Posted on: September 6, 2011 8:36 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 8:39 pm
Beleaguered San Francisco left-hander Barry Zito threw a simulated game Tuesday. But the looming question is, big picture, what's he pitching toward?
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was non-commital when asked whether the Giants will view Zito as a starter or as a reliever going forward. Being that the club owes Zito at least $46 million through 2014 -- and that some where surprised Zito wasn't released along with Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand last week -- where he fits in (or if he fits in) is no small decision.
"Good question," Bochy said when asked about the club's long-term plans for Zito. "I don't know. I don't think we know. I can't answer that."
Zito currently is on the disabled list for a second time this season with a sprain in his right mid-foot. He's been out since Aug. 1 after a DL stay from April 17-June 25. He's 3-4 with a 5.62 ERA in nine starts for San Francisco this year.
Bochy said the Giants will see how Zito comes out of Tuesday's simulated game before making their next decision. If Zito is moving around well, Bochy said, he'll likely be activated for what sounds like relief -- or maybe spot start -- duty.
"We don't have time to get him up to 100 pitches," Bochy said. "Right now, there's a little bigger sense of urgency than that."
The Giants started play Tuesday seven games behind Arizona in the NL West. They owe Zito $19 million in 2012 and $20 million in 2013. They hold an $18 million club option on him for 2014 -- which they surely will not exercise -- or a $7 million buyout.
As Zito's luck would have it, he was struck in the shin by a comebacker during Tuesday's simulated game. But he pitched on.
Posted on: April 8, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:52 pm
The season following their 2005 World Series triumph, the pitching-strong White Sox were flat.
The season following his World Series MVP appearance, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels was flat.
There's no question that an extra month's pitching in October, with intense pressure riding on every pitch, sometimes grinds down even the best rotations.
And as the world champion Giants head toward their home opener Friday following a tough (2-3) opening trip, they're determined that their most precious asset -- their starting pitching -- will remain their strength.
Tim Lincecum, with a second consecutive impressive start in Wednesday's 8-4 pummeling of the Padres (13 strikeouts and no walks over seven innings), already is strong out of the gate. As for the overall rotation, while the Giants aren't taking any drastic measures, they've been subtly watching things all spring.
"We didn't push [the starters] once the games started in terms of pitch count," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "We kept it to a minimum."
Specifically, Righetti said, the Giants monitored their pitchers when runners were on base this spring and throwing from a stretch was required. They also kept Lincecum to 22 2/3 spring innings and Jonathan Sanchez to 20. Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each worked 27 1/3, while Matt Cain, who was slowed by a sore elbow early in camp, worked just 13 1/3 Cactus League innings.
"We're all in the business. We've been in it our whole life," Righetti said. "We understand that pitching that extra month is a grind. The effects, when the effects are going to happen, we'll see. You can't avoid it."
One thing the Giants are doing now is to stay on a five-man rotation in the early part of the season even with five days off within the season's first 31 days. Instead of skipping the No. 5 starter -- Bumgarner in this case -- San Francisco is opting for an extra day's rest for Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and Zito.
Plus, there might be another benefit to that later, too.
"If there are any effects, you'll see it toward the end of the year, not now," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll keep a watchful eye.
"That's one reason we put Bumgarner in the fifth spot. We felt if we needed to give him a break, it would be easier to do from there.
"We'll monitor where we're at during the season, and who may need a break."
Though they are heading into the unknown this season in that they've never defended a World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the one thing the Giants hope they are certain of is how to handle pitching.
"Arms are precious," Righetti said. "You've got to watch every practice, every day. That doesn't change."
Likes: The Pirates donating leftover food from concession stands to local shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Best idea of the season, and I hope other teams follow. ... Day baseball in April. ... Home openers. ... If you're not checking out our Eye on Baseball blog several times a day, you're missing out. ... The Lincoln Lawyer. Very enjoyable flick.
