Zito to make start Wednesday against Pirates

Updated: May 7, 2008, 2:29 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Barry Zito, demoted to the San Francisco Giants bullpen last week, is returning to the starting rotation without having made any relief appearances.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Zito will start Wednesday's game in Pittsburgh against the Pirates' Phil Dumatrait (0-1). Zito, who a year ago signed a $126 million, seven-year contract, was sent to the bullpen last week after compiling a 7.53 ERA while losing his first six starts.

Difference Maker?

The Giants didn't exactly turn things around after sending Barry Zito to the bullpen. Maybe that's why he'll be starting again. Here's San Francisco's story:

Starters'
ERA
Team
Record
With Zito 3.90 12-15
Without Zito 4.76 2-4

"Barry Zito's going to start. He's a starter," Bochy said Tuesday. "We just gave him a break."

Zito was San Francisco's Opening Day starter this season and became only the third pitcher since 1956 to go 0-6 before May, joining Texas' Dave Stewart (1984) and Detroit's Mike Maroth (2003). The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland is a three-time All-Star.

Zito hasn't pitched since April 27, when he gave up eight runs and seven hits in three innings during a 10-1 loss to the Reds.

"I think it was good to take a step back and get objective on some things," Zito said. "I'm excited to get out there. I'm real excited to go pitch to hitters and take those adjustments into the game. ... Now, it's about me sticking with the game plan I know works, staying in that mind-set I know that got me here."

Zito has thrown two extended bullpen sessions that were monitored by pitching coach Dave Righetti. He also plans to adjust his approach by being more aggressive early in the count. Zito said he was repeatedly hurt earlier by not throwing early count pitches for strikes.

"If you're not in an aggressive mind-set, you're going to nitpick, and that's what get guys in trouble, that's what got me in trouble," Zito said. "For me, it's about being aggressive. You can definitely get away with pitches early in the count that you can't late in the count. Late in the count, you've got to be fine. That's when you walk guys and you leave things over the middle."

Zito, who turns 30 on May 13, believes he worked out his problems while throwing on the side despite not appearing in any games.

"I think you can achieve those things in the bullpen," he said. "You put yourself in that frame of mind, you're not in game situations but you still can achieve those things on the mound."

Bochy insisted he planned to pitch Zito once or twice out of the bullpen and this wasn't a predetermined course designed to get Zito off the mound for a while. The Giants currently need five starters, Bochy said, and Zito was the obvious choice to go back into the rotation.

Starting Zito on Wednesday allows Bochy to slot a left-hander, Pat Misch (0-0), between right-handers Matt Cain (1-2) and Tim Lincecum (4-1). Misch, who was to have started Wednesday, will start Friday against the Phillies, with Lincecum going Saturday.

"Location, that's been his biggest issue really," Bochy said of Zito. "He hasn't been locating pitches as well as he can. He's been great about this, working, and he's ready. He's been anxious to come out of the bullpen."

Also, shortstop Omar Vizquel, out all season after having arthroscopic left knee surgery Feb. 27, could rejoin the team within a week.

Vizquel, who was working previously at the team's extended spring training camp in Arizona, has gone through three consecutive days of playing without any problems. He went 1-for-5 during a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Fresno before joining Class A San Jose on Tuesday night.

Vizquel may return to San Francisco on Friday for evaluation and, if no problems are found, may be ready to play shortly after that.

"So far, so good," Bochy said. "He's playing some innings, getting some at-bats. He's not feeling any effects from the playing time, so that's the good thing."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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