Zito adjusts delivery to add late movement

February 20, 2012, 1:50 am
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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.

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