Including last year’s postseason, the Giants are riding a streak of 16 straight victories with Barry Zito on the mound. The left-hander pitched seven scoreless innings and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored Wednesday in a 10-0 drubbing of the Rockies.
Zito posted a 1.69 ERA in his three postseason starts last year, and he’s yet to allow a run in 14 innings in 2013.
Perhaps no one but me is thinking of next year right now, but at the rate Zito is going, the Giants might actually pick up his $18 million option for 2014, a possibility that would have seemed preposterous at pretty much any point since the first year of his seven-year, $126 million contract.
The key there is the $7 million buyout attached to said option, meaning the Giants will essentially have to decide whether they think Zito will be worth $11 million in 2014. Or perhaps the decision will be made for him; the option vests automatically if Zito throws 200 innings this year. He hasn’t reached that mark since 2006, his last year with Oakland, but it probably goes hand-in-hand with the Giants’ decision anyway. If Zito throws 200 innings or very close to it, he’ll probably be someone the Giants will want around at $11 million for 2014.
Of course, that’s all a long way off. The Giants will just enjoy the ride for now, since there’s no telling whether it will last. If you remember, Zito started with a 1.67 ERA in four starts last April, then posted ERAs of 4.94, 4.54, 4.07 and 6.46 the following four months before rebounding in September. In 2010, Zito started 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in April and then went 5-14 with a 4.72 ERA the rest of the way.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.