Zito's 'momentum' hits a wall

Zito's 'momentum' hits a wall
March 31, 2012, 4:46 am
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PEORIA, Ariz. Barry Zito spent most of the winter, and allof the spring, working on gathering momentum in his delivery.

In every way, that momentum has been stopped cold.

Just five days after the Chicago White Sox lit him up, theSan Diego Padres took their hacks in three innings of glorified, very expensivebatting practice Friday night.

REWIND: ChiSox hammer Zito, but rotation spot is safe

Zito lasted just three innings, giving up five runs on sevenhits (five for extra bases) and three walks. He faced 17 batters and retiredjust seven of them; two others were tagged out on the basepaths.

The dust still hadnt settled from a equally dismal outingin Glendale when Zito lasted just 2.1 innings and got hit hard. (He benefitedfrom a sacrifice bunt and an out on the basepaths in that start, too.)

Here are your combined Mega Millions numbers for Zitos lasttwo starts: 5.1 innings, 16 hits (10 extra-base hits), five walks, onestrikeout, 34 batters faced and 12 truly retired.

This time, he didnt head down to the bullpen to build hispitch count.

It was a lot of three pitches for three innings, saidZito, who threw just 34 of 69 pitches for strikes. I was working hard outthere, just fighting myself with my timing.

Zito entered camp enthusiastic about changes to hismechanics, which were designed to lengthen his stride, build momentum down themound and get more finish on his pitches, which barely register above 80 mph.

But Ive spoken with more than one scout this spring whoexpressed skepticism that Zito has the arm speed to throw effectively out ofthose mechanics. You can bet Giants officials have their doubts, too.

Zito even acknowledged that pitching coach Dave Righettitold him he has a smaller margin for error with his new mechanics.

Its not, Scrap the whole thing, Zito said. Its justmaking a small adjustment and getting on pace, instead of getting ahead ofmyself. Its getting (the body) ahead of the arm instead of fighting to getover.

Its about starting tomorrow morning with Rags, finding outwhat the adjustment is and go with it. Its funny how when everything is up, itseems everything is off kilter. But its one click.

No reminder needed: Zito is making 19 million this season,is owed 20 million next year and the club has a 7 million buyout on hisoption for 2014. By all indications, ownership to date has not shown a willingnessto swallow that amount.

So its up to the Giants to make the best of the Zitosituation. With a lack of rotation depth, they have few alternatives even ifthey wanted to pull the plug on his first start of the season, which will comein Colorados home opener April 9.

Zito was mostly placid during his session with reporters,saying he would do his best to use the one start and two bullpen sessions hehas left before taking the bump in a game that counts.

But he said he is frustrated.

Oh yeah, definitely, he said. Its not an easy thing tojust go out and fight yourself, to not get out front with your pitches and togive up hits. Im certainly not happy and I dont sleep good after starts likethis.