March 2011

Like Zito, Chronicle report misses mark

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San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy spoke out vehemently Wednesday against a report in the San Francisco Chronicle that suggested Barry Zito’s spot in the Giants’ rotation is not assured.

Bochy, speaking to the media prior to Wednesday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, said Zito remains the team’s No. 4 starter and the skipper conveyed that point to the left-handed pitcher earlier Wednesday.

The report, by Chronicle columist Bruce Jenkins, said a source close to the team indicated that there is “exasperation” with Zito and his status in the Giants’ rotation was “definitely not safe.”

The report went on further to say the team would even consider buying out his contract before Opening Day.

The report surprised MoreSplashHits, particularly the latter portion considering that the Giants still owe Zito almost $60 million over the next three years, and that doesn’t even include the $7 million buyout for 2014.

The report surprised Zito, too.

“Obviously it was a shock,” Zito told CSNBayArea.com of seeing the column. “I’d love to know who these source are, but I know enough about the media to know that we’ll probably never know who they are. It’s a little frustrating because I pride myself on being accountable. … Unfortunately, not everyone’s as big on accountability as other people.”

Bochy denied the Chronicle’s report.

“Believe me, there has been no conversation anywhere near what the article was about,” Bochy said.

MoreSplashHits has worked in the print media for 20 years, and we hate unnamed sources — most of the time.

There are times when unnamed sources are helpful, like when a team or an agent wishes to control the release of information. For example, a team might say “We have a major announcement tomorrow at noon.” That means something has already been decided and we’ll announce with pomp and circumstance tomorrow. Getting the inside info from an unnamed source to tell you what has been decided is fine in that scenario.

But a columnist to come in a use unnamed sources in this situation is probably driving the beat reporter nutty.

If this were a hard news story, the writer would have taken this information from the unnamed source and gone to someone in the Giants front office for a reaction, of some sort. Give someone like Bochy or Brian Sabean the chance to say “we haven’t made any final decisions of that” or some sort of “no comment” or “those reports are patently false.”

It had also been suggested that this leak was planted by the Giants as a way to get Zito to fall into line. A good theory, until Sabean blew that up.

“Absolutley, unequivocally not,” Sabean said of the leak idea. “We have too much respect for players, and more so, I have a great relationship with Barry Zito. If thing had gotten to that point, I would have talked to him directly, firsthand.”

So it appears Jenkins used the unnamed sources to give credence to a viewpoint that is in line with what the writer is trying to express. Seeking a confirmation of this information would potentially undermine what the writer is trying to say. And that’s a dangerous game to play.

Jenkins finishes his thoughts on Zito with this: “Bank on this: There’s no way Zito will be wearing a Giants uniform in 2013.”

Really, Bruce? No way?

Zito is due to make $20 million in 2013. Wouldn’t the Giants try to get something for that? What if Zito finally gets it together? What if he takes the start he had last season and is able to carry that through an entire season? Remember he started last season 6-2 with a 2.78 ERA into June. Even late in the season, in September, when the Giants had their run of 18 consecutive games of allowing three runs or fewer, three of those starts were Zito starts.

That string ended with a Zito start in Colorado. His next start was on the penultimate day of the season when he walked home two runs in the first inning in a loss to the Padres. That start led to Zito being left off the postseason roster.

But he could come back and go 13-9 this season, maybe 15-10 next season. I don’t expect that, but it’s possible. The Giants are paying him big money and he’s never going to pitch up to that salary. But all he has to do is pitch like a serviceable No. 4 or 5 starter and eat up some innings. But not too many innings, he has an $18 million option that kicks in 2014 if he reaches certain inning-pitched thresholds.

Zito said he was most upset with the notion that’s he’s not in good shape. But he will continue to work and the rest “is out of my control.”

Yikes! Once again, another example of how major league players need MoreSplashHits to help them with their public relations.

Barry! You saying “out of my control” is a poor choice of words.

To read more about the Giants support of Zito, click here.

Relax Giants fans: Freak is Freaky again

Well, that was more like it.

After getting smacked around some in his first spring start, Tim Lincecum threw three hitless innings on Tuesday as the Giants lost 3-2 to the Chicago Cubs.

