Zambrano set for final audition for Phillies

Carlos Zambrano takes to the mound for the fourth time as a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Friday night as he fights for a spot in the Phillies rotation. The start comes against one of the better hitting teams in the International League.

Veteran Carlos Zambrano makes his seventh start in the Phillies organization, looking to impress the Phillies front office enough that they'll decide to add him to the major league roster. The outing will be the last that Zambrano is set to make in the minors prior to the Phillies having to decide on whether he's the guy to help their rotation at the major league level.

Overall, Zambrano is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in the minors and is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA at Lehigh Valley. While the basic numbers look good, they don't tell the full story. Zambrano has walked 16 and struck out 29 in 33 1/3 innings of work in the minors, not exactly the kind of ratio that the Phillies were hoping to see from someone they are deciding on whether or not can help them at the major league level. The fact that he's averaging just under six innings per outing is slightly disappointing. One issue has been his skyrocketing pitch count that has limited him in two of his three Triple-A starts.

"He's had those two outings where he was okay and then all of a sudden, he finds himself in a spot where he's throwing a lot of pitches to get guys out and can't just put them away," said IronPigs manager Dave Brundage.

The Phillies have until Monday to let Zambrano know if they'll be adding him to the major league roster and if they don't, he's free to walk away from his minor league deal with the Phillies.

Jonathan Pettibone, the starter that Zambrano would most likely replace in the Phillies rotation, struggled through the first inning in his start against the Dodgers Thursday night, but then settled in to give the Phillies six innings and left the game with the two teams tied 3-3 before the bullpen gave away another game.

Depending on how Zambrano pitches against Durham, which is one of the better hitting teams in the International League, will give the Phillies all the information possible to make a decision. It's unlikely that Zambrano would either accept a bullpen role in the majors or agree to continue pitching for Lehigh Valley after July 1st, so the Phillies will spend their weekend deciding between young Jonathan Pettibone or grizzled veteran Carlos Zambrano.

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