"I'm ready," he said after pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his first official minor league outing since signing with the Phillies 2 weeks ago.
What remains to be seen is whether the Phillies agree with that timetable. Zambrano's next outing would likely come on Sunday. According to the righthander, he would get to 100 pitches in that start and then be ready to go. That might sound like a quick turnaround for a player who signed late in the game, but Zambrano said he has been throwing bullpen sessions and facing hitters at the University of Miami since pitching for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
The Phillies will need a fifth starter Saturday against the Brewers and June 6 in Milwaukee. Righty Tyler Cloyd pitched well in his first two starts, holding the Diamondbacks to two runs in 6 1/3 innings and the Marlins to two runs in seven innings. Then came Monday, when the Red Sox shelled him for six runs in 2 1/3 innings.
There are a number of variables that will factor into the Phillies' decision-making. Veteran lefty John Lannan is scheduled to face hitters today as he continues to work his way back from a strained quadriceps tendon that has sidelined him since April 17. Lannan has a 6.14 ERA in three starts, but that number includes six earned runs that he allowed in 1 2/3 innings in the game in which he suffered the injury. In his first two starts, both Phillies wins, he allowed four runs and one walk with seven strikeouts in 13 innings.
Lannan likely will need at least two rehab outings after a layoff that is in its sixth week, but he could be ready to rejoin the rotation around the same time as Zambrano. Lannan originally was replaced by Jonathan Pettibone, who has exceeded expectations in holding opponents to three or fewer runs in all seven of his starts. The Phillies are 6-1 in the 22-year-old righthander's starts. He has a 3.21 ERA with 27 strikeouts, 12 walks and six home runs in 42 innings .
The Phillies do not have to make a decision on Zambrano until July 1, when he has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent and seek a job elsewhere. But the righthander, who turns 32 on Saturday, insists that he feels capable of retiring major league hitters.
"They are in control," Zambrano said. "My agent has been in touch with Mr. Ruben [Amaro] and we'll see what happens. I'm ready. I'm ready to help this team.''
In 20 starts for the Marlins last season, Zambrano logged 115 innings while posting a 4.54 ERA. His control was an issue: He threw just 59 percent of his pitches for strikes and hit 10 batters while issuing 67 walks to go with his 83 strikeouts. Zambrano finished the season in the Marlins' bullpen. His final numbers in 132 1/3 innings: a 4.49 ERA, 6.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings, 5.1 walks-per-nine and 0.6 home runs per nine.
"I was at my house doing nothing and now I have a job with one of the best teams in baseball," Zambrano said, "a team with good fans, a team that is competing every year. I like that. I like the chemistry. I like the system. I thank God that I'm here."
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