Barry Zito took the mound Thursday for his first game action since 2013 and as far as starts after 19-month layoffs go it was an encouraging one.
Zito, who signed a minor-league deal with the A’s after sitting out last season, struck out two batters in two innings against the Cubs and served up a two-run homer to third baseman Mike Olt.
More importantly, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com reports that Zito was clocked at 86-89 miles per hour, which doesn’t sound impressive until you consider he averaged 83 miles per hour during his final three seasons with the Giants and the former Cy Young winner always topped out in the 80s.
A’s manager Bob Melvin seemed fairly pleased, telling Stiglich:
His velocity was pretty good. He was consistent at 86. I thought he located his changeup. He threw a couple balls up, but all in all, for a guy who hasn’t pitched in a year, I thought he was pretty impressive. … He throws a changeup down in the zone, and it ends up being a homer. He’s one pitch away from everybody saying how well he pitched.
Melvin stopped well short of suggesting Zito had an inside track on an Opening Day job, but so far at least the reunion looks like a real opportunity to make the team and not just a nostalgia trip. And based on Zito’s candid quotes last week, he’s certainly heavily invested in successfully coming back at age 36.
Barry Zito is trying to resurrect his career with the A’s and the 36-year-old former Cy Young winner told Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that he regrets sitting out last season as part of what was supposed to be retirement:
I think hanging it up is going to be harder for guys than they realize, after being out of it for a year. You feel like you’re in control of the game, and then you’re not in it, and you want to be back in that game so bad.
We’ve got a long way to go in life once we get out of this thing. That’s not a factor for you when you’re in it. You say, “Ah, I’ve had enough.” But it’s a difficult decision.
All of which is sort of depressing within the context of Zito’s seemingly poor odds of actually cracking the Opening Day roster. In other words, a month from now he might be back in retirement except this time it won’t be by choice.
We have a reunion on our hands, folks. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics have signed left-hander Barry Zito to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman confirms the report and adds that Zito will receive a $1 million base salary if he makes the Athletics. He could earn an additional $175,000 through incentives.
This is a homecoming for Zito, who was was a first-round pick of the Athletics in 1999. He went 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA over seven seasons with the club, highlighted by an AL Cy Young Award in 2002 and three All-Star selections. Following the 2006 season, Zito signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants. Outside of a good showing in the 2012 postseason, he never lived up to the big contract, posting a 4.62 ERA over 197 starts and 11 relief appearances. The Giants cut ties with him after 2013 and he sat out all of last season, but he’s hoping to prove that he still has something left. He turns 37 in May.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Indians were one of a handful of teams that watched Barry Zito throw recently, but came away uninterested in signing him.
Zito, 36, didn’t pitch last season but is interested in continuing his major league career. The lefty would most likely have to settle for a minor league deal.
Pluto notes that the Indians did have interest in Matt Albers after watching him pitch. Albers, 32, threw only 10 innings for the Astros last season due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.
Scott Boras told Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM that Barry Zito is going to throw for various teams on Thursday.
Which, hey, good luck Barry.
Zito sat out all of 2014 following a 2013 season in which he was posted a 5.74 ERA and allowed opposing hitters to hit .314 off of him. In December Boras told people that Zito had worked on his mechanics. Which, OK, we’ll take his word for it.
It doesn’t take a lot to get a team to give a player a minor league deal with an invite to a camp, so sure, we may see Zito pitching in February or early March. But much beyond that would be a surprise.