Barry Zito could serve as a long reliever for the Athletics

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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.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.