Zito adjusts delivery to add late movement

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Zito adjusts delivery to add late movement

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Zito moved his spring locker from his customary corner because he felt too claustrophobic in the old spot.

Hes trying to free up his delivery, too.

Zito was noticeably different as he threw from the stretch position in his first bullpen session of the spring on Sunday. He stood in a partial crouch and bent at the knee with his front leg.

The changes were the result of an offseason with noted pitching coach and former big leaguer Tom House. The goal is to incorporate more drive and momentum down the mound.

You get down the mound faster, said Zito, who is expected to open as the No. 5 starter. And when you have more momentum that you're transferring, it might equivocate to more arm speed. I'm just trying to get late movement. If velocity comes, great.

Catcher Eli Whiteside caught Zitos session and said he had more oomph. He looked good.

Zitos game has never been about velocity as much as location and deception. He said the delivery tweaks should help with that.

They talk about the tunnel, when all of your pitches look like they're coming out of the same tunnel, he said. That's ideal. I want all the pitches to look the same coming out of the hand. That's where you make your money.

Sure sounds like Zito was tipping his pitches in the past, doesnt it?

The left-hander wouldnt acknowledge that possibility when asked about it, only saying, I think there's always room for improvement.

His bullpen session Sunday wasnt nearly as eye-popping as his first as a Giant in 2007, a few months after he signed his seven-year, 126 million contract.

Zito needed a utility belt for that unforgettable session. As Giants coaches watched in bewilderment, he pulled out a tape measure, marked a landing spot, came set, extended his hands behind his head, took a giant, exaggerated step off the back of the mound and then strode toward the plate. Afterward, pitching coach Dave Righetti offered some brutally honest and skeptical public comments. Zito was back to his familiar delivery two days later.

Zito said changes, then and now, are designed with the same momentum-driven concepts in mind.

Obviously when you have an offseason to fumble with things, you have more leeway, Zito said. But it's nothing new under the sun. It's something I was working on when I was on the DL last year, just getting down the mound faster.

Timmy does it, Zito said of Tim Lincecum, who almost appears to flow forward as he drives to the mound. Timmys got it all figured out.

As a No. 5 starter, the Giants dont need Zito to pitch up to his 19 million salary. (He still has 20 million guaranteed next year, too, and a 7 million buyout on an option for 2014.)

They simply need him to throw more strikes, work something near to six innings and hand the game over to the bullpen. Zito, 33, left the impression he wants to do more than that.

I think I've made progress, said Zito, who was 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA in 13 games (nine starts). Just keep working and move forward, don't look back. Yeah, I feel like I've made some progress on it. As the body gets aged, you've got to be a little more conscious of things that came a lot of times without effort when you were young.

Should this be made into a drastic change?

Whatever you want to make it into, Zito said. It's pretty subtle actually, just from a feel standpoint from the starting point. As far as when it manifests in momentum, that's when it's a little more noticeable.

Zitos mentality has been written to death over the life of his Giants career. At least theres a fresh angle on it now that hes enjoying married life.

It feels good. It feels the same, he said. It's baseball as long as we go out and have fun things end up pretty good. It's just about keeping it fun and light."

How does he keep it fun when its often been the opposite?

It's an individual approach that I have, he said, smiling a bit. It's more of something I just keep it balled up, keep the energy there. It's a magic formula.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.