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 spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.