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

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

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]

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

Up from 217 to 250, Ben Simmons also stronger mentally from work with LeBron

CAMDEN, N.J. — It appears Ben Simmons took the saying about having the weight of the world on your shoulders a tad literal.

The Sixers' No. 1 overall pick walked into the team's sparkling new training complex for media day sporting a much bigger frame than when his name was called on draft night.

"I'm a lot stronger. When I started getting ready for the draft I was about 217 [pounds] and now I'm around 250," Simmons said Monday.

When you're expected to be the centerpiece of an organization that managed just 10 wins a season ago, it helps to have that extra bulk to carry those expectations. 

But Simmons isn’t just being looked at as a key to help change the franchise’s fortunes. He’s also being viewed as perhaps a once-in-a-generation talent after drawing several comparisons to LeBron James, who Simmons shares an agent with in Klutch Sports Group.

So how did the incoming rookie deal with being likened to four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion James? He went to work like someone trying to achieve those same goals.

“Just being around him and learning from his habits and what he does has just helped me overall,” Simmons said of working out with James and other NBA stars during the summer. “He’ll be one of the first guys in the gym every day. It doesn’t matter what day it is. He’s one of those guys who gets the work in and enjoys the rest of his day. Just learning from him I think I can take a lot from what he’s done. ... He’s done a lot for me. He’s helped me experience things I need to learn.

“They get in the gym and work. It’s one of those things where they don’t play around. They get straight to it. Obviously in the weight room too. LeBron loves the VersaClimber and they also brought two more in here. I’m starting to learn from what these guys do, D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) also. They’re all doing the same thing, working out every day and getting ready.”

That type of work ethic will go a long way toward Simmons' earning the respect of his Sixers teammates. The group was already eager to get on the floor with him for training camp at Stockton University and get a firsthand look at the versatile forward, especially his prowess as a passer.

“The most exciting thing that I’ve seen was his passing ability,” Jahlil Okafor said of Simmons. “That’s going to help me out a lot. He’s selfless. Being with the summer league guys he was always about the team. I’ve always considered myself a good teammate and he’s a great one as well. I’m excited to work with him.”

“I think for anybody who likes to shoot or likes to score, whenever you can have a big man who is a really good ball handler, can make good decisions, has great vision, it’s always a great thing,” Gerald Henderson said. “If you can be aggressive on the offensive end you don’t always have to have the basketball to be able to be right there and score. You have somebody that can find you and really is thinking pass-first. I think it’ll be great, not only for us but just our offense in general.”

Considering that the Sixers finished 29th in scoring a season ago, Simmons knows they will need him to be more than just a facilitator. The team needs consistent scoring from everyone on the court. And while the LSU product’s jump shot was questioned during his lone year in college, he believes he has worked hard to silence those doubts.

“I usually try to take what they give me. Obviously I’ve been working on my shot a lot with all the coaches,” Simmons said. “I can shoot the ball. I’m not really worried about that. Coming into training camp, it’s one of the things I’ve been working on since LSU.”

Simmons made it clear several times that he is confident in his offensive game and that the Sixers’ logjam in the frontcourt will work itself out on the floor. One thing he’s not so sure about: that he’s even in this position.

Despite dreaming about being in the NBA since he was a kid in Australia and being groomed to be the No. 1 overall pick for years, Simmons said it’s still a bit of a surprise to be at this point.

“I think it’s still surreal for me,” he said. “I think it’ll finally hit me once I step on the court matched up against OKC the first game.”

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

I'm not sure if they could win nationally, but there is absolutely no doubt that a Wentz-Simmons ticket would dominate the Delaware Valley.

An intrepid Philadelphia sports fan was up at the Presidential Debate last night at Hofstra University and made a sign showing his support... for the Eagles and Sixers.

I don't know though, I'm pretty sure Simmons was born in Australia.