Zito's 'momentum' hits a wall

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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.

Giants use big fifth, sixth innings to take down Cubs

Giants use big fifth, sixth innings to take down Cubs

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Giants starter Matt Cain gave up two runs — one earned — and three hits over two innings.

New Giants closer Mark Melancon tossed a 1-2-3 third inning in his first outing. Cain threw 40 pitches and Justin Ruggiano had an RBI double in a three-run fifth.

Javier Baez went 2 for 3 with an RBI double.

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy planned to give most of his pitchers one-inning stints during the first weekend of spring ball, but Matt Cain stretched it out to 40 pitches on Saturday. 

“I’ve had enough days off the past couple of years,” Cain said, smiling.

In his first start of a crucial spring, Cain threw two innings. He was charged with three hits and two runs, just one of them earned. 

“He’s in a good place right now with his arm strength,” Bochy said. “His delivery is consistent. I’m glad he got a lot of work today, to be honest. It’s something he needs as much as anybody on this staff, is work. He’s going to get it.”

Ty Blach, Cain’s biggest competition for the fifth starter spot, gave up four hits and one earned in his two innings. Neither pitcher was hit particularly hard, and both suffered a bit from iffy defense in the early innings of an 8-6 win over the Cubs. 

The inning separating Cain and Blach was notable for other reasons. Mark Melancon made his Giants debut, getting two groundouts and a fly to right in a quick inning. Melancon received a nice ovation, and he noted the opponent — a Cubs team that helped guarantee the Giants would spend big on a closer — but he didn’t put any added importance on the outing. 

“It doesn’t matter what I do out there right now,” he said. 

Melancon’s new teammates might disagree. Spring or not, the Giants certainly enjoyed watching a closer breeze through his inning. Especially against the Cubs. 

“He’s a pro,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be out there working on stuff, his command and pitches. It was good for Buster (Posey) to catch him. It was a good day for him.”

NOTABLE: On his first swing of the spring, Posey threw his bat up against the visiting dugout. It can only go uphill from there … Bryan Morris had a scoreless debut, striking out one … Josh Osich ran into some trouble in the eighth and gave up a pair of runs, but Bochy appreciated the way he fought his way out of the frame … Former Giants prospect Chris Dominguez started for the Cubs at first base. He had a couple of hits ... If you're headed to Goodyear for tomorrow's game, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Conor Gillaspie, Jimmy Rollins, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Trevor Brown will start behind Matt Moore. Also, if you're headed to Goodyear, I'm sorry. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez is limited to DH duty for now because of a sore throwing shoulder. Nuñez said the tightness popped up after some work in the weight room, but he’s not concerned at all. He said he would have played third base if Saturday’s game was a regular season contest. The Giants expect him in the field sometime next week. 

Nuñez also said it took five weeks after the season ended for his hamstring to get back to 100 percent, so apparently that injury was much worse than it first looked. Nuñez was out on the field before every NLDS game, trying to get clearance to return. He never quite got there. 

Will Smith (elbow) is just a day or two from throwing off flat ground, Bochy said. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants had hoped to have Johnny Cueto in camp this weekend, but he remains in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Cueto is waiting for a visa for his ill father, Domingo, who will travel to Scottsdale with Johnny. 

LIGHTER SIDE: Brandon Crawford spent a couple of minutes learning some of Jeff Samardzija’s mound moves. The impersonation is pretty solid.