Results tagged ‘ Barry Zito ’

Zito won’t face A’s

SAN FRANCISCO — For the first season since he joined the Giants, Barry Zito will not face his former Oakland teammates.

Skeptics might say that this is just as well. Zito’s backers, as well as the man himself. Pitching at his best as a Giant, Zito wanted to take his game to the A’s, for whom he excelled from 2000-06.

“This being a new year, having my stuff back pretty much the way I want it, especially in their yard — I was really looking forward to that,” Zito said Sunday. “I checked the schedule at the beginning of the [season] but it didn’t work out. So, next year.”

Zito had hoped to reverse his fortunes against the A’s, who treated him rudely in 2007-08. He lost all three of his starts against them while recording a 9.22 ERA. His worst outing against Oakland was his first — on May 18, 2007 at the Coliseum. Aware that Zito probably would try to nibble at the corners of home plate, A’s hitters went into full “Moneyball” mode and took inordinate numbers of pitches, content to draw walks. Zito indeed walked seven while lasting just four innings and allowing the first seven runs in Oakland’s 15-3 victory.

But, with Jonathan Sanchez pitching Monday night for the Giants, redemption remains the theme for a Giants left-hander.

– Chris Haft  

Pick a starter, any starter, for Monday and Tuesday

MIAMI — If you’ve looked ahead to the Giants’ probable starting pitchers for Monday series finale here and for Tuesday’s series opener at Arizona, you’ll find that the same guy is pitching both games: TBA.

Finding a starter for Tuesday isn’t the issue. Monday is the predicament for the Giants, whose rotation was jumbled by last Wednesday’s rainout at Washington. That forced them to use Randy Johnson and Matt Cain on the same day for Thursday’s doubleheader, meaning that if either one pitched Monday, he’d be working on three days’ rest, one fewer than usual.

Johnson’s bruised shoulder complicated matters somewhat. But the newest member of the 300-win club felt good Saturday as he played long toss and threw from pitching distance on flat ground.

The Big Unit said that his shoulder, which he fell on while making a fielding play in his milestone start, responded better than he thought it would. “I was encouraged,” he said. “We’ll see what they have planned and go from there.”

Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants’ options for Monday include:

– Johnson, who threw only 78 pitches in his last start but has that shoulder to deal with;

– Cain, who was limited to 82 pitches by the rainout in his game;

– Triple-A Fresno right-hander Billy Sadler, who pitched only one-third of an inning Friday in case the Giants decide they need him.

Though Johnson might appear to be an unlikely choice given his health status and age (45), he’s renowned for doing whatever he can to help his team. Pitching on Monday might fall into that category. Because if he’s pushed back to Tuesday, the sequence of the Giants’ rotation would consist of right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, followed by three consecutive left-handers — Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Currently, they have close to an alternating patten with Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and Sanchez.

Obviously, whoever doesn’t pitch Monday has a good chance of starting Tuesday.

– Chris Haft

Leftovers from Wednesday, May 13: Zito, Pablo, Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito’s fielding goofs in Wednesday’s third inning ultimately seemed insignificant. After all, he escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam with no runs scoring by striking out Josh Willingham.

But both Zito and manager Bruce Bochy made the same point after the Giants’ 6-3 loss: The left-hander’s misplays forced him to throw more pitches, thus causing him to spend extra energy which he could have used later in the game.

First, Zito mishandled Shairon Martis’ comebacker for an error. One out later, he swatted at Nick Johnson’s grounder, which likely would have resulted in an inning-ending groundout to shortstop. Instead, Zito deflected the ball off course, leaving Renteria with no play.

“That was not a smart decision,” Zito said.

*****

Bochy said that he considered using Pablo Sandoval to catch Wednesday. But, said Bochy, “That would be pushing it.” Bochy was wary of how the position’s demands might have affected Sandoval’s left ankle, which the Kung Fu Panda tweaked while running out his would-be triple in Tuesday’s seventh inning. Sandoval’s trip ended with a pratfall between second and third base.

“He looked like a turtle on its back,” Bochy said. “But he was on his stomach.”

*****

Bochy opted to give one more day of rest to left fielder Fred Lewis, who sat out Tuesday’s game with a sore left toe. “It is, basically, a turf toe,” Bochy said, citing the malady familiar to athletes.

Fortunately for the Giants and Lewis, he lined a pinch-hit, RBI double in Wednesday’s ninth inning. That ended a stretch of 31 at-bats and eight games without an extra-base hit for Lewis.

 

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

Are the starters really that bad? Likely, no

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of contradicting myself, I’m about to point out the redeeming qualities of the mostly underwhelming performances by the Giants’ starting pitchers through the first turn of the rotation.

As noted in Saturday night’s final game report, the rotation’s 6.46 ERA won’t help the Giants win. But, after all, it was just the first go-round. And if you really wanted to pick apart each game, you can see that quality exists. It’s just a matter of each pitcher gaining consistency. For example:

Opening Day starter Tim Lincecum struck out five in three innings. He lacked fastball command, allowing three runs in three innings, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm.

The next night, Randy Johnson remained in control until his fifth and final inning. If he can keep the ball in the park (homers accounted for all four runs off him), he’ll win more than he loses.

Matt Cain’s Thursday performance (one run and four hits allowed in seven innings) was beyond reproach.

Barry Zito looked so smooth in his final three innings Friday that you wonder how he would have done if he hadn’t stepped all over himself in the first inning (39 pitches, three runs).