Dislikes: Tough break for the Twins, losing second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioki to a fractured left fibula.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You can't have any pudding
-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall
Posted on: February 9, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 7:43 pm
Dreamed up by Peavy last spring, Woodjock 2010 was a fundraiser that allowed major league players to play out their rock and roll fantasies. Peavy, Bronson Arroyo, Bernie Williams, Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff, Gordon Beckham, Tim Flannery and others all participated in the Scottsdale, Ariz., concert last March that raised money for Team Focus, Strikeouts for Troops, Autism Speaks and White Sox Charities through the Jake Peavy Foundation.
There was supposed to be a Woodjock 2011, too.
"As cool as it was, as much as I love it, I didn't want any distractions," Peavy told me this week. "I didn't want any distractions for the team or for my teammates.
"I want them to know I'm sold out to the cause. I'll bypass Woodjock this year and it will return bigger and better next year."
About 1,200 people attended last spring's fundraiser. The way Peavy figured it, all sorts of athletes put on charity golf tournaments. But you don't often see a ballplayer hosting a charity concert.
But, alas, with Peavy returning from major arm surgery, he intends to direct all of his energy to the field this spring and low-key everything else.
"We'll have some troops out, still, and we'll have a nice dinner," says Peavy, whose charity work with the military started when he played in San Diego.
As for Woodjock, Peavy says, "Stay tuned for 2012. We're going to bring the house down."
Likes: Pitchers and catchers reporting means spring is right around the corner, doesn't it? Check back here beginning next week to join me for the annual Camp Tours. We'll move from clubhouses to batting cages to restaurants and roadside Dairy Queens with the greatest of ease. ... What a fun story San Diego State basketball has been this winter. Can't wait for the SDSU-Brigham Young game on Feb. 26 on CBS.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 5:43 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 7:49 pm
For the second round of playoffs in a row, $126 million will get the San Francisco Giants a nice cheerleader in the dugout.
Starting pitcher Barry Zito did not make the Giants' NLCS roster.
Nor, again, did outfielder Jose Guillen.
Guillen is easily understandable, given that his legs are old, he can't move very well and the Giants acquired a batch of other outfielders along with him this summer (well, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, at least). Also, Guillen is nursing a bulging disc in his neck. Manager Bruce Bochy says Guillen is available as a replacement in the event of another injury during this NLCS.
As for Zito, rookie Madison Bumgarner passed him in the regular-season rotation (in terms of effectiveness) and supplanted him on the roster both in the first round against Atlanta and, now, in the NLCS against the Phillies.
Posted on: March 11, 2010 12:23 am
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The place to be in the Cactus League on Thursday might not be a baseball field so much as a club in Scottsdale, where a handful of big leaguers including two Cy Young winner -- White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy (2007) and Giants pitcher Barry Zito (2002) -- and Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo and former Yankee Bernie Williams will headline Woodjock 2010: A Big League Jam Fest for charity.
The event, hosted by Peavy, will benefit the Jake Peavy Foundation, which raises money for Team Focus USA, Strikeouts for Troops, White Sox Charities and Autism Speaks.
Also scheduled to participate are White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink, Giants infielder Aubrey Huff, Giants pitcher Brandon Medders, Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, White Sox shortstop Omar Vizquel, White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham and former infielder Ben Broussard.
The players/musicians will play various musical genres -- rock 'n' roll, country, jazz, blues, bluegrass, classical and Latin.
The concert will take place at The Venue in Oldtown Scottsdale at 7 p.m. Thursday night. If you're in the area, tickets are available here.
Sunblock Day? Not in my definition of the term. Another cold one in Arizona today, with the temp barely creeping into the 60s and a stiff wind blowing -- howling? -- all day.
