Bochy on Zito: 'It's been a pleasure to have him here'
Barry Zito's final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, ER, K, 77 P, W. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was supposed to be Barry Zito's farewell AT&T Park start, only the packed house didn't get a chance to properly say goodbye.
Manager Bruce Bochy elected to pinch hit for Zito in the fifth inning of the Giants' 6-4 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night, denying his chance to soak in the crowd's appreciation and postponing his ovation until he was announced the winner at the game's conclusion.
[RECAP: Giants 6, Dodgers 4]
"I was frustrated," said Zito, who nearly convinced Bochy to keep him in the game. "But I understand and I definitely stand behind my manager."
Bochy's explanation for pulling Zito was two-fold. The lefty hadn't pitched in 22 days, and despite Zito's argument, there was concern that he was running out of gas as he approached 80 pitches. And after Nick Punto's line drive left Zito with a contusion to his thigh, there was concern that he would tighten up after sitting down.
"That's National League baseball," said Zito, who has pitched seven seasons in each league and wasn't easy to pull on Wednesday. "I just let (Bochy) know, 'This is my game. I'm going to go out there and shut 'em down. I feel good.' He said, 'All right' and walked away and I got my bat. He had second thoughts."
"I guess I could have let him hit," Bochy said afterward. "To be honest, we were thinking about winning the game. He gave us what he were hoping.
"It was pretty much a no-brainer for me."
Zito acknowledged that he was "definitely" disappointed he didn't get his moment with the fans.
"There's not a lot of chances for closure in sports," Zito said after tossing five innings of four-hit ball. "There's never really goodbyes."
To change that, Zito hung around the dugout after the game, signing autographs and greeting fans. He was too committed to the start and living in the present to step back and soak in what could be his final moments on AT&T Park's mound, but things began to come into perspective when it was all over.
"I wanted to come out in this last one with my best effort and throw every pitch with the most focus I could," Zito said. "To be able to get this one against the Dodgers and do it at home and come out and see the fans, it was very special."
The 35-year old's tenure with the Giants has been classically up and down. Off the field, he got married, became a Christian and lost both of his parents. On the field, he won key games in the Giants' 2012 World Series run and suffered long spells of ineptitude.
"Overall," Bochy said. "It's been a joy to be with Barry. I couldn't be happier for him right now, to win tonight's game. ... There's not a better competitor."
Despite the joyous partnership with Bochy since they both came to San Francisco in 2007, Zito's future is uncertain. The Giants will likely opt to buy out his 2014 option for $7 million, but that doesn't preclude them from returning him at a discounted price.
"I definitely know I still love pitching," Zito said when asked what comes next. "I still love the game. It's still in my heart. And if I had any doubts, going out there tonight and getting the win was big.
"I'll go into this offseason, take a few weeks off, and see what my heart tells me."