San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy uttered the words Tuesday that I had hoped he would for some time now: starting pitcher Barry Zito will receive one final start in a Giants uniform. It will come Saturday against the San Diego Padres, a game Yusmeiro Petit is scheduled to start, according to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
There were high hopes for Zito heading into the 2013 season after his masterful postseason, but he quickly began to look the part of a struggling, has-been pitcher that he exhibited for 99 percent of his Giants career. As soon as fans started to realize this wasn’t the Zito that showed up in October, they called for his head — and for his career in black and orange to end.
But now as both the Giants’ season and Zito’s career in San Francisco are dwindling down, I commend Bochy for giving Zito something he rightfully deserves. Absolutely nothing but pride comes with a victory in these final games. No playoff contention; no playoff positioning. So why not let Zito take the mound one last time at AT&T Park?
Zito will forever be known as one of the worst signings in San Francisco Giants franchise history. His seven-year, $126 million contract was not worthy at all of Zito’s performance as a Giant. But for two starts in the 2013 postseason — the one percent — he was worth every penny.
He staged two of the best pitching performances of his career in consecutive starts. The first came in Game 5 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, where he tossed 7.2 innings of scoreless baseball, staving off the Giants’ elimination on the road. The next came five days later in San Francisco against Detroit Tigers‘ Justin Verlander, the un-beatable pitcher that was supposed to be able to breeze through the Giants’ lineup.
Not only did Zito out-pitch Verlander, but he singled home a run in the fourth inning.
Giants fans should appreciate what they got from Zito. He may not have been what the organization paid for, but his contribution to the Giants’ second World Series title in three years was invaluable. Zito will surely receive a shower of applause and acclamation from the patrons of 24 Willie Mays Plaza come Saturday afternoon.
Even if he pitches like the player has been for the majority of his Giant career, he will leave the mound with a standing ovation — a righteous reward for a World Series hero.