Zambrano says he's ready after Reading start

Zambrano says he's ready after Reading start

June 8, 2013, 11:15 pm
Share This Post

READING, Pa. — Carlos Zambrano is ready and he’s waiting for the call from the Phillies to join the starting rotation.

“This is my fifth outing, and I'm ready,” Zambrano said. “I'm ready to help the team and do whatever they want.”

That’s what he said after earning a 2-1 win for Double-A Reading over Harrisburg on Saturday night at First Energy Stadium. In six innings, his longest start in his comeback bid, Zambrano allowed a run on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. He also threw 97 pitches, with 56 of them for strikes.

And now he wants to pitch for the Phillies in the big leagues.

“I have to talk to my agent, he’s in contact with Mr. Ruben [Amaro Jr.],” Zambrano said. “We’ll see what is next from here.”

Zambrano can opt out of his minor-league deal with the Phillies if he isn’t on the big-league roster by July 1. Still, Zambrano will likely make at least one more start for Reading or Triple-A Lehigh Valley when his next turn comes around on Thursday.

Considering that Zambrano still hasn’t thrown 100 pitches in his comeback, he still has some work to do.

“He has a little ways to go,” Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. “We got him extended a little bit more.”

Zambrano allowed a run in the second on a one-out solo homer to Harrisburg’s Jimmy Van Ostrand and gave up a leadoff double in the third to Rick Hague and a leadoff single in the fourth to Jerad Head.

Harrisburg went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position, with Zambrano wiggling out of one marginal threat in the third inning.

“I’m ready,” Zambrano said. “My sinker was good, I made one mistake on a curveball, I did pay for it with the home run. I was throwing in Single A, this league is tougher, better hitters, but I think I did pretty good, I think I did OK. Once the sinker is good, spilt-finger, slider, I’m ready to pitch in the big leagues.”

No one can doubt Zambrano’s competitive spirit. A three-time All-Star with a 132-92 record in the majors as well as five postseason starts and a no-hitter, Zambrano has never shied away from the big stage.

That said, Zambrano’s stuff still wasn’t as crisp as it could be. Relying mostly on his breaking pitches, Zambrano’s fastball topped out at 91 mph but was typically cracking the stadium radar gun at 87. Though he threw all of his pitches in any count or situation, Zambrano battled some control issues as evidenced by the three walks.

He also threw 11 first-pitch strikes to the 23 hitters he faced and worked against five three-ball counts, tossing at least five pitches to 11 hitters.

Zambrano got outs, but he had to work for them.

“I thought he was OK,” Wathan said. “Obviously, he competes and gives you everything he has. He’s excited to be back with an organization. I think he has a little bit of work to do. His sinker wasn’t really great, but he threw enough strikes and used all of his pitches. He has four pitches he can throw for strikes.”

And if Zambrano has any say, he’ll be throwing those pitches as a starter. With a starting five of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd taking the ball every five days with John Lannan ready to make a rehab start on Wednesday, the Phillies could have a numbers crunch in the rotation.

Would Zambrano be interested in working out of the bullpen like he did 15 times for the Marlins last season?

"I want to be a starter. I signed here to be a starter,” Zambrano said. “Last year was miserable when I went to the bullpen, I didn't enjoy it. That's why I signed here.”

So there’s that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem as if the Phillies are close to making a decision on Zambrano. In the meantime, he can take another turn in the minors and fine tune his pitches.