Carlos Zambrano Isn’t Coming

Pedro Martinez trotted out of the Coca-Cola Park bullpen in a lily white #45 IronPigs jersey through humid, post-downpour, Lehigh Valley air as 10,000 people baked in a surly July sun that seemed eager to make up for the time it had lost behind the clouds that day. He took the mound as I took to my pen. Martinez wound and fired as I craned my neck to see the radar gun three rows down from the seat I was wrongfully occupying. Eighty-six miles per hour. Already uneasy as I searched my brain for a creative excuse that would allow me to remain in the scouting section whenever Fashionably Late Season Ticket Holder came to boot me out of my current seat, seeing a 40 grade fastball spew from the arm of a God sent me into a full on sweat. Michael Brantley homered a few pitches later. The scouts did not write.

Instead, they stared into the abyss, paging through mental videos of games past, searching for long forgotten clips of a young Pedro Martinez wasting hitter after hitter with any one of the weapons in his arsenal. They couldn’t find them in the 20 seconds it took Brantley to run the bases and high-five Josh Barfield, who then found his footing in the batter’s box. Eighty-eight miles per hour. Oh. Eighty-nine. Eighty-nine with life. It was coming. Ninety. Ninety-with serious life. Ninety-two. It came. Pedro Martinez did not allow another hit until the fifth inning. Elation, relief, and happiness.

Last night, as soon as Carlos Zambrano’s first pitch entered Cameron Rupp’s glove, I again peeked the guns from a seat that did not belong to me. And again, the radar guns informed us that Carlos Zambrano’s fastball did not have enough juice to power a flux capacitor. A wiser, more patient, less emotionally invested me did not worry, nor whimper nor sweat. I just waited for it to come. It never came.

Carlos Zambrano sat 85-87mph with his fastball all night, never touching anything better when I happened to be looking. With that he mixed a cutter in the low-80s, a slider that sat between 75-78mph, a splitter in the upper 70s with moderate sink and one lollipop curveball that came it at about 65mph. The slider was his best pitch. It featured two plan movement and broke late on hitters, but it became less explosive and more inconsistent as his start when on. Both Z’s control and command were fringe average at best. His arm action is easy and comfortable but the rest of the delivery is stiff, fat, unathletic, and features a front side that flies way open, way early. It was a disappointing showing in front of three Phillies front office members (including ex-IronPig Jorge Velandia who was approached by a 13 year old before the game who was no doubt a Velandia fan from his days as a Pig. Velandia recognized the kid immediately joyously shook his hand and chatted for a minute before the game. It was awesome) and a host of scouts.

I talked to two of those scouts during the game. They have Zambrano pegged as an emergency starter, organizational depth, and not someone they’d ever see the Phillies bringing up unless they absolutely had to. I asked, “Is he even an upgrade over Tyler Cloyd at this point?”

“No. And I’m not big on Cloyd.”

While even the most delusional of us didn’t think Zambrano was going to be good enough to make a discernable impact on the Phillies roster, many of us at least hoped he’d be serviceable enough to net the Phillies some low-level, interesting but low probability prospect the way Jim Thome did the year before. After last night’s showing, neither that nor the prospect of Zambrano putting on a Major League uniform again seems quite likely.

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19 comments

  1. bubba0101

    June 14, 2013 12:49 PM

    That was an enjoyable read. Thank u. Im glad he isn’t coming up so that we get to test out other arms that may actually contribute to a Phillies team in the future. And, no, I don’t know who that would be, but anyone would suffice.

  2. Austin

    June 14, 2013 01:55 PM

    Maybe the Phillies should just call him up as a power bat off the bench…after all he does have 24 more home career home runs than Ben Revere.

  3. nik

    June 14, 2013 02:11 PM

    When did RAJ ever care about what scouts think? He picked out Delmon Young out of the trash pile and annointed him the right fielder, how is Zambrano any different. And when he fails RAJ will just blame the veterans for not getting it done.

  4. Jack Cardoso

    June 14, 2013 02:33 PM

    I like Zambrano i always have so what if his fastball doesnt hit 90 neither did Moyer and he did great i think he can still hit us and if he still has a good bat u can pitch hit with him an save a bat for later i say give him a shot and call him up

  5. Eric Longenhagen

    June 14, 2013 02:34 PM

    From a pure scouting standpoint, Delmon still does things that are really really impressive. If you talk yourself into the idea that the only thing holding him back was his complacency (I am not delusional enough to do that but I can see how someone might) then I can see giving it a shot. Though, I would’ve made Delmon prove it in the minors, first. Signing Delmon was grasping at straws. Chubby, unmotivated straws.

