Zito on Manny
DENVER — Barry Zito savors the competition he faces as a Major League pitcher. His comments about the Manny Ramirez situation demonstrated this.
Zito almost sounded like he would prefer to see Ramirez in the opposing lineup when he leads the Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Friday night’s series opener at Chavez Ravine. Instead, Ramirez will be serving Game 2 of his 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.
Zito’s on record as saying that he enjoys facing free-swinging, right-handed batting sluggers. They often fall prey to his offspeed pitches. Ramirez fits this description.
But, for Zito, it’s also the heat of the battle that he cherishes.
“If I look at facing Manny as a chore, I look at being in the big leagues as a chore. It’s kind of a microcosm of the same thing,” Zito said. “It’s fun to go out and compete and dig deep and see what’s in your heart that day. Against Manny, you have to dig a little deeper. That is fun.”
Giants players refused to criticize Ramirez, yet few went out of their way to express support for him. Zito was an exception.
“I think Manny’s a standup guy,” Zito said. “What his comments were today [about using a doctor’s prescription] are probably what’s going on.”
Zito also had a healthy appreciation for Ramirez’s prodigious skills. “Manny boosted [the Dodgers] offensively and, I think, morale-wise last year when he came over,” Zito said. “He just brings an air of kind of relaxed confidence that really sparked them.”
— Chris Haft