Likes: Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon says he is very impressed with the Rays' attitude and work ethic in camp, and he thinks everyone believes the off-season was too long. Translation: He thinks the hunger has returned following the 2008 World Series run and then swinging and missing in 2009. ... Good to see Padres right-hander Chris Young, who has had back-to-back seasons marred by injuries, healthy and strong at this point in camp. ... The rental car lady in Florida was not in the mood for nonsense when I returned the car early the other morning. She was busy working her little hand-held computer upon my return, and when I told her I'd like a full refund because the Florida weather was so crappy for three weeks, she didn't even crack a smile. "You'll have to talk to them inside at the counter, sir," she said without even so much as a hint of a smile. Uh ... I was kidding? ... Notre Dame over Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament on Wednesday. ... Butler over Wright State in the Horizon League tourney title game. What a season for those Bulldogs. Going undefeated in league play is an incredible achievement. ... The jerk salmon at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville in Glendale the other night. ... Excellent win for the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central boys' basketball team on Wednesday in a 55-53 district tourney triumph over Whiteford.
Dislikes: Former big leaguer Riccardo Ingram, now a hitting coach in Minnesota's system, battling a brain tumor. He was stricken last summer while serving at hitting coach at Triple-A Rochester and, after treatment at Duke University and ongoing chemotherapy, he's doing great right now and is in uniform in Twins camp. The plan for him in 2010 is to serve as a roving hitting coach between Rochester and Double-A New Britain. Here's a prayer that Ingram, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, continues to feel well and beats this thing. And here's another prayer for his wife and two daughters as they all fight through this thing.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well, I came upon a child of God
-- Joni Mitchell, Woodstock
Posted on: July 11, 2009 2:02 am
Edited on: July 11, 2009 3:13 am
San Francisco has two legitimate candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants have another starter with five Cy Youngs who has thrown one no-hitter and one perfect game in Randy Johnson. And they have a fourth starter with a Cy Young award in Barry Zito.
Yet it was a little known, unheralded underachiever who turned up the heat on the meat-less San Diego Padres on a cool Friday night by the Bay and fired the Giants' first no-hitter since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976.
Jonathan Sanchez has no such stylish nickname, and he had been bumped from the rotation three weeks ago because he was so ineffective. He had never thrown a complete game in the majors. He had won only two games for the Giants this season, and none since May 25.
Yet for one incredible evening, in an 8-0 triumph, he was as dominant as any of his bigger-named rotation mates has been.
For one incredible evening, he threw the same magic as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, each of whom also produced no-hitters as a Giant.
Now, maybe this is what propels Sanchez to the dizzying heights the Giants have long thought he could attain. And if it does, that should be one scary thought for opponents scheduled to face a team already rich in pitching.
Until now, Sanchez, 26, mostly was one of those names that kept popping up in trade rumors. It happened endlessly last winter.
But Giants general manager Brian Sabean was adamantly against the idea of dealing the rough-around-the-edges left-hander, even though it was clear that what the Giants needed to do was figure out a way to score more runs and maybe Sanchez could have been a chip to help them add those pieces.
But they can pitch with the best of them, and this is why the Giants have a real chance to become the surprise team of 2009.
One night after Lincecum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Sanchez finished the job against the Padres.
He was 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA when he threw his first pitch to rookie Everth Cabrera, just another arm with a lot to learn. He had 68 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings, but he also had walked 46 and had major difficulty with opponents after the first two times through the order.
Just 109 pitches later, maybe Sanchez sees things now that he didn't before. Granted, the Padres aren't very good -- especially this lineup, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles on the disabled list -- but they still run All-Star Adrian Gonzalez out there.
Sanchez worked his fastball early, got ahead of hitters, and used his curve beautifully. On this night, he didn't struggle with his control. He hit his spots. And he gave the Giants a preview of what could be.
Going into this season, Sabean said he couldn't imagine trading Sanchez because the Puerto Rico native was bigger and stronger.
Four months later, Sanchez remains a work in progress.
But he's never looked bigger, or stronger.
The Giants look pretty good themselves right now, too.
Posted on: May 23, 2009 11:46 pm
Is Barry Zito back?
One glance at his record (1-4), and you might assume it's business as usual for San Francisco's giant of a disappointment.
But if the Giants could, um, actually, maybe, score a few runs once in awhile, you might be surprised at what Zito's numbers would look like.