Jonathan Sanchez was absolutely dominant, striking out five of the six Padres he faced in the first two innings. Then Henry Blanco took him deep twice, which was inexcusable, and he lost his release point.

As they say, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, I could make a small fortune selling trail mix. But you can see how, with a little tweak here and there, the rotation could and should round into shape relatively soon.

– Chris Haft

Patience will be necessary

SAN FRANCISCO — An update: Unfortunately, more showers were expected to hit between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m., endangering Tuesday’s 1:25 p.m. scheduled starting time. Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom urged fans to be patient, indicating that the teams will try to wait out the weather for at least another hour or so.

Meanwhile, most hitters didn’t even bother taking batting practice. Why expend energy prematurely or even unnecessarily? One exception was Aaron Rowand, who strode into the clubhouse with a bat in his hand at around 11:30, having apparently spent some time in the batting cage.

Barry Zito played long toss, but this was part of his usual between-starts routine, not just a way to kill time. Pitchers Brian Wilson, Alex Hinshaw, Joe Martinez and Brandon Medders played bridge, and Rich Aurilia sorted out wristbands, batting gloves and other equipment at his dressing stall. Not too many players watched the Royals-White Sox telecast. Fascinating stuff.

– Chris Haft

 

Worse than Candlestick? Quite possibly

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — One waited for trailers, cars and phone booths (excuse me, those are scarce nowadays) to blow through Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday night.

The Giants and Cubs played 6 1/2 innings through unforgiving winds before the game was called by agreement among the umpires and the teams’ managers. “You get the risk of injury. For the safety of the players, that was enough.”

The wind, which blew to right field, was measured at 25 mph with gusts reaching 30 mph at gametime. It was generally agreed that conditions worsened as the evening lengthened.

Giants right fielder Randy Winn resembled a cross between Fred Astaire and a drunk as he somehow caught three consecutive fly balls while battling the breezes.

“Miserable,” Winn said, describing the conditions which forced him to douse his eyes with Visine to remove the dirt that blew into them. “It was probably the most challenging outfield I think I’ve ever played.”

Winn never played at Candlestick Park, where the Giants dealt with infamous winds from 1960-1999. “If Candlestick was like that, I wouldn’t have wished that upon anybody,” he said.

Two drives to left field that appeared to be home runs upon contact — by San Francisco’s Bengie Molina in the first inning and Chicago’s Derrek Lee in the fourth — were caught in medium-deep left field, demonstrating the futility of hitting the ball into the wind.

Giants left-hander Barry Zito pitched adequately despite the elements, yielding three runs and seven hits in five innings.

“It was as bad as I’ve ever seen it, windy-wise,” Zito said. “It was really blowing you over in your windup. One time it even blew Bengie back out of his crouch. He had to call time out.”

Zito encouraged the Giants by striking out seven and even fanned the side in the first inning — retiring Alfonso Soriano, Mike Fontenot and Lee consecutively.

“It’s the result of being aggressive and just going after it,” Zito said. “I knew I had the ‘A’ lineup out there tonight. I wanted to come out and make a statement.”

– Chris Haft

What to expect on Monday

PHOENIX — In what could be one of the Giants’ most intriguing exhibition games in years (I know, “intriguing” and “exhibition” contradict each other), both Randy Johnson and Tim Lincecum will pitch against the Seattle Mariners in Scottsdale.

It’ll be a truly intriguing encounter for Mariners fans. First comes Johnson, who blossomed into a star while pitching for Seattle from 1989 to 1998. He’ll be followed by Lincecum, the Seattle-area native who the Mariners snubbed in the 2006 draft — leaving him for the Giants to take with the 10th overall selection.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that he expects Johnson, who missed his last start with irritation in his biceps, to pitch three innings. Bochy added that Lincecum just might work the rest of the game — which would enable the right-hander to keep pace with Barry Zito and Matt Cain in terms of advancing toward season-opening stamina. The aftereffects of bronchitis weakened Lincecum last Wednesday, when he allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Cubs.

For several Giants, the morning will be unpleasant, or inevitable, depending on their point of view. Bochy and his staff will option or reassign a sizable number of players to Minor League camp, another sign that the Giants are getting down to serious business this spring.

– Chris Haft 

Thoughts from Giants 10, Dodgers 8

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Barry Zito owns a 5.79 ERA after two Cactus League starts, but so far this spring he has looked more assertive on the mound than he sometimes has during his two seasons with San Francisco. That’s no accident, Zito said after he lasted 2 2/3 innings in the Giants’ 10-8 exhibition victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Glendale.

“Personally, I’m on a mission to trust myself and let it fly,” Zito said. “I’ve done that for two games.”

Other highlights from the Giants’ third Cactus League victory in four games:

Catching prospect Buster Posey not only collected his first two hits of the spring but also collected his first RBI with an eighth-inning infield single.

Dave Roberts collected his first hit of the spring with an excellent at-bat in the eighth inning. A left-handed batter facing left-hander Brent Leach, Roberts worked the count to 3-2 before stroking a bases-loaded single that extended the Giants’ lead from 7-6 to 9-6.

Left-hander Alex Hinshaw took his first step toward salvaging what has been a rough spring by pitching 1 1/3 innings for the save. After stranding a runner on first base while recording the eighth’s inning final out, Hinshaw survived shortstop Juan Uribe’s dropped pop-up to strike out Chin-lung Hu and leave runners at the corners.

Has anybody noticed that the Giants have 14 home runs in eight games?

– Chris Haft

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