MLB: Great night and day for Giants’ multi-talented Barry Zito
By Daniel Brown
San Jose Mercury News
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Perhaps still groovin’ from his charity concert a night earlier, Barry Zito was in a rhythm Friday. He breezed through four scoreless innings against minor league hitters, getting outs so easily that the Giants had to tinker with the baseball rulebook just to get him enough work.
After Zito recorded three quick outs in the second inning, coaches signaled for the pitcher and his fielders to remain on the mound. Zito recorded a fourth out (strikeout) and then a fifth (flyout) before being permitted to return to the dugout.
Zito acknowledged that he had help from a free-swinging lineup. The minor leaguers looked eager to prove their mettle against a former Cy Young winner.
“They were being super aggressive,” Zito said. “They just wanted those fastballs. They say you can’t walk your way to the big leagues.”
Zito threw 60 pitches, a total reached only because of his five-out inning. He allowed only two hits, one of which a more charitable scorekeeper would have ruled an error.
He walked none and hit Brad Boyer, a plunking that created just a wee bit less of a stir than when Zito nailed Prince Fielder.
Zito pitched in minor league camp as a veteran courtesy. Doing so allowed him to skip the four-hour round-trip bus ride to Tucson, where the Giants played the Colorado Rockies.
Only a handful of the players left in Scottsdale had more than a cup of coffee’s worth of big league experience.
A more star-studded lineup joined Zito on stage a night earlier at WoodJock, a charity concert in Scottsdale organized by Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy.
Zito played drums. Peavy sang. Former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams played guitar. And with help from other teammates, such as Giants reliever Brandon Medders, the players raised money for various causes that included Zito’s “Strikeouts For Troops.”
In one of the show’s highlights, Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff grabbed the microphone and belt out a few Johnny Cash songs. “He was great,” Zito said. “Those songs were right in his wheelhouse.”
But for Zito, the bigger thrill was welcoming 24 wounded veterans from the Balboa Naval Hospital on stage to croon “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
Zito created Strikeout For Troops for moments just like that. He started the nonprofit in 2005 with the hopes of “lifting the spirits and morale of our wounded troops being treated at military hospitals nationwide,” according to strikeoutsfortroops.com.
After the performance Thursday night, one of the soldiers — one who had recovered from five gunshot wounds — pulled Zito aside and told him that for the first time since his injury he was feeling joy again.
“He said it was one of the best days of my life,” Zito said.
—In Tucson, Todd Wellemeyer strengthened his bid for the fifth starter’s job with four scoreless innings in a 9-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander allowed just two hits.
Over three Cactus League starts, Wellemeyer has allowed just two runs in nine innings and has walked only one. His main competition for the fifth spot, prospect Madison Bumgarner, has given up two runs in four innings over a pair of starts.
—Nate Schierholtz and Buster Posey each had a single, double and two RBI against the Rockies.