“My location was better and I was mixing my pitches in and out,” Lincecum said. “I didn’t throw too many off-speed pitches. My rhythm felt quick the first two innings, and then I was able to calm it down in the third.”

Here are some other highlights:

MAD BUMMER: Madison Bumgarner followed Lincecum to the mound. He started with two more scoreless innings. But in his third inning, he gave up a run and left two runners on base when he was relieved by Dan Runzler. Runzler gave a two-run double to Aramis Ramirez with both runs being charged to Bumgarner.

MORE PANDA: Pablo Sandoval had two doubles in three RBI. Being patient at the plate paid off for Sandoval on Tuesday. He worked the count to 2-0 on Ryan Dempster in his first AB. Then went to left-center for a run-scoring double. Against Todd Wellemeyer, Sandoval took a 1-1 pitch and hit it 430 feet to center. That wasn’t enough to get it out of the park and it resulted in another double.  Sandoval is 6 for 13 with two HRs, two doubles and five RBI this spring.

FREDDY SANCHEZ: Making his first spring starting, Sanchez went 0 for 3. But it included a liner out to first in his first at-bat. It’s good to see Freddy playing games on March 1. Barring any setbacks, he’ll be ready for opening day. More interesting about this debut was that Sanchez was at the leadoff spot. Andres Torres sat out again with a sore side. Aaron Rowand also was in the starting lineup, but Rowand was batting No. 8. Hopefully this is a sign that Bruce Bochy is done putting Rowand in the leadoff spot, even on days when Torres is not in the lineup. We hope.

Zito, Fielder rekindle Bowling Ball-Gate

Bowling Ball-Gate continues.

The Giants’ Barry Zito and the Brewers’ Prince Fielder exchanged words after Zito issued a first-inning walk to the slugger in the first inning of Monday’s 10-9 Giants win over the Brew Crew.

A frustrating Zito issued a four-pitch walk to Fielder. After the first pitch, the lefty asked home plate umpire Stephen Barga where the pitch was.

Fielder barked at Zito and was still talking when he got to first base, and another umpire stepped in between the two players.

“Prince was letting me know that it was a ball,” Zito explained.

When pressed further, each player offered different explanations.

“Yeah, we talked a little bit,” Zito said. “Caught up. Asked him how his offseason was. Family’s good. No new tattoos.”

Fielder remarked: “I like Barry. I really do. (Mutual agent Scott Boras) called and we have dinner tonight. I asked (Zito) which one we were going to. I said Houston’s. He thought Fleming’s.”

And then Fielder let out a big chuckle.

The back story on this event dates back to September 2009 when Fielder, celebrating a game-winning home run against the Giants, jumped on home plate and his teammates fell backwards as if knocked over by a bowling ball.

The Giants didn’t appreciate the stunt. So the following spring in the two teams’ first spring meeting, Zito hit Fielder square in the back with his first pitch.

MoreSplashHits had no issues with Zito’s message pitch last spring. At least THAT pitch went were Zito intended.

The same could not be said for Monday’s outing.

Zito walked five of the 13 batters he faced. After loading the bases in the first, Zito worked out of the inning by inducing a pair of popups. He gave up two runs in the second, and was removed after walking Fielder a second time to force in the second run.

“I’m just working on timing,” Zito said. “I had some where it clicked and some where the timing was off a little bit.”

But there was good news — apart from the victory — for the Giants on Monday.

MARK DEROSA: Starting again at 2B, DeRosa continues to swing the bat well. He went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, including his first spring training home run.

BRANDON BELT: Belt made his first spring start and began to make his case to make the big league club. Belt went 3 for 5 with 2 runs, two doubles and 4 RBI. However, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated that the plan is for Belt to start the season at Triple-A unless injury and an incredibly impressive spring by Belt make the Giants rethink that.

TRAVIS ISHIKAWA: Ishikawa made his first start in left field, as the Giants tried to improve his versatility on the team. He wetn 2 for 3 with a double and run scored. “It was a lot fun. I hope I get more chances out there,” he said afterwards.

JEFF SUPPAN: Batting for a roster spot, Suppan got off to a good start, throwing three scoreless and hitless innings.  

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