The big sports news of the day is that former A's pitcher Barry Zito, who pissed off Oakland forever by defecting to the Giants in 2006 after helping make the team into their Moneyball-famous selves, has signed back on to a minor league deal that will likely put him back on the A's pitching mound this season. As KRON 4 reported last night and the Mercury News confirmed today, Zito has spent the winter with renowned baseball career-resuscitator Ron Wolforth on his Texas Baseball Ranch outside Houston, and as a result of some stronger pitching stats he's signed a reported $1M minor league deal, with incentives.
His pitch is back to 88 mph, reportedly, and Wolforth says he thinks it will be up to 90 by late spring. And if and when that happens, he'll wear his old number 75 jersey again.
As Wolforth explains, at length, to the Mercury-News:
"Barry told me he felt he'd slowly lost some velocity over the years, and he really didn't feel like he should have," Wolforth said. "He was stronger, he was more fit, he was more flexible, so in his mind he shouldn't be losing velocity.
"We had to be cautious, because he's always had a very good curve ball, and we didn't want to take that away just so he could look pretty with his velo. In four months, he never missed a day, never was late for a session. He was curious, open-minded and always taking notes. And the velo started to come back without putting too much stress on the elbow."
Zito took the 2014 season off after being let go from the Giants in 2013.
Zito was a young star when he began with the A's in 2000, and his pitching game steadily improved, finishing fifth in the American league as the team's starter in 2005, and making the All-Star Team in 2006. His performance was uneven in his first years with the Giants, but he finally came back strong by the 2012 season, helping the team to win their second historic World Series. Still, after sitting out all of 2011 with an injury and struggling most of 2013, most fans declared him finished.
But, the 36-year-old left-hander just might have a comeback in him. So stay tuned.