Barry Zito is a reborn Christian, “really excited” about owning and shooting guns

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Barry Zito got tagged with some sort of hippie/playboy/zen master stereotype when he came up with the A’s. Since then most of that has been obscured by talk of his contract, his pitching struggles and then his nice little comeback the past season or so.

But his interview in the May “GQ” reveals a much different Barry Zito than that which exists in casual, popular perception.  Turns out that he found God in 2011 and he and his wife have immersed themselves in “the Christian faith” to use Zito’s term. Also: while he still surfs and does yoga, he has a new passion:

You’ve been written about a great deal, as you pointed out. But is there anything you’re interested in that we don’t know about?

Let’s see. I’ve kind of picked up a new hobby of shooting firearms. So that’s something that I’ve really gotten excited about lately. I think when you have a family and you understand that you have so much to lose if some lunatic is gonna come off the street and try to do something in your home, it makes you feel a little better to know that I’ll be able to defend my family. It’s a utilitarian thing. That’s basically what it’s about.

I’m struggling to think of whose violent impulses are so messed up and random that Barry Zito of all people becomes the target of them, but I suppose that sort of thing, by definition, defies rational analysis.

The bigger takeaway, I think, is that while it’s often tempting and easy to pigeonhole hippie/playboy/zen/surfer types on the one hand, and it’s tempting and easy to pigeonhole Christian gun owner types on the other, there are a lot of people — probably most people — who fit neither of those easy caricatures. Zito is his own dude, comes off as a pretty thoughtful dude, and there’s something cool about that.

In other news, that Zito interview is part of a baseball package which includes Buster Posey, Zito, Brandon Phillips, Chase Headley, Jake Peavy, and Andre Ethier modeling clothes that are vaguely baseball-inspired. Posey in what look like sweat-capris is a particular highlight.

Next month, if there is a God in Heaven who loves us and wants us to be happy, we’ll have the Matt Adams/Billy Butler swimsuit pictorial.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.