On the conspiratorial spectrum, I probably fall on the side that tends to think if something looks suspicious, there’s a reason for it.
But even I never suspected what Gordon Wittenmyer is implying in his article today about Carlos Zambrano’s performance in the bullpen, and subsequent move back to the rotation.
Even after showing up to camp in excellent shape and pitching well through March, Zambrano probably ranks sixth among the staff’s six would-be starters in knowing what you’ll get when he takes the mound.
Which is part of what made the move to the bullpen the right move at the time. But moving him back to the rotation?
Only Z knows the answer to that. It was a decision made after he struggled and couldn’t get his mind around the new role well enough to adjust — yet all of a sudden he has been dominant since being told he’ll start again.
”It goes to show you, basically, that he’s very capable of doing that particular role,” manager Lou Piniella said over the weekend, stopping short of being critical.
But there was no going back on the return move for Zambrano at that point, not with team officials knowing what everyone else around the team knows: That lights-out pitching isn’t likely to continue if he’s told he has to stay there.
Did you catch that? It wasn’t terribly subtle, so I imagine you did. Wittenmyer is suggesting that Zambrano – whether consciously or unconsciously – sabotaged his own performance in the bullpen so that he could “earn” a trip back to the rotation.
I’ll concede that the recent evidence at least points in that direction: after the decision to move him back to the rotation was made, Zambrano looked like the 8th inning pitcher he was supposed to be.
But I simply can’t believe Zambrano – yes, even Zambrano – would pull a stunt like that. That said, Wittenmyer implies that he’s got inside knowledge, associating his theory with “everyone else around the team.”
If true, this makes an already jacked-up situation a really, really jacked-up situation.