Urban: Zito reflective before a sharp rehab outing

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Urban: Zito reflective before a sharp rehab outing

June 6, 2011
URBAN ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOA'S PAGE A'S VIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com

STOCKTON -- The box score will show that Barry Zito put up a spectacular line: 6 23 innings, two hits, zero walks, six strikeouts, and a run that scored after he left with a runner on first and two out before the reliever gave up a walk and a single to let the inherited runner in.It'll also show that he was the winning pitcher for the San Jose Giants against the host Stockton Ports in his first rehab start Monday.Yet anyone who knows a thing about Zito's relationship with most San Francisco Giants fans knows that Monday was a no-win proposition if there ever were one.Dominate and the wisecracks come all too easy.
He's finally found his niche. In Single-A. Keep him there.If only he could face 20-year-olds every time out.For that kind of money, no way he should be giving up ANY hits in the minors.Lose, or pitch poorly, and it's the same chorus he's heard for the better part of his career in Orange & Black. What a bum.That's life for Zito, and to borrow Giants manager Bruce Bochy's current favorite phrase, he knows it.But a couple of hours before carving through the Ports on 82 pitches, Zito -- wearing shorts and a t-shirt while watching his young temporary teammates go through BP on the field below the bridge on which he stood at Banner Island Ballpark -- seemed at peace with the strange and uncertain place he finds his career these days."I'm fired up," he said. "This is going to be fun. I've missed pitching a ton, man. And this environment, where it's just baseball, none of the outside stuff, I love it."It showed. He didn't pitch mad, despite surely being aware that Bochy had the day before made it clear that Zito's rotation replacement "isn't going anywhere." He pitched with body language that reflected his pregame comments.His delivery was smooth, easy, crisp. Most of his pitches were on the black, and quite a few of them vintage curveballs. The Ports looked clueless most of the night; Zito faced one over the minimum thanks to a pair of double-play balls.His velocity was nothing to crow about; the stadium radar gun was clearly off, flashing 76 on a few fastballs, but it certainly wasn't 12 or 14 mph slow. One scout with his own gun said Zito's fastball sat between 84-86 most of the night, a slight improvement over what he was featuring before he sprained a ligament and landed on the disabled list on April 16.After the game Zito expressed very little interest in the gun, which at one point had one of his breaking balls at 54 mph.No, Zito has not developed an eephus pitch. The gun was just a little whacked out."It was showing some strange things up there," Zito said with a smile. "What it says isn't really a big deal to me, anyway. The ball felt great coming out of my hand and I knew where it was going. I've been working on some command things, so it was nice to see it working."He acknowledged that it was nice to get a standing ovation as he walked off the mound, too, but not because it provided what he calls a "dig-me moment."For in that moment, Vogelsong didn't matter. His standing with the Giants didn't matter. Where he heads next or for how long (no clue on either count, by the way) didn't matter, either.
"It was just a fun night," he said.
No matter what the hecklers are sure to say.

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

Three takeaways: Third line leads the way for Sharks

SAN JOSE – In an important rebound performance, the Sharks handled the Winnipeg Jets fairly easily in a 5-2 victory at SAP Center on Monday afternoon. They put an end to a stretch of losing five of seven (2-4-1), and have now won three of their last five (3-2-0). Here are the three main points we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Third line leads the way

We focused on Joel Ward in our primary game recap yesterday, as Ward’s performance and the play he made on the second goal stood out. But Ward’s linemates Timo Meier and Chris Tierney also put an end to lengthy scoring streaks, as Meier got a goal for the first time in 13 games and Tierney got one for the first time in 14 games.

All three players had two points, with a goal and an assist each, while Tierney and Ward were each a plus-three (Meier was a plus-two).

“Obviously for a forward you want to score goals but sometimes you just have to be patient,” Meier said. “It’s my first season in the NHL and [I’m trying to] stay patient, work hard and just keep going and do the little things right. I know it will build up to success if I do the little things right.”

Tierney was in need of a strong game maybe more than anyone else, as he continues to fill in on the third line for an injured Tomas Hertl, who still has no official timeline to return. Tierney had just one point, an assist, since scoring that goal against the Senators on Dec. 14 headed into Monday.

He liked the way his line was working.

“Both those guys on the wing are big heavy guys,” he said. “They get in the corners, they win puck battles. They go to the net hard, they get pucks out of our own end. It’s pretty easy.”

Here’s one stat we missed on the postgame sheet, too: Ward was a perfect nine-for-nine in the faceoff circle.

2 – Don’t underestimate the goaltending

While everyone got a laugh at Martin Jones’ failed try at an empty net goal in the closing seconds, Jones was as important a player the Sharks had on Monday. The Sharks looked like they were taking some time to get into the game, perhaps unaccustomed to the early start, and Jones made some point-blank saves to keep it scoreless before Ward’s shorthanded score. 

"They came out ready to play,” Pete DeBoer said of the Jets. “The first five minutes Jonesy made some big saves, allowed us to kind of get our legs going. And then I thought we really started to play.”

On the other end, goalie Michael Hutchinson wasn’t nearly as sharp. He was off his angle on Ward’s goal, and on Brent Burns’ power play goal, he failed to read the shot going wide and it deflected in off of the back of his skate. 

