Ozzie Guillen's unique relationship with Carlos Zambrano is why the Miami Marlins' manager feels so confident his new pitcher will rejuvenate his career after a controversial finish with the Chicago Cubs.
"I predicted Carlos would win 15 games for the Cubs in the Winter Meetings," Guillen said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I said, 'Carlos will be fine.' You know why? Because Carlos is on a mission, he wants to show people he's a good kid. He wants to show people he can win. He wants to show he has a lot of baseball left.
"Now I have him. They call him 'The Bull,' 'El Toro.' I'm the matador."
He was also the friend and mentor. In fact, as Zambrano prepared to meet new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, it was Guillen who was prepping his friend and fellow Venezuelan. It appeared to be an important meeting, considering many thought Zambrano's controversial career with the Cubs was in jeopardy when he left Atlanta's Turner Field during a game in August and said he was retiring.
"I remember I talked to Carlos when he went to talk to Mr. Epstein," said Guillen, who at that point had left as manager of the Chicago White Sox to become the Marlins' manager. "When they went to talk, I told Carlos, 'Listen, he's going to be the new GM, a new manager (in Dale Sveum), new ballclub, tell him everything he's got on you. How you feel about this ballclub. How you feel about how people treated you. Tell him everything' -- I don't know if he did -- 'and then see what happens.'"
What happened was Epstein traded Zambrano and cash considerations to the Marlins for Chris Volstad. Epstein said there was a breakdown of trust that would have been difficult for Zambrano to re-establish.
Now Zambrano, whose talented right arm and competitive spirit often were overshadowed by a temper that led to dugout fights with teammates and suspensions, will be Guillen's responsibility.
Guillen doesn't expect Zambrano to change. He said he still expects the passion and fire, but he proudly pointed out he never had problems in the White Sox dugout between players. And he doesn't expect them in Miami.
"It's how you go about your business the right way," Guillen said. "You can't make rules one day, and the rules are for 22 guys, not for 25. Or you talk to them first. That comes with communication and with attitude.
"You don't see any of my players do that on the field or off the field. They have to respect the teammates, they have to respect the baseball game and they have to respect people. When you let the tiger out of the cage, it was hard to bring it back."
As far as Guillen is concerned, the passion will remain without being a distraction.
"I think Carlos is going to show people how good he can be," Guillen said. "I expect him to be upset and throw his stuff. I don't mind that as long as he doesn't hit anyone."
Zambrano, 30, said he's looking forward to a rebirth of his career.
"Going to Miami will be more relaxed, waiting to do my job and together with my teammates trying to win with this team," he said. "My time with the Cubs was very successful except for the last two years. But I would say there were 11 years of success and would like to be remembered well in Chicago. Unfortunately the last two years there was no mutual understanding on either side and many things happened."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.