Following a strong outing against the White Sox on June 20, Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano said he felt like a changed man, comparing himself to Rocky.
After his return from the disabled list on Saturday, the quirky right-hander went to another film analogy.
“Man, I feel like RoboCop today,” Zambrano said. “When he got shot and (couldn’t) get his target, that’s how I feel today. (I) tried to throw my ball and for some reason my sinker was running to the middle instead of to the corner.”
Zambrano, who had been on the DL since July with a sore back, lasted only 4 2/3 innings in Saturday’s 13-3 loss to the Florida Marlins, giving up eight runs on seven hits and four walks. He was consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball and struck out six in his short outing. However, it was that elevated velocity that concerned Cubs manager Mike Quade.
“He was throwing hard and probably didn’t have quite the life and location that he’s had here when he was on this nice run,” Quade said. “When I saw his velocity early, sometimes I’m more concerned when I see mid-90s than mid-80s. (He) seems to pitch really good in the 90ish area and reach back (for more) every once in a while.”
Zambrano, who said he may have been trying to throw instead of just pitch, agreed with his manager.
“My fastball was good,” Zambrano said. “Just arm, body good. Intelligence, no good.”
After a rocky first inning in which Zambrano allowed three runs on two walks and two hits, he seemed to settle down a bit, allowing only one more run through the next three innings. However, in the fifth, Zambrano followed up Hanley Ramirez's run-scoring double with a walk to Gary Sanchez.
After a quick mound visit from pitching coach Mark Riggins, Zambrano’s second pitch to Mike Stanton -- who had already homered off Zambrano in the previous inning -- was deposited into the right field bleachers.
A five-run lead is certainly not insurmountable, especially in the fifth inning. However, the decision to keep Zambrano in to face Stanton resulted in an 8-0 Marlins lead and killed any hope of a possible comeback. Quade said there was no thought to remove Zambrano after he walked Sanchez.
“I wanted to get him to 100 pitches, I wanted to get him through at least five innings,” Quade said. “Part of this deal is building him up and getting him going again, so we were looking to do that. Plus I didn’t want to kill my bullpen to start the second half.”
With the Cubs falling back to 19 games under .500 and continuing to flirt with the worst record in baseball, one has to wonder how Quade and his team can stay positive during such tough times.
“There are 25 guys in this clubhouse that come out every day that are trying to get better and working hard and playing hard,” Quade said. “Even though things don’t work out, I can’t quit on them and they sure as hell haven’t quit on me. You just stay after it, that’s just what you’re supposed to do and it’s what you love to do. It doesn’t always get to be great situations, sometimes you go through some of this.”