What's So Big About Z?
He said he would meet the press on Wednesday afternoon but word was he jetted back to Chicago instead. Then the plan was to talk with media types after a pitching cameo Thursday night. He pitched a little but didn't talk at all, using the Iowa Cubs media relations people the way bigshot execs use secretaries to dodge phone calls. The enabling continues.
To his credit, Carlos Zambrano took it upon himself to scribble a few marks of Zorro for unaccountably adoring fans before last night's game in Des Moines. The biggest crowd of the year, nearly 13,000, had assembled, but Zambrano wasn't the only attraction. It also happened to be Casey Blake bobblehead night and Casey Blake is big in these parts. He hails from Indianola, a village not too far south of town.
When the game began Zambrano was sequestered back in the team clubhouse behind the leftfield wall and beneath the Cub Club restaurant. He used the diversion of the weenie race to sneak unnoticed into the Iowa bullpen after the bottom of the 3rd, like a kid returning to class from the principal's office. I swear the breeze picked up and a fleet of threatening clouds spread over the ballpark upon his arrival on the field. What might happen?
He started warming up during the bottom of the 6th and was greeted by an immediate and fairly prolonged standing ovation when he made his way from the bullpen to the mound to pitch in the top of the 7th with the game tied at four. Don't ask me why. After a routine grounder to second retired the first hitter he faced, the second laced a single to left. Then Sam Fuld rescued him with a leaping catch as he banged off the wall in left-center. Carlos acknowledged the support with a gesture in Fuld's direction that was more cheerful than many he's directed at teammate fielders in his angry past. The next batter lined one to left that Ty Wright dived for and appeared to catch only to have it pop loose. The play was a test of the new Zambrano's forebearance but he left the brief argument for others to make on his behalf before going back to work and managing to wiggle out of his shift unscored upon.
He pitched no more in competition but did return to the bullpen and throw for a few more minutes during the top of the 8th. Then he took a seat on the bullpen bench until the side was retired, at which point he waved adieu and walked through the fence back to the sanctuary of the clubhouse.
If the fans turned out in droves to see the incredible shrinking 'Z' the press did not. I was one of just a half-dozen or so scribes who were kept waiting on the outfield side of the clubhouse door while Zambrano was supposedly being fetched for a chat. Then came the explanation that he had left the building, preferring to address his Chicago teammates, the last team he beat, before speaking for public consumption. Fair enough. Minutes later, after the disgruntled pack of writers had dispersed, guess who emerged from the clubhouse under police escort to a waiting car?
I hope the clubhouse messenger got a big tip. God and Tom Ricketts know, the pitcher formerly known as "Big Z" can afford it.
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.