SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -After three spring training starts, Barry Zito remains an enigma.
He struggled in his first year with the San Francisco Giants after signing a $126 million, seven-year contract, and still looks nothing like the pitcher who won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award with Oakland.
Every starter can expect one awful outing during spring training, and Zito had one in his first assignment, allowing eight runs, seven hits and two walks. He failed to finish the first inning.
He looked completely different in his next outing, allowing one run and two hits in three strong innings. He didn't strike anybody out, but didn't walk anybody, either.
On Monday, he took several steps backward. Zito was extended to 3 2-3 innings but gave up another eight runs and walked four batters. He still hasn't recorded a strikeout this spring.
``Well, I was working on a couple of things mechanically, so I was just trying to get comfortable with that,'' Zito said. ``Obviously, the ball was up a little bit - more than I would like, so I will just get back to work.''
Zito, who had his first professional losing season (11-13) and his highest ERA (4.53) last year, is expected to anchor the Giants' young starting rotation. He's started more games (255) than the rest of the projected rotation (186) combined.
``Spring training is an opportunity to work on some things in the games, in game situations,'' Zito said. ``You can use the adrenaline that you don't usually get in a practice session or a bullpen. It was the first time doing it, and I think it's important to stick with it and really work with it to get the timing.''
Zito, who turns 30 in May, is working to become slightly more compact in his delivery, despite seven successful seasons in the AL with one windup.
``It was eliminating the hands going over the head in the windup,'' Zito said. ``I'm trying to have a little more continuity, and less movement. It just feels more comfortable. There's less moving parts, and any time there's less moving parts, there's less things you have to worry about controlling. Really it's just to get the timing of the arm and get that hand break working.''
Zito will likely start one of San Francisco's split-squad games Saturday, when he can further tinker with his slightly new delivery.
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