Whether it was a religious experience in his native Venezuela this offseason, his friendship with Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen or just the change of scenery, Carlos Zambrano has fit in nicely with his new team.
Throwing strikes also has helped the veteran right-hander with that transition.
Zambrano looks to extend his 16-inning scoreless streak Sunday when the host Marlins complete their series against the New York Mets.
Acquired in the offseason for Chris Volstad, Zambrano joined the Marlins following a tumultuous 11-year run with the Chicago Cubs. There were plenty of questions whether the three-time All-Star could revive his career after going on the disqualified list in August for leaving the Cubs following an ejection, but by all accounts, Zambrano has been a model teammate since arriving in Miami.
"Since he walked in here, he has been nothing but awesome, (in) every way you can think of," catcher John Buck told the Marlins' official website. "He's kind of a favorite in this clubhouse."
Zambrano (1-2, 1.98 ERA) will continue to be a favorite if he can keep throwing strikes. The right-hander earned his first Marlins victory Monday by fanning a season-high nine and tossing a three-hitter in a 4-0 win at Houston.
With 22 strikeouts and six walks in his last four outings, Zambrano has raised his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 2.29 - it was 1.95 or less in each of his last six seasons with the Cubs.
"Strikes, strikes," Guillen said of Zambrano's success. "Everything was under control. The split finger was effective, his fastball was coming out of his hands very well and command. When Carlos commands it is very good."
Zambrano might need that kind of stuff against Mets third baseman David Wright, who is batting a league-best .402 after recording his first four-hit game of the season in Saturday's 9-3 win.
The five-time All-Star, batting .478 on the road, feels it's far too early to start thinking about a run at .400.
"Those are unrealistic goals," Wright said following his fourth consecutive multihit game. "I think it's realistic to go up there and try to have good at-bats. If the results come, great."
They haven't against Zambrano, with Wright going 3 for 24 with 11 strikeouts in that matchup.
Wright's former Mets teammate, Jose Reyes, also is looking to build on his first four-hit game of 2012. The shortstop is 5 for 9 in the first two games of this series after getting one hit in 12 at-bats as Miami suffered a three-game sweep in his return to New York from April 24-26.
Reyes is hitless in three at-bats against Sunday's scheduled starter, Jonathon Niese (2-1, 4.01).
The Mets (19-14) are hoping the left-hander can deliver a strong start as they try to end a six-game trip with five wins. Niese, though, is 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in three starts in Miami.
He did not earn a decision in a 3-2 win over the Marlins on April 26, but he struck out six while throwing seven innings of two-run ball.
Daniel Murphy is hitting .429 in his last eight games and is 3 for 10 against Zambrano, who was 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts against the Mets while with Chicago.
Winner of nine of 11 overall, Miami (17-16) has dropped four of six at home.
- Carlos Zambrano