And here we thought being in the best shape of his life would make a big difference. Here’s the great Fergie Jenkings on the Cubs’ highly-paid mopup man:
“The guy I thought was going to be a winner was Carlos Zambrano,”
Jenkins said. “But he just can’t get it together.” The reason, Jenkins speculated, was Zambrano’s offseason weight loss.
“Zambrano was always a guy who was pretty big. (Now) his fastball is
like my changeup. He doesn’t have the same movement. I think he took
away a big part of his ability by (dropping 30 pounds).”
Maybe. As I’ve written in the past, Zambrano is one of those guys who always looks kinda tired on the mound. Even when he was racking up innings pitched a couple of years ago, he always looked kinda sweaty and tired and like someone who could stand to lose that weight.
But I’m not going to lay it all on the line arguing with a guy like Fergie Jenkins about pitching, because he’s obviously forgotten more than any of us will ever know about it. And I’ll offer that having extra weight hasn’t hurt guys like Sabathia and David Wells and any number of other portly pitchers. A big, um, foundation can kind of help.
But who knows? Zambrano’s problems have always been more in his head than on his waistline, so I’m still hesitant to agree with Jenkins too. Especially considering that, as is obvious in the above photo, it’s not like Zambrano is wasting away or anything. He lost some bloat, but he’s still a big due. Likely bigger than he was when he came up and was throwing fire.
I do know that Zambrano has had an awful lot of free time down in the Cubs’ bullpen lately, having thrown seven innings in the over two weeks since he was relieved of his starting duties. Maybe he should take Jenkins’ advice to heart and start eating Ho-Hos and hot dogs and stuff down there and see if he can’t regain that winning form.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.