For years Barry Zito’s big contract has been the primary reason for his remaining in San Francisco’s rotation, but with just six weeks to go until he can be cut loose the Giants sound ready to end the relationship early.
Zito lasted just 3.2 innings against the Red Sox yesterday and afterward manager Bruce Bochy hinted at changes in the rotation, telling Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com: “I don’t want to go into the choices, but I’ll talk to the staff before we talk about that.”
Baggarly notes that the Giants “do not lightly discard players who have set a good example and gone about their business the right way.” In other words, Zito might be hurting the team and might have zero chance of playing for the Giants beyond this season, but he’s been a nice guy on good teams. He’s also been paid $120 million and will get a $7 million buyout of his 2014 option.
Zito’s next scheduled start is Monday at Coors Field, which would seem almost cruel at this point. He has a 5.63 ERA in 120 innings overall and is 0-8 with a 9.50 ERA on the road, including 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts at Coors Field.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.