Zambrano gets opening start
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - On the positive side, Victor Zambrano led the Devil Rays last season in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts. On the negative side, he led the Rays, and the entire American League, in walks, hit batters and wild pitches.
This season, he'll get the first chance to improve on his totals.
Manager Lou Piniella confirmed Saturday that Zambrano will be the starter when the Rays open the season March 30 against the Yankees in Tokyo.
"Zambrano will be our opening-day starter," Piniella said. "He deserves it, based on what he did last year and the ability that he has."
On the positive side, Zambrano was 12-10 last season with a 4.21 ERA, making 28 starts and striking out 132 in 1881/3 innings.
On the negative side, he led the AL with 106 walks, 20 hit batters and 15 wild pitches, becoming the first pitcher in 49 years, and third overall, to "win" that triple crown.
After a solid winter league performance in his native Venezuela, Zambrano has looked sharp early in camp, including an impressive first batting practice session Saturday.
"He had a lot of movement," pitching coach Chuck Hernandez said. "Victor's got great stuff. We're trying to get him over the plate a little better."
Zambrano, the sixth opening-day starter in seven seasons, said he is working hard to improve.
"I'm just getting ready," he said. "I'm working on simple things like throwing strikes."
BRAZ SHARP: The reconstruction of Dewon Brazelton's delivery continued with a strong throwing session.
After being demoted from the major leagues to Class A last season to rebuild his delivery, Brazelton has gone back to the windup he used in college that led to him becoming a first-round pick.
"If you watch my mechanics now, if you look at them today and go back to a game last year, any game, you probably wouldn't recognize the same pitcher," Brazelton said.
The "new" old look features what Brazelton calls a more "athletic" windup. "There's more moving parts to help you build power and momentum," he said.
Hernandez, who played a key role in the rebuilding as the minor-league pitching coordinator last season, said Brazelton has improved in lots of areas.
"Command of his fastball, his changeup, his delivery is kind of back to how I saw it when he first entered (pro ball), his confidence level, his focus," Hernandez said. "He's going about it a whole different way."
MATCHING UP: Zambrano and closer Danys Baez are the scheduled starters for Monday's six-inning intrasquad game, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Naimoli complex. Scheduled to follow Zambrano are Rob Bell, Damian Moss, Dicky Gonzalez and Alec Zumwalt. Scheduled to follow Baez are Mike Williams, Willie Glen, Carlos Reyes, Mike Holtz and Carlos Hines. ... The scheduled starters for Tuesday's seven-inning intrasquad game (9:30 at the complex) are Jeremi Gonzalez and Doug Waechter. ... Mark Hendrickson is scheduled to start Wednesday's B game in Lakeland against Detroit and Zambrano will start Friday's B game.
MISCELLANY: Seth McClung is set to take the next step in his rehabilitation from June Tommy John surgery by throwing 15 pitches off the mound Tuesday. ... Todd Ritchie, who is recovering from June shoulder surgery, also is scheduled to return to the mound this week. ... Hernandez said Jorge Sosa and Jesus Colome also looked good Saturday. ... Monday's charity golf tournament benefiting the Rays of Hope Foundation is sold out.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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