A battle between an MVP and a Cy Young Award winner is always fun. Even when it’s in Nashville, years after either of them were of elite quality. That was the case with Josh Hamilton’s return to action in his first rehab game yesterday, where he faced Barry Zito:
Recovering from shoulder surgery, the 2010 American League MVP went 1-for-3 against the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner as Round Rock was blanked, 7-0, by Nashville at First Tennessee Park.
Hamilton singled in his first at-bat, then struck out in the third and fifth innings, getting fooled by Zito (1-3), who was topping out at 85 mph.
Good to see Hamilton coming back. But on some level it’s even better to see Zito chugging along.
When Zito announced his comeback in the offseason, it seemed inevitable that it would be followed up with a retirement announcement if and when he didn’t make the A’s roster. Which would’ve been fine. Zito doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. He had a nice career and has a beautiful wife, some gorgeous real estate and one of those Scrooge McDuck vault/swimming pools full of gold waiting for him back in California. If he hung it up, no one could say boo to him. At least he tried and went out on his terms.
Yet, even though he didn’t make the A’s, he accepted a minor league assignment most guys in his place wouldn’t have accepted. Here he is, in Nashville, Tennessee on a humid and crappy 90 degree day, pitching against one legit big leaguer and a bunch of kids. The A’s may not call him up ever, even if he pitches well because sometimes politics and things enter into those decisions. You figure he’s getting some heckling when he’s on the road too, because minor league crowds love to give it to former All-Stars. It can’t be a particularly glamorous existence.
But he’s pitching. Playing baseball, presumably, because he loves to play baseball and realized he missed it when he sat out last year. There’s something really damn admirable about that.