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Phillies take chance on Carlos Zambrano

The Phillies have signed former Chicago Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano to a minor-league deal. (Paul Beaty/AP file photo)
The Phillies have signed former Chicago Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano to a minor-league deal. (Paul Beaty/AP file photo)Read more

The Phillies made what they consider a low-risk, high-reward deal Wednesday when they signed righthander Carlos Zambrano to a minor-league contract.

The team's assistant general manager, Scott Proefrock, said Zambrano would report to extended spring training to be evaluated. There is no timetable for him to pitch in a minor-league game.

Zambrano, who will turn 32 on June 1, has had a checkered career that has included three all-star appearances and several altercations that led to suspensions.

His 11-year tenure with the Chicago Cubs ended with a 30-game suspension in 2011 after he was ejected from a game for throwing at Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.

Zambrano allowed five home runs that game and cleaned out his locker before the game ended, saying he had retired. Instead, he was suspended.

He was traded to the Miami Marlins after the 2011 season and appeared in 35 games last year, going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA.

"We did our due diligence and always do," Proefrock said when asked if the Phillies were concerned about Zambrano's short fuse. "It's just good business."

For his career, Zambrano is 132-91 with a 3.66 ERA.

The Phillies saw him pitch Monday during a workout in Miami. The team said Zambrano pitched in winter ball in Venezuela.

He last pitched in a game for Venezuela during the World Baseball Classic, a 6-3 loss to Puerto Rico on March 9. Zambrano pitched 32/3 innings, allowing one hit and two earned runs. He struck out two and walked two.

Jorge Velandia, a minor-league player-development assistant for the Phillies, was the general manager of Venezuela's WBC team and gave a positive report on Zambrano, Proefrock said.

"We got positive feedback from everybody who has interacted with him recently," Proefrock said.

Zambrano has an opt-out date of July 1 in his deal. That means the Phillies must promote him to the major leagues or he can ask for his release.

The Phillies are down two starting pitchers from their opening rotation. Roy Halladay underwent shoulder surgery in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

John Lannan has been on the disabled list since April 18 with a strained quadriceps tendon in his left knee. He is not expected back until June.

Proefrock would not say whether the Phillies would have pursued Zambrano if Halladay had not gotten hurt, but he mentioned that the team had tried to sign pitchers with major-league experience during the offseason to bolster its triple-A depth. One of the players he said the Phillies pursued was Scott Kazmir. On Tuesday, Kazmir was the losing pitcher in the Phillies' 6-2 victory over the Indians.

Jonathan Pettibone (3-0, 3.41 ERA) has fared well as a Phillies starter since being recalled from Lehigh Valley. Beyond that, Tyler Cloyd impressed in his one start and prospect Adam Morgan has stumbled after a fast start at triple A.

Whether Zambrano makes the rotation remains to be seen. The Phillies are taking a look at a player who has enjoyed success and hoping he is young enough to recapture some of it. But they aren't getting carried away.

"I saw him down in Miami and he looks like he still had pretty good stuff," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We will see."

A Little Wild

Carlos Zambrano's outbursts with the Cubs:

June 1, 2007: He fought with teammate Michael Barrett in the dugout and the clubhouse, bloodying the catcher's lip after he allowed a passed ball and made a throwing error.

May 28, 2009: Zambrano was suspended for six games and fined $3,000 for bumping umpire Mark Carlson during a tirade.

June 25, 2010: The Cubs suspended Zambrano after his dugout altercation with first baseman Derrek Lee. Zambrano underwent anger management therapy and rejoined the team a month later.

Aug. 15, 2011: He was placed on the disqualified list by the Cubs, banned from the team for 30 days without pay, after his outburst following a 10-4 loss to the Braves. After allowing five homers, Zambrano cleaned out his locker and told clubhouse workers he was retiring. He did not pitch for the team again, but he resurfaced last season with Miami.