Heading into Sunday's start in Seattle against Felix Hernandez, Zito since April 22 has posted a 2.21 ERA, eighth-lowest in the National League. He's thrown quality starts (six innings or more, three runs or less) in five of his past six outings.
But he's backed by the worst run support in the NL -- the Giants are averaging just 1.94 runs a game when he's on the mound -- so the air essentially has been let out from the drama of any Zito comeback.
"I'm encouraged that I've gotten back to where I need to be," Zito told me the other day. "I'm pitching better than I have at this point in the season than I have since I've been a Giant."
The key, he says, is he's finally reached the point where he's not "babying" his pitches. He's zeroed in on being aggressive with each of his pitches -- including being intelligently aggressive with his changeup -- and "if you do that, somehow, hitters can't pick stuff up as well. If you have aggressive arm speed and you're loose and not babying stuff."
The former American League All-Star, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal with San Francisco before the 2007 season, Zito says that he thinks part of his problem during his first two seasons with the Giants has been that he's spent more time attempting to "trick" hitters than simply pitching, and that's tempered his aggressiveness.
He seemed to bottom out last year when he went 10-17 with a career-worst 5.15 ERA. The bounce-back this year has included Zito lowering his ERA to 3.62 (from 10.00 following his first two starts).
His slider and curve again are breaking late, and his changeup looks like a fastball. It comes, he says, from a narrow focus on making sure he stays aggressive.
Following all the talk after he signed for all that dough that the monster contract wouldn't affect him, Zito now sounds a lot like a man who indeed has been affected by the pressure and was pitching not to lose instead of pitching to win.
"You start to try to protect things," Zito says. "A guy on second base with two outs, you start being careful. No one can succeed trying to be careful. You start thinking, 'Don't do this' instead of, 'Do that.'"
Likes: The Seattle Mariners, in a class move, hosting sports staffers in one of their suites Friday night from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, which closed this spring. The P-I has maintained a very small staff for its Web operation. ... The San Diego Padres, in a class move, hosting a get together in the press box late Friday night celebrating Tom Krasovic, the long time beat man for the San Diego Union-Tribune who was laid off in another of these despicable corporate bloodlettings. ... Running along the waterfront in Seattle, cruising by Pike Place Market, the P-I building, along Puget Sound. Every time I go back I marvel at what a beautiful city Seattle is. ... Green Day on The Today Show on Friday morning. ... The fish tacos at Taco Del Mar in Seattle. ... The shredded chicken enchiladas at San Diego's El Indio.
Dislikes: You can imagine my disappointment this trip into Seattle when I learned that the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line is not named after the pop/scat/R&B singer but after a local Seattle guy who was instrumental in getting the streetcar line started. Benson the musician is from Pittsburgh.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The insurgency will rise
-- Green Day, Know Your Enemy
Posted on: April 17, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2009 4:07 pm
The only drawback with that clever MLB 2K9 video game advertisement in which San Francisco Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum offers his animated double some tips on how to behave in the major leagues is this: It doesn't include wisdom from the real Lincecum that helps drag the Giants out of their crappy start.
They limp home this weekend carrying with them one of the game's two worst records. Difference between the Giants (2-7) and the Washington Nationals (1-7), however, is the Giants at least were supposed to have a first-class rotation, and even that's been disappointing.
Some thoughts after a couple of days with the Giants this week in Los Angeles:
As for Monday's flop against the Dodgers, in which he yielded seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, Johnson produced a thick fistful of charts from his locker during a conversation Wednesday afternoon, charts he keeps on opposing hitters and regularly refers to for intelligence. Among his points: He produced a similar clunker against the Dodgers while facing Hideo Nomo back in May, 2002 (seven earned runs, eight hits, five innings).
"And obviously, I was in my prime then," Johnson said of the season in which he won his fifth Cy Young award. "Bad games happen."
Johnson, 45, is happy and in good spirits because he's healthy. And he remains confident that things will soon get better for him, too.
And as for standing five wins away from 300. ...