I tweeted before the game that it seems like there are more NHL teams than usual that are dealing with goaltending problems these days. In fact, the Jets got so desperate after Monday’s game that they recalled former starter Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL. The Sharks clearly don’t have that problem, so long as Jones remains healthy. Jones’ importance to this team simply can’t be overstated, and it was proven again on Monday.

3 – Slowing down the Jets

Several players spoke about how the Sharks were able to slow down the Jets, who possess some pretty speedy players, after that initial push. Winnipeg beat the Sharks twice last season in three meetings.

“I just thought once we got pucks in [deep], [we had] some poise to hold on to it and make plays, just slow them down a little bit.” Ward said. “They’re a fast team obviously, really good on transition. If we could play in their end a little bit and frustrate them a little bit mentally, we’d get some chances.”

Jones said: “I think after the first 10 minutes we really started taking over the game. We did a good job slowing them down. They’re a really fast team with some good forwards. We did a great job through the neutral zone, kind of eliminating their speed.”

49ers Mailbag: Shanahan the overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

49ers Mailbag: Shanahan the overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

The 49ers have interviewed six head coach candidates and nine prospects for the general manager position.

During the search, 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe admitted to candidates that mistakes were made and the roster is in shambles. They have also promised all the resources necessary and plenty of patience in fixing the problem, according to multiple sources.

Three of the 49ers’ six original coach possibilities – Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills) and Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers) -- have already taken jobs elsewhere. Perhaps the top candidate, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, decided against uprooting his four children from the East Coast and remain in the no-lose situation of working with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for at least another season.

That leaves Kyle Shanahan and Tom Cable as the last known candidates for the job. And this is where we go to our 49ers Mailbag to answer questions submitted on our Facebook page:

Do you think Kyle Shanahan will be our next coach?‬ (Praize Rodriguez)
I’m not able to predict how strongly Shanahan, 37, wants to become a head coach at this stage in his career. But it appears to be his job if he wants it.

The 49ers decided to wait on McDaniels and Shanahan. McDaniels announced on Monday that he has removed himself from consideration. That leaves Shanahan as the overwhelming favorite for the job. Really, he is the only legitimate candidate for the job.

Cable is regarded around the league as a good coach. In the right circumstances, maybe he will again get the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But the 49ers might be the worst fit, considering what occurred when he was in the Bay Area as the Raiders coach. Cable's time with the Raiders ended with allegations he punched an assistant coach, breaking his jaw, and had a history of domestic violence.

The 49ers will be able to speak again with Shanahan after the NFC Championship. If the Atlanta Falcons lose, they can get the deal done immediately. If the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl, they must wait until after the game to make things official.

The last team to wait for a Super Bowl coach was the Atlanta Falcons, who ended up with Dan Quinn, who signed a contract in the early morning after the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015.

That worked out pretty well.

Who would be the best GM fit if the 49ers hire Kyle Shanahan?‬ (Brad Peltier) ‬
The 49ers were the only team with a general manager opening this offseason after firing Trent Baalke. With no competition, the 49ers compiled a strong list of interviews for the job.

Assuming Shanahan wants the coach job, he will be able to meet with the finalists for the general manager position and see which of the remaining candidates he believes is the best fit for his philosophy on building a roster.

York and Marathe set out two weeks ago to find the best pairing of coach/general manager, so their input and direction during the final phase will be pivotal, too.

Arizona’s vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough looks like a strong fit. McDonough is believed to have Shanahan ranked at the top of his list of coaches even though the men have never worked together. McDonough has experience on the pro and college scouting sides, and he has helped build one of the top defenses in the NFL with the Cardinals.

Green Bay director of football operations Brian Gutekunst also has extensive history as a college scout, and he impressed the 49ers with a strong interview on Jan. 5. There is also some buzz about Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner.

Who do you think will be the defensive coordinator if Shanahan takes the job?‬ (Ryan Cruz)
The 49ers last year received permission from the Houston Texans to interview linebackers coach Mike Vrabel for the position. Vrabel’s stock has only risen after the Texans ranked first in the NFL in total defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel. Vrabel turned down Chip Kelly's job offer.

Vrabel’s name surfaced for the first time this offseason as a head-coaching candidate, though he did not receive a formal interview. This would be a good opportunity to Vrabel to, in essence, be the head coach of the defense while Shanahan’s focus is solely on the offense. This could be a tempting situation for Vrabel because Shanahan's offense does not present the same issues and concerns that defensive coaches had working on the other side of Kelly.

Another strong candidate to join Shanahan’s staff as defensive coordinator is Falcons’ secondary/senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel. Manuel played eight NFL seasons as a defensive back and worked with Falcons coach Dan Quinn at the University of Florida, then Seattle before moving onto Atlanta.

If Shananahan is coach, is Kap pretty much done in SF?‬ (Juan Ito Heredia)
Of course, that decision on what happens with Colin Kaepernick and the remainder of the roster will be up to the new head coach and general manager.

But one of the 49ers’ main selling points is a fresh start and a clean break from how things have happened in the past. That means the head coach will be free to choose his own staff. That means the general manager can structure the scouting department as he chooses.

That also means, of course, that the coach and general manager will have all the power to assemble the roster.

It is difficult to believe any new coach and new general manager will not want to hit the reset button and start over at the quarterback position.