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Z-Train Derailed? Carlos Zambrano Struggles in Latest Minor League Start

Jun 14, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT

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He claims he was ready to join the Phillies two outings ago, but Carlos Zambrano’s start for Lehigh Valley on Thursday might give the organization pause. As the Inquirer’s Bob Brookover saw it, Big Z was “less than dazzling” on the Triple-A stage, the fourth outing of his minor-league tryout.

The line says enough on its own. While he only allowed two runs off of four hits to go along with five strikeouts in a no decision, Zambrano was only able to make it through five innings of work, running a deep pitch count and walking four batters.

Zambrano’s numbers are still decent. He’s 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA between Clearwater, Reading, and Lehigh. However, command has increasingly become an issue. He’s awarded seven free passes between his last two appearances, running his total to 11 on the year. He has yet to last longer than six innings in a start.

If Zambrano is laboring this much against minor-league batters, what do you think is going to happen against the seasoned hitters in the show?

It’s also what doesn’t show up in the box score that is concerning. At one time one of the game’s top power pitchers, it sounds like the 32 year old might be out of juice. Here’s more from Brookover:

The quote is funny because in his prime with the Chicago Cubs, he could throw a baseball close to 100 m.p.h. What the hitters from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre saw Thursday was a steady diet of fastballs clocked at 84 to 88 m.p.h. to go along with a big-league slider.

“You have to remember that I have more than 2,000 innings in my shoulder,” said Zambrano, 32. “The major leagues punish people and there is nothing I can do . . . but I was able to go out and compete and keep the team in the game.”

I hate to be the one to break it to Carlos, but the Phillies were probably hoping he could do more than keep the team in games. Hell, Tyler Cloyd has done that much.

At the very least, it sounds like Zambrano will have to prove himself once more before he gets the call. Cloyd has actually held his own, and while Jonathan Pettibone was hit around some in two of his last three starts, he had been very effective up to then.

Big Z may think he’s ready, but the organization has a couple more weeks before they have to make a decision, specifically July 1. That’s the date Zambrano can opt out of his minor-league contract.

>> Zambrano less than dazzling in IronPigs outing [Inq]

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