I have watched Carlos Zambrano pitch twice in the last week in his efforts to get back into major league baseball. Last Thursday he pitched against the Pirates extended spring team and Tuesday night against the Brevard County Manatees, the farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers. He looked OK, but yet I did not see dominating efforts against less than top caliber batters in each outing. His numbers were passible, giving up a run on seven hits and striking out six over 8.1 innings combined in the two appearances. But he was not over powering with his fastball and his breaking ball was described as a “slurve” by one of the young Pirates pitchers watching him pitch on Thursday afternoon at Ashburn Field. Zambrano might have been a one time 18 game winner pitching back in the day with the Cubs but not now.
As a soon to be 32 years old in a few days, Zambrano does not seem to have the overpowering stuff at this point in his career to be of much help to the Phillies at the major league level. Only time will tell though as the Phillies seek starting pitching help with the injury to Roy Halladay.
After Zambrano left the game because of a pitch count limit in the fifth inning, a young 20 year old pitcher Severino Gonzalez came on for the Threshers and showed major league stuff. He retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced, striking out five of them and the only base runner to reach was by a walk. Gonzalez might soon be one of the best Phillies prospects out of the pen they have in their farm system.
With a low 90’s fastball and a sharp breaking pitch Gonzalez dominated the Brewer farmhands as he has most of the Florida State League batters he has faced in his five appearances in relief since he joined the team from extended spring training back on May 10th. In five appearances in 12.2 innings of relief, the 6’1″, 153 lbs. Panamanian right-hander has not given up an earned run yet this season. He has allowed only six hits, two walks and struck out 15 over that span. He picked up his first win of the season against the Manatees as he combined with Zambrano and closer Luis Garcia who pitched the ninth in a 3-0 shutout.
Baseball Betsey and I left the game last night and made it back home just in time to catch the end of the Yankees-Mets game on TV. At the beginning of that game they showed another Panamanian, Mariano Rivera, who was honored by the Mets by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the game to Mets former great closer John Franco. Ironically Rivera came on to close the game in the bottom of the ninth with the Yankees leading 1-0. He gave up three straight hits resulting in two runs and a 2-1 Mets wins. After going all season so far without a blown save, the greatest closer of all time not only blew the save but lost the game. The MLB network guys said that this was the first time in Rivera’s great career he came into a game and gave up three hits in a row and lost the game without retiring a batter.
For some reason it was like watching the passing of the torch by two relief pitchers; one at the start of his career and the other nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career on this particular Tuesday night in late May. I just watched these two relief pitchers, both from Panama, 20 year old Severino Gonzalez in person and 43 year old Mariano Rivera on TV passing one another in different directions of their careers on the same night. If Severino can be half as good as Mariano he will have a great career. For some reason after watching him pitch Tuesday night at Bright House Field for the Threshers in picking up his first Florida State League win, I think he just might have the potential to be the one of the next great Panamanian relievers.