Barry Zito

Barry Zito’s only saving grace now in jeopardy

I’m supposed to be at a going-away party right now, but instead my wife’s there and I’m home sick. No better way to start the weekend by feeling kind of off on Friday morning, then progressively worse throughout the workday until it’s full-blown fever, aches and chills time. At least it meant that I got to have a guilt-free marathon sports watching session in my living room, and after my wife left I set up the Aero Bed right in front of the TV. Even though it isn’t a weekday, I feel like I did as a kid when I’d stay home from school and watch Price Is Right, $25,000 Pyramid, Scrabble, Press Your Luck, and all the old comedies on TBS.

So much sports, but I have to admit when I remembered Barry Zito was pitching tonight, I started thinking about my other choices of what to watch while my wife plays flip cup and Rock Band with a bunch of people who, unlike me, haven’t been sweating all day while lying down.

As sick as I’ve felt over the past 36 hours, that’s nothing compared to the pain and fear Zito probably has right now. He left the clubhouse on crutches, and will lie in an MRI tube for a while tomorrow to find out how bad his mid-foot sprain is. For a guy whose skills have diminished drastically since the early 2000’s, the only solace one could take when contemplating each upcoming Zito start was there was no way he’d be missing it.

Zito’s new mustache was joined on his latest start by a healthy amount of stubble, which made him look doubly out of it when he walked Xavier Nady in the second inning and immediately led Freddy Sanchez about five feet too far on a throw where he was apparently attempting to pickoff Chris Young at second base. He redeemed himself somewhat with a diving/falling catch on a Joe Saunders bunt, but he never threw another pitch. Guillermo Mota came in and pretty much guaranteed himself a job through the rest of the season, and perhaps even a spot start soon if Zito needs to take some “sick” time of his own over the coming weeks.

Zito injured his foot badly enough to leave the game, and for a guy who didn’t miss a start after getting into a car crash just three days earlier who’s never hit the DL in his entire career (making 355 consecutive starts since his debut with the A’s in 2000), you know that it must have been giving him a lot of pain. And after reports of significant swelling after the game, it’s doubtful we’ll see Zito taking the mound for the Giants for at least a couple weeks, if not much longer.

Most everyone rightly panned a Bruce Jenkins column written in early March titled, “Barry Zito tries to stay in Giants’ good graces,” which reported the Giants were so “exasperated” with Zito that they were thinking of “buying out his expensive contract before opening day.” While Zito wasn’t completely out of the Giants’ good graces to the point where they’d consider dropping 190 guaranteed innings per year simply because he walks too many guys and brings everyone down after watching the other four younger, more dynamic starters pitch, he’s a mediocre pitcher who didn’t make the postseason roster.

Even worse, he seemed in his first three starts of 2012 to be getting slightly worse. Zito’s velocity has stayed under 85 mph so far, his walk rates are up and his strikeout rates are down. Certainly we’re talking about a ridiculously small sample size, but Zito’s getting older. Durability was the only feather remaining in Zito’s cap, and now that too might be gone.

The Giants have an off day to play with, so if Zito’s a quick healer and only misses a start or two (or none), no harm done. But if they’re left to wait a protracted period for Zito to heal and rehab his injury, the exasperation described in Jenkins’ original column may end up coming true to a certain extent.

Oh yeah, the game!

– Mark DeRosa was penciled in at first base and everyone freaked out. Then he went 2-for-3.

– Another guy who collected two singles? Pat Burrell, whose single total now matches his homers (4).

– Freddy Sanchez had two horrific at-bats and then knocked the final three runs in, raising his batting average to .308 and his OBP to .390, second on the team among regular players to Buster Posey (.393), who’s only two extra base hits so far are homers.

– Sergio Romo looks as good as ever, but his increasingly demonstrative post-strikeout celebrations as he runs to the dugout really are getting ridiculous. If it’s a 10-pitch battle he wins over Troy Tulowitzki in September, fine. An April game with a 3-run lead against the D-Backs with Ryan Roberts at the plate? Might want to tone it down.

– Since looking a little shaky in his first two appearances, Brian Wilson has struck out 5 in 3 1/3 innings, only allowing one baserunner. Wilson’s evening was just beginning after his fourth save in as many days, as he walked in front of the camera during Freddy’s postgame interview, and then gave a riotous interview with some guy from Fox Sports Arizona. After a perfunctory when-are-you-gonna-get-rid-of-the-beard question, Wilson said, “I don’t even have a trimmer,” and mentioned that if his beard grows long enough to step on with his cleats, that could cause problems. Guessing Wilson already has quite a few answers saved up whenever smarmy out-of-town reporters ask him patronizing questions about his beard.

– Whose idea was it to do a series of commercials with long, severe closeups of Ashkon’s face? I’m trying to eat, here.

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