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.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches


Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.