Carlos Zambrano

Carlos Zambrano is ready for his closeup

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Carlos Zambrano saw his first official game action as a member of the Phillies organization yesterday, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout ball at high Single-A Clearwater.

Zambrano had two strikeouts and two walks, so he wasn’t exactly dominant, but afterward the 31-year-old right-hander told David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News that he thinks the Phillies ought to call him up right now:

I’m ready. They are in control. 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. … I was at my house doing nothing and now I have a job with one of the best teams in baseball, 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.

I’ll let Zambrano slide on the whole “one of the best teams in baseball” thing, because technically at 25-27 the Phillies are one of the best 20 or so teams in baseball.

Murphy writes that an immediate call-up is unlikely, in part because Zambrano threw just 81 pitches yesterday and in part because the Phillies need to decide which options they like best at the back of the rotation. And of course the fact that Zambrano hasn’t actually pitched well in two years is also part of the decision-making process.

Zambrano’s minor-league contract has a July 1 opt-out clause if he’s not in the majors, but the way he’s talking already it’s hard to believe he’ll be a happy campy still pitching in the minors by then.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.