Over the winter, before COVID-19 tinted every day, Zamora built a gym in the backyard of his Plant City, Florida home. There, he has weights, a batting cage (construction also occurred before the universal DH was installed), a plyo wall, a pitcher's mound, and other handy tools, including a Pocket Radar: an iPod-sized device he discovered through Instagram that provides velocity readings. That last item might seem like a curious one for Zamora, who averaged 89 mph with his fastball last season, but there's a purpose behind it, and behind everything he's done during over the past three-plus months.
"I'm not a hard-thrower at all," Zamora said during a phone call with CBS Sports last month. "It's just a guidance point for me to make sure I am keeping that intensity going."
Maintaining perspective can be difficult during the best of times, let alone when there's an unrelenting global pandemic greeting each morning. Zamora tried to adopt a positive mindset about his situation. He cherished the additional time he was able to spend with his family (especially after an offseason that included a winter-ball stint), and he committed himself to working on the elements of his game that needed fostering if he's going to become more than an up-and-down bullpen arm.
Zamora identified and prioritized two specific aspects: his command and his changeup, a pitch he picked up on last season under the tutelage of then-bullpen coach Ricky Bones. The cambio could be a difference-maker for Zamora if his work pays off. Talent evaluators have traditionally viewed him as a left-handed specialist because of a dynamite slider that opponents have hit in the .170s against in his 33 career appearances. The introduction of the three-batter minimum necessitates that he up his chances of success against right-handed hitters, or otherwise risk banishment to the minors.
If and when Zamora gets the call on the bullpen phone, he'll be ready. One way he's stayed sharp is by simulating outings. That means going through his entire routine, beginning with stretching and throwing the 12 to 15 pitches he would use to loosen up in the bullpen, and extending to a built-in cool-down period before he pretends he's been summoned to the mound. At that point, he throws his eight warm-up tosses and then embarks on a 15-to-25-pitch inning, the way he might in August.
Lest anyone think Zamora is leaving something to chance, there's even a reason behind the extra length of his simulated outing."Because I'm trying to keep the intensity but it's not 100 percent there, I've extended the pitch count," he said. "An average inning is supposed to be 15 pitches, I try to increase it by making it 25. Just 10 extra throws feels a little bit better."