59 ERA in 11 big-league seasons. He was originally the Marlins' first-round pick in 2005.
If the Marlins can get Zambrano to settle down, the deal might be a steal. He went only 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA last year, but he's just 30 and could benefit from the change in scenery. His career record is 125-81, all with the Cubs from 2001 to 2011, and three times he finished in the top five in NL Cy Young balloting.
Hamilton's father-in-law hired for support
The Texas Rangers have hired Josh Hamilton's father-in-law as a staff special assistant. Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels says Michael Dean Chadwick will fill a support role for the slugger that was left vacant when Johnny Narron left in November to become Milwaukee's hitting coach. Narron joined the Rangers when Hamilton was acquired four years ago in a trade from Cincinnati. His primary role was to support Hamilton, the former No. 1 overall draft pick who rebounded from substance abuse problems to become the 2010 AL MVP and a four-time All-Star.
■ The railings at Rangers Ballpark are being changed to make them safer for fans. They have beveled tops and lean slightly inward toward front-row seats. The team announced plans to make all front-row railings 42 inches high after the July death of a Texas firefighter who fell after reaching out to grab a ball tossed his way by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.
■ Guess $240 million wasn't quite enough for Albert Pujols. In addition to his salary, the Los Angeles Angels are giving the slugger four season tickets to home games over the next decade. He and the Angels still need to work out the location of the seats, which are his to enjoy for the duration of his contract.
■ Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks has undergone a second spinal decompression procedure that could delay the start of his spring training. The Red Sox confirmed the procedure on Thursday. Jenks, 30, is in the second year of a two-year, $20 million contract. He appeared in just 19 games last season with lingering back pain.
■ The Athletics re-signed center fielder Coco Crisp to a $14 million, two-year contract Thursday with a club option for 2014.
Glover injured in paddle board accident
Lucas Glover sprained his right knee in a freak paddle board accident and might not be able to start his season at the Tournament of Champions. "Just fell off the board," Glover said Thursday. "Done that a thousand times." The simple fall into the water wasn't harmless this time, though. The former U.S. Open champion was on his paddle board Saturday morning in the Pacific — one of his favorite hobbies when he comes to Hawaii — when he lost his balance and fell. "My foot caught on the edge of the board, my body went one way and my knee went the other," Glover said. "I knew immediately I had done a little something. I just wasn't sure how bad." Tests an hour later revealed a sprain of the medial collateral ligament.
Aiken leads European Tour opener
South Africa's Thomas Aiken shot a 9-under 64 Thursday at the Africa Open for a one-shot lead after the first round of the European Tour's season-opening tournament. Aiken had five birdies and two eagles at the par-73 East London Golf Club for a one-shot lead over South Africans Retief Goosen and Jaco Ahlers. Goosen, after bogeying his first hole, had nine birdies, including five in a row from Nos. 11-15. Defending champion and former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen had a 69.
WNBA team fires Kobe's dad
The Los Angeles Sparks have hired Atlanta Dream assistant Carol Ross as their new coach, replacing Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Bryant, the father of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, began his second stint as head coach in July after Jennifer Gillom was dismissed. Ross spent the last three seasons with Atlanta, which reached the WNBA finals in 2010 and 2011.
SPORTS IN THE COURTS
Federer, Nadal reach Qatar semifinals
Defending champion Roger Federer was tested for the first time Thursday at the Qatar Open before defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to reach the semifinals. The third-ranked Federer set up a rematch of last year's semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after the Frenchman cruised past unseeded Albert Ramos of Spain 6-2, 6-1. Rafael Nadal also reached the semifinals, playing some of his best tennis this week in dispatching Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-4. He will face Gael Monfils, who won the last four games in each set to beat Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-2, 6-3. The 30-year-old Federer is aiming for his fourth title in Doha.
Canadian team injured in crash
Three members of the Canadian bobsledding team were hospitalized Thursday after their four-man sled slammed into the roof of the track during a training run for this weekend's World Cup stop in Germany. The crash came when pilot Chris Spring lost control of his sled on the 16th turn of the 17-turn course at Altenberg, one of the world's toughest tracks. Spring sustained a "major puncture wound" to his buttocks and upper leg area from debris created by the crash, said Don Wilson, the CEO of Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton, adding that the sliders were resting comfortably and that the injuries are not life-threatening. Pieces of that debris, mostly wood, came through the bottom of the sled and caused the bulk of the injuries.
The last word
New Jersey Nets star Deron Williams, trying to convince the media he has bruised ribs:
"Why is everybody laughing when I say (I'm out?) ... No, I'm being serious, I'm very serious. It hurts to laugh, see. Don't make me laugh."