Barry Zito: "I want to be a top-of-the-rotation guy again"

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Barry Zito 2.jpgMany people have chalked up Barry Zito’s post-gajillion dollar contract struggles to complacency, comfort, wealth or poor character.  If you believe what he told MLB.com recently, however, his competitive fire still burn:

Barry Zito used to be the main man on the Giants’ starting staff.
Despite four years remaining on his seven-year, $126 million contract,
he now may be in the No. 3 slot. And he doesn’t like the view.

“I wouldn’t say I’m fine with it, I’m not,” Zito told MLB.com
this past week in a candid and wide-ranging interview. “I’m competitive
by nature, and of course, I want to be the guy. It’s important. But the
way I pitched in 2008, it didn’t deem me worthy of being the No. 1
starter going into last season. But no, I’m not happy being a No. 3
starter . . . I want to be a top-of-the-rotation guy again. I want to be out there on Opening Day, getting the win. It’s important to me.”

Zito is not worth his contract and given that the guy will make $20M+ in 2013, he never will be. And with Tim Lincecum — and Matt Cain! — around he will never be the Giants’ number one guy.

But there’s every reason to think that he can be a useful part of the Giants rotation for the next several years. He’s durable, reliable and if last year is any indication, he’s showing that he can learn to pitch without his young man stuff.  Indeed, he even flashed some genuine brilliance in a couple of starts against the Rockies late in the season.  Plus, seeing he’s lefthanded, there’s every reason to think that Zito could chug along for many, many more years and wind up with well north of 200 wins.

That doesn’t make him an ace or anything, but the mere fact that Brian Sabean decided to grossly over pay him doesn’t render him a punchline.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.