It was not a bad night for Carlos Zambrano at Lehigh Valley, but it was not exactly a great night either. The righty, who is looking to reinvent himself with the Phillies allowed two runs in five innings while striking out five and walking four in his first start at Triple-A. He threw 101 pitches in the outing, 64 for strikes.
The first two innings were as perfect as could be for Zambrano. He retired the first six batters he faced, and did so on just 23 pitches. Things started to fall apart a little bit for him after that. It took him 27 pitches to get through the third, in which he allowed a hit and a walk, and in the fourth he walked three more batters, allowed a hit and gave up two runs. It took him 31 pitches to get through the fourth inning, which put him at 81 up to that point. He had a fairly clean fifth and final frame, allowing just a single.
There were a couple of concerning things about Zambrano’s start, with command being the most concerning. In the fourth inning Zambrano issued one walk after being ahead in the count 0-2, issued another on four straight balls, and the third one came with the bases loaded and allowed the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders to take the lead. Granted, home plate umpire Ian Fazzio had a small strike zone all night (and Zambrano on several occasions stared in after what he thought was a good pitch) but nonetheless his location was not spot on tonight.
The number of walks he has allowed so far in the minor leagues has increased with every stop along the way. In his two starts in Clearwater he allowed two walks in each. In Reading he walked three, and now four in Lehigh Valley.
The other concerning thing, which would not be as concerning had he located better, was his velocity. Zambrano was consistently between 84-87 mph with is fastball, and touched 88 just twice. It may not matter at all, but it was certainly different than the flame-thrower we have seen with the Cubs in the past.
There were also a couple positives in Zambrano’s outing, one of which was that he was able to work out of jams. He had runners on the corners in the third and escaped any trouble, and in the fourth he did not give up a hit after having two runners in scoring position with nobody out, and struck out the final batter of the inning with the bases loaded in what could have been a much worse inning.
His off-speed stuff was also working well. He got quite a few swings and misses from his curveball (which he was throwing anywhere from 65-75 mph with sharp break), and was also able to throw his change-up effectively.
All things said and done, he was not awful at all, but he really did not look ready to pitch in the major leagues yet, like he said he was after his start in Reading last week.
Here is a link to what Zambrano had to say after the game.