"You sit down with Zambrano face to face," said Sveum after his introductory news conference Friday at Wrigley Field. "I don't really know the guy so I can't really answer all these questions, but we all know his nine strikes are up. But after talking with [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein], I think [Zambrano] realizes it, and he knows it. He knows that he has to win back the respect of the players as well as management."
Epstein said on Monday after meeting with Zambrano in person that if the pitcher passes several rigid tests and works hard on his conditioning that Zambrano could be welcomed back to the team. Zambrano, who was put on the disqualified list on Aug. 12 for 30 days and was restored to the 40-man roster after the season, has one year remaining on the five-year $91 million extension that he signed in 2008.
"At some point we will sit down and talk whether it's over the phone or hopefully face to face," Sveum said. "A lot of times you don't know what type of situation you have to handle. But you have to get a grip on the guy and try to understand where he's coming from because he's out of strikes."
Zambrano is 13-10 lifetime against the Brewers with a 3.81 ERA. Sveum has watched many of those games as a coach in Milwaukee for the past six seasons.
"You really have to know what is inside a person," Sveum said. "I've seen stuff from the other side of the dugout over the years. As I said, his three strikes are up. He definitely has to prove his willingness to gain respect back from his teammates as well as myself, Theo and the Ricketts family."
How does Sveum expect to help a player stay under control on the field who has consistently self combusted over the years?
"That's been the million dollar question for everybody," Sveum said. "As I said before, I have to sit down with him and look him in the eye and talk to him straight on. We have to see if we can cut down on those kinds of tantrums, or whatever you want to call them, down to nothing."
Sveum has seen Zambrano at his best and knows what kind of impact he can have.
"He's one heck of a pitcher," Sveum said. "I wasn't a very good hitting coach when he pitched against us."