Zito's 'momentum' hits a wall


Zito's 'momentum' hits a wall

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.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.


Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.