"I'm still looking for No. 1 (this year)," he says. "So let's put things in perspective. I'm feeling good, that's the main thing."
Three more strikes vs. the Giants:
Hanging with the Boss
Two fantastic nights with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band this week at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. It never gets old. It's always fresh. And as I've said before, as the band heads East, catch them if you get a chance. It's like getting a chance to see Ty Cobb, or Babe Ruth, or Willie Mays in their primes. Even if you're not ecstatic with their new disc Working on a Dream , it doesn't matter.
The show is tailored to current events, as it always is (this time the economy and the struggles so many people are facing), and there are so many standout moments. The first encore song is culled (and updated) from Stephen Foster's songbook from the 1850s, Hard Times Come Again No More . A bluesy, gospel-sounding take, it's different and cool.
Mike Ness from Social Distortion was a special guest Thursday night and the band ripped through Ness' Bad Luck . What a moment. Ness, Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren all blazing on guitars midway through the song was outstanding.
No Surrender , Growin' Up , Thunder Road , Backstreets , Racing in the Street , The Wrestler ... so many highlights. One of the moments that stands out, and it's part of what keeps people coming back, came Thursday night when Springsteen collected signs for song requests from the crowd (as he has taken to doing) and picked out Proud Mary , the old Creedence Clearwater Revival chestnut (I've always wanted to use that word -- I feel just like a rock critic or something!).
Hearing the E Street band play that song was cool enough, but the best moments were those just before they tore into the song. Bruce held the sign for the band to see what they were going to play next, and the look of incredulity on the faces of those on stage was priceless. Lofgren was shouting across the stage to either bass player Gary Tallent or pianist Roy Bittan ( I couldn't quite tell which), double-checking the key, grinning widely. Lofgren held his hands together in the form of a D -- key of D? was his clear question -- hollering and motioning as the band scrambled to get its signals straight.
During the guitar solo midway through the song, as Springsteen played, Lofgren and Van Zandt played a few steps back, grinning at each other in amusement or amazement. Maybe both. It's one of the greatest things about seeing the band in concert, and it's the same thing that happens every time you walk into a baseball stadium: You absolutely, positively can never be sure of what you're about to see. You never know what the next moment will bring. And sometimes they're incredibly uplifting.
At the Dodgers' home opener on Monday, I watched Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle. While I've covered two no-hitters (David Wells' perfect game for the Yankees in 1998 and Eric Milton's for Minnesota in 1999), I'd never seen a cycle.
Then, Thursday night, I'm watching the E Street Band scramble to get its signals straight before Proud Mary and then, later in the show, I'm watching 18-year-old Jay Weinberg sit in on the drums for three songs for his dad, Max (Lonesome Day , The Rising and Born to Run ). Max is going to miss six or so shows in Europe this summer -- I believe around the time when Conan O'Brien replaces Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in early June (Max is the bandleader on the show, in case you don't know) -- and Jay is going to play those shows for his pop.
Jay just killed -- the kid is really, really good. And making the moment even more special, I looked about 15 feet to my right as he was playing on Lonesome Day (I was lucky enough to score a spot in the front row in front of the stage), and Max had come around from backstage to watch his son. Watching the band, watching Max watch his son, watching Van Zandt grinning and beaming at Max down front while playing guitar in front of Jay ... wow.
With baseball and at a Springsteen show, you never know when the next special moment is coming. You just know that, when it does, you'd better catch it, and hold on for as long as possible.
Likes, Dislikes and Rockin'
Likes: Baseball as a social institution? Check out this study that says the divorce rate among people in major-league cities is significantly lower than that among those who dwell in cities that wanted major-league baseball clubs but didn't get them. Bet the NFL can't say that. ... Step Brothers has some pretty darn funny moments. I'm not so sure I would have been thrilled paying $10 to see it in the theaters, but it's definitely worth a rental.
Dislikes: Was going to check out State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams this weekend, but I don't know. I've read two reviews that have scared me off.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"And I count my blessings
-- Bruce Springsteen, Kingdom of Days