Barry Zito, on a minor league deal with the Athletics has had a strong start to the spring. With three more shutout innings against the Dodgers on Friday, Zito lowered his Cactus League ERA to 3.09. He’s gone multiple innings in all four of his outings, working as if he were to contribute as a starting pitcher.
However, the Athletics’ starting rotation battle is already packed with Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolan, and Kendall Graveman. There just doesn’t seem to be room to take a gamble on Zito bouncing back after taking the 2014 season off. CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich suggests Zito could contribute to the A’s as a long reliever. He noted that manager Bob Melvin said he thinks his team needs a long reliever as well.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks Zito is a long shot to make the roster, but seems likely to wind up on someone else’s roster.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Three other random observations from spring training this fine afternoon, all of which are very spring training-y kinds of thoughts.
1. This is Clayton Kershaw. He’s a bad, bad man:
But that bad, bad man also hung a curveball to Nick Hundley who deposited it over the fence, Matt Adams-style. I tweeted a joke about him being in postseason form after it happened and some people got genuinely irked. Some other people did the Twitter equivalent of nodding their heads. Combine that with this dumb article from Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday about how the Dodgers’ postseason failure last year was due to some character deficit or something, and you see the makings of the Post-Hoc Narrative Industrial Complex. Baseball just happens, man. Sometimes curveballs get hung.
2. There were two scouts here in the Cambelback press box a couple of hours ago, talking about a pitcher. The pitcher looked good. Sharp. They were impressed by his ticked-up velocity. They think he has a chance to really be special this year. The pitcher’s name: Barry Zito. Indeed, they each prefaced their compliments about the guy with things like “I know it’s Zito,” or “I know it’s just a couple of games in,” but their excitement was real.
In the past I’d chalk all of this up to spring enthusiasm and stuff, but man, Scott Kazmir happened, so I’ll believe anything anymore.
3. Down the road from here in Goodyear, the Cubs are playing the Indians. A few minutes ago Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant hit back-to-back-to-back homers off of Trevor Bauer.
I know there was already a ton of optimism about the Cubs heading into this season, but it’s probably off the charts in Cubs Country this afternoon.
I’ll be at Cubs camp in Mesa tomorrow to see how nuts it really is.
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.