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.