  6. Major Malfunction

    June 14, 2013 02:35 PM

    Great read. Makes complete sense.

    Fast forward 2 weeks and give us the another poignant write up after he makes his first start at CBP. ;)

    Let us not forget that logic and facts do factor into RAJ decisions.

  7. Major Malfunction

    June 14, 2013 02:36 PM

    I meant *do not* factor into RAJ decisions.

  8. Eric Longenhagen

    June 14, 2013 02:38 PM

    Jack,

    This thing here ——> .

    It’s called a period.

    Also, never compare anyone to Jamie Moyer. He was a freak. An exception. He was forced to learn how to get by on things other than raw ability at a very young age. Zambrano has always had impressive stuff which carried him to the fine career he had. That’s gone. Carlos Zambrano is the hot girl from high school who never had to develop a personality. Now she’s old and ugly and has nothing left to fall back on.

  9. joecatz

    June 14, 2013 02:45 PM

    For some reason I see them bringing him in as a bullpen piece and seeing what he can do late in a game. I can also see him having some modest success and ending up closing games in the second half if they trade papelbon.

    But I don’t see him in the rotation at all.

  10. Larry

    June 14, 2013 05:37 PM

    @ Joecatz,
    You can actually use him to pinch hit and then pitch the next inning. He’s probably better than at least one middle reliever on the roster.

  11. Larry

    June 14, 2013 05:43 PM

    Wow just checked, he has 24 homers and 26 doubles in only 693 atbats.

  12. Evan

    June 15, 2013 09:35 AM

    They should give him some time at 1st base. Bring him up and platoon him with Ryan Howard.

  13. Pencilfish

    June 15, 2013 10:28 AM

    joecatz,

    Yeah, I also see him as a RP they bring in late in games. With an ailing Adams and unproven, young middle relief (De Fratus and Stutes), it seems the Phillies have nothing to lose by trying big Z up for late innings.

  14. Dean

    June 17, 2013 06:54 AM

    Z has given up 3 ER in 22 IP in the minors. He has a dearth of ML experience and wants desperately to get back to the show. To say that he wouldn’t be a potential upgrade over Pettibone is just flat out wrong. Pettibone has given up 15 ER in his last 4 starts only over 19 IP. He’s allowed 36 baserunners to reach during that same timeframe, for a WHIP of just under 2.00. That’s awful. Bring up Z, and let’s see what he’s got.

  15. Phillie697

    June 17, 2013 12:29 PM

    @joecatz,

    And the Phils need another questionable bullpen arm becase… we don’t have enough already?

  16. Phillie697

    June 17, 2013 12:33 PM

    @Dean,

    Tyler Cloyd had 2.35 ERA in 142 IP last year in AAA. SSS aside with Z, comparing AAA performance to ML performance based on 22 IP and 19 IP tells us absolutely nothing, nevermind that Z probably has enough experience to fool AAA hitters that he will never get away with in the majors.

    The Phillies have better arms in the MINORS than Z, let alone what’s on the ML roster.

  17. Kram 209 (@KRAM209)

    June 18, 2013 06:08 PM

    Here’s a couple things:

    1. Nice write-up Eric. Much more precise and learned than my own assessment having seen him in both Reading and Allentown, but same conclusion: Not much in the tank.

    2. Get back in your own seat. Crimony. ;-)

    3. Z does NOT want to go to the pen. He said he was miserable there last year in Miami. I believe he would opt out before taking that gig.

    4. Z has been saying that “he’s ready” for a while. What does that tell me? It tells me he knows he can’t get any better than he is right now. He’ll start again tonight for the ‘Pigs in Toledo. We’ll see how he does, but I expect more of the same.

    5. One last thing: I had the opportunity to speak with him very very briefly in the dugout on Saturday. He seemed in good spirits and like he was having fun. He didn’t seem brooding or unhappy at all. Just my observation to his mindset, is all.

  18. Shawn

    June 19, 2013 10:08 AM

    That first paragraph had so much imagery, it was awesome!

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