Last season, Jesus Zambrano opened a lot of eyes when he made two starts for Triple-A Nashville before his 19th birthday and then went on to star for the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League. He posted a 1.98 ERA in 27.1 innings for the Magallanes and he was a key member of their 2015 starting rotation. The A's have granted Zambrano permission to pitch in the VWL again this season, although his innings will be limited and he is expected to end his VWL season around mid-December.
This year, the A's assigned the then 19-year-old Zambrano to Low-A Beloit at the start of the season. Zambrano struggled during his first stint in the Midwest League, posting a 7.04 ERA in 23 innings. The A's felt his arm might be a bit fatigued after his work last season during the summer and the fall. He spent some time in extended spring training and then joined the Vermont Lake Monsters at the start of the New York-Penn League season.
The A's worked Zambrano back slowly with Vermont, keeping him to three-innings-or-less until early August. He got back into a good rhythm for the final month of the season, posting a 3.58 ERA in August and September. He finished the New York-Penn League season with a 3.83 ERA and a 28:18 K:BB in 49.1 innings. His GO/AO was 1.25 with the Lake Monsters and he allowed just three homeruns.
Donald Moore spoke with Zambrano in late July about his 2016 season and goals for the immediate future.
Donald Moore: Hi Jesus, how is everything going for you this season in Vermont?
Jesus Zambrano: I feel as though I didn't start as well as I liked, and didn't meet the standards we have set for this season. But, so far at the end of this week, we have seemed to start to get everything back on track.
DM: Any specific goals you'd have for this year?
JZ: My goal for this year is my working on my pitching consistently. That was my problem last year and the beginning of this season. I am just doing what the coaches are requiring of me, for me being in the game.
DM: What is your greatest strength as a pitcher?
JZ: My command is my strength and I put the ball wherever I want.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
JZ: I want to make outs with less pitches.
DM: What is the best thing about being a professional athlete?
JZ: I am so lucky to do what I like for a living and I am lucky to stay here to have the opportunity to be here. I think that is the best thing to be as a professional baseball player. You can do what you want and like and receive compensation back.
DM: What is the hardest thing about playing baseball in another country and being away so far from home?
JZ: Staying away from our families physically is the hardest part, but with that, we work to keep in contact with phone calls, FaceTime or email, and my family supports me really well in that way.
DM: Favorite thing you like to do off the field?
JZ: My hobby right now is to keeping contact with my family in Venezuela because it is a hard situation we are leaving, but I just heard that they are good and they are fine. That is my hobby for right now.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
JZ: San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees.
DM: Where are you originally from?
JZ: Valencia, Venezuela.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
JZ: My mom was the first person that started me teaching me baseball. After my mom, because she only had so much knowledge, my bigger and older brothers started to teaching me the game.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball field?
JZ: The most craziest thing I saw was when Manny Ramirez hit a home run off me in camp.
DM: Any off-season plans?
JZ: Just waiting for the Oakland A's organization to let me play winter ball in Venezuela like I did last year.
DM: I want to thank you for your time and the best of luck to you and your career.
JZ: Thank you, sir.