Giants' Zito to start World Series opener


Giants' Zito to start World Series opener

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) From postseason bystander to starting the World Series opener. That's how far Barry Zito has come in two years to resurrect his career.

The resurgent left-hander will pitch Game 1 for the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday he will go with Zito, who has turned around his career this year - and Bochy was eager and proud to give the pitcher the news, once they finally connected that is.

``I tried to call him all day. He left his phone at the ballpark, so I couldn't get ahold of him,'' Bochy said. ``But he was ecstatic. He was proud, honored that we have the trust in him to start Game 1.''

Zito's stellar outing in a 5-0 victory on Friday night in Game 5 of the NL championship series at Busch Stadium helped San Francisco rally from a 3-1 series deficit against the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals to return to the World Series for the second time in three years.

Left off the postseason roster for all three rounds when the Giants won it all in 2010, Zito made a conscious decision to find his way by just plain having fun again - forgetting one bad start and moving on to the next. Whatever he has done to change his mental approach, it has certainly paid off on the mound.

``It's not important to reflect right now. There's work to do,'' Zito said. ``I'm going to be on the mound here in the next 24 hours, so that's where my focus is at.''

For Bochy, leaving Zito off the roster was among the toughest calls he has made as a manager. That made delivering the good news Tuesday so much sweeter.

``I couldn't be happier for him. It says a lot about his mental toughness, his makeup,'' Bochy said. ``I mentioned this in 2010, it wasn't easy not to put him on the postseason roster. He was struggling in September. But the way he handled it was so impressive. He went out, I think he threw a bullpen that day, and throughout the postseason he kept himself ready in case something happened. He didn't hang his head and he even threw to hitters.''

It doesn't hurt that Zito now has four pitches to baffle batters aside from just that nasty curveball that has defined his career since back in the early days of the Big Three - with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder - across the bay with the Oakland Athletics.

``He's been through a lot, obviously. He took the beatings,'' Giants general manager Brian Sabean said of Zito. ``He's always been a stand-up guy, he's never stopped working. In his own way he's never stopped believing and he's made changes. He's made changes when he had to. I actually don't think other than when he first came here that he was supposed to be the lead dog in the staff as it turned out the young guys were so good so fast. You look back in Oakland he was just one of the group. I don't think the money ever bothered him.''

Bochy credits the work Zito did with pitching coach Dave Righetti to constantly make adjustments and find what would work.

``It's hard to sum it up in one answer,'' Zito said after beating the Cardinals. ``It's just a plethora of things that I've done and gone through here with the Giants. But the most important thing was to come out and give everything I've got.''

The Giants have won Zito's last 13 starts, dating to Aug. 7. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland went 15-8 for his most wins since joining the Giants on a $126 million, seven-year contract before the 2007 season.

And what ideal timing for Zito to shine in a season that two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum faltered. Lincecum will remain in the bullpen for now, giving Bochy ample options how to use him.

As Lincecum endured his own struggles this season, he learned from how Zito handled himself and couldn't be happier for his teammate.

``I've been really close with him, and he's been here since I've been here,'' Lincecum said. ``It's been great to watch him grow, on and off the field. Obviously he hasn't seen things go the way he wanted them to the last few years but this year has been a big year for him. What more can you say about a guy who has gone about the way he has professionally and still find a way to be positive about it?''

When Zito won Game 5 last week, he said how special it was to deliver in the most important start yet of his 13-year big league career.

Zito has been so good he's trending on Twitter with his own hashtag - and, now, (hashtag)RallyZito rolls on to the World Series. Not that he's paying a lot of attention.

``I tried Twitter a couple of years ago and it was a pretty devastating experience for me,'' Zito said the other day with a laugh. ``I learned to not check the inbox. So I got off Twitter. I'm excited that the fans are fired up.''

That support sure has meant a lot to Zito, who has always said the right thing even through the down times. Bochy praised his class in handling the 2010 situation. All those boos that came from every which way for so long have turned to cheers and thunderous standing ovations.

``For me personally, to look at the whole story and everything else doesn't really help me because I have a routine I have to stick to,'' Zito said. ``I'm excited to pitch every time I get on the mound. This is a more exciting opportunity than most.''

Bochy will go with back-to-back lefties as Madison Bumgarner is set to start Game 2 on Thursday, followed by right-handers Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. That puts Vogelsong in line to pitch a possible Game 7.

Zito won his last five regular-season starts and seven decisions of the regular season since a loss Aug. 2 to the Mets.

He has tweaked his delivery, added a cut fastball and learned to make adjustments right away when things go wrong. Working tirelessly with Righetti has helped, too.

Detroit's Delmon Young knows just how much this means to Zito. They worked out together in the offseason following San Francisco's 2010 title run.

``He was still happy to be a Giant,'' Young said. ``He was happy that he won a World Series and everything but he wanted to make sure that he was going to actually contribute. He worked his butt off. Now he's earned what he wanted.''

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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