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Baker remembers Zambrano's temper

Dusty Baker said there were times he had to pull Carlos Zambrano into his office, but he understands what it's like to have a temper. Mark Cowan/Icon SMI

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker is no stranger to Carlos Zambrano’s temper tantrums.

Baker, who managed the Cubs from 2003-06, had to leave the bench during a spring training game in 2006 to chase down Zambrano after the volatile pitcher had stared down teammate Matt Murton twice in the same game. Murton was unable to make two defensive plays behind Zambrano.

“We had quite a few conversations about things,” Baker said. “That’s contrary to the thought that, ‘Dusty is just an easygoing guy.’”

Baker chased Zambrano into the Cubs’ clubhouse at Ho Ho Kam Park in Mesa, Ariz. on that March day, and he read the pitcher the riot act about how he needs to be a better teammate, and showing up teammates would not be accepted.

“I never had any problem pulling someone into the office,” Baker said. “It’s just that you don’t let people know you had someone in there. Here [in Chicago], everyone wants to know everyone’s business. I’m not one to spread everyone’s business around.

“That’s my military training. That’s how they train you in the Marines. You have a beef with somebody, you keep it where it belongs, you don’t have to take it outside.”

Baker was asked for his reaction to Zambrano’s latest incident. Zambrano was suspended after a dugout tirade directed at teammate Derrek Lee on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. Manager Lou Piniella sent Zambrano home, and general manager Jim Hendry suspended him. After consultations with Major League Baseball, the players union and Zambrano’s representative, the Cubs announced he would be undergoing evaluations by doctors mutually agreed upon.

“It saddened me,” Baker said. “He’s a good guy, I know where he’s coming from, because I fought most of my adolescent life. I’ll tell you about temper. My own dad cut me from my Little League team three times. He said, ‘If you can channel that energy into a positive direction, you can be something. Until then, you’re going to get cut again.’ “

There are 45 million reasons, the money remaining on Zambrano’s contract, why the Cubs won’t be able to hand out discipline like Baker’s father did.

I like Big Z,” Baker said. “I hate that the whole thing happened and got to this point.”