Barry Zito and Bruce Bochy have closed-door meeting to discuss release rumor

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I wrote this morning about Bruce Jenkins’ column in the San Francisco Chronicle, which suggested that the Giants are considering releasing Barry Zito and eating the $65 million remaining on his contract.

The whole thing seemed far-fetched to me and the logic Jenkins employed appeared to be particularly lacking, with the goal seemingly being to stir up some controversy.

Zito apparently read the column too, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that the veteran left-hander had a closed-door meeting with manager Bruce Bochy to discuss what Jenkins had written, including several criticisms from unnamed sources.

Here’s what Zito told Baggarly (try not to be confused by the presence of two Bruces):

Bruce [Bochy] called me in, first thing. He just said, “This is the first we’ve heard of this.”

I thought Bruce [Jenkins] and I had a good relationship. At the end of the day, we don’t all wear the same uniform. The thing about being out of shape, I have no idea who his sources are. Nobody I’ve talked to–trainers, strength coaches, the coaching staff–they’ve never heard anything about that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the business.

I suppose this means Jenkins accomplished his mission of stirring the pot around Zito, but I still don’t see why the Giants would possibly release a pitcher who has a 4.09 ERA during the past two seasons. He’s overpaid, but cutting him won’t change that and none of their other rotation options figure to be any better. Baggarly agrees, writing that “it’s hard to fathom the Giants really eating the rest of Zito’s salary.”

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.