Barry Zito improves to 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA

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Barry Zito’s resurgence continued Wednesday, as he took a shutout into the eighth inning against the Marlins. Four straight singles followed to score a run and knock him from the game with the bases loaded, no outs, and Hanley Ramirez at the plate, but Sergio Romo wriggled out of Zito’s jam.
Not only is Zito now 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA this season, he has a 2.38 ERA in 21 starts dating back to last year’s All-Star break. What makes that stretch so improbable is that Zito went into the break at 24-36 with a 4.47 ERA through his first 77 starts for the Giants.
His fastball hasn’t improved any from his usual mid-80s velocity, but Zito’s curveball and changeup are back to being weapons and in turn have made his fastball tougher to tee off on. I’m still very skeptical, but with matchups against the Astros and Padres he’s unlikely to turn into a pumpkin next week.
If nothing else at least the Giants have a bit less regret about still owing Zito another $65 million after 2010.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.