Barry the Giant

OK, it’s settled. The $126 million the Giants laid out for Barry Zito was the best money ever spent.

Yes, you should denote a bit of sarcasm in that statement. Sorry, but the Cactus League brings it out of me. The games are completely meaningless, and if you disagree, tell me one thing you remember from last season’s exhibition campaign (besides an injury, that is) and tell me how it affected the regular season.

Nevertheless, 14 media members _ myself included _ were on hand to grill Zito after his first game stint in a Giants uniform. The results were sensational. Scoreless ball, and only one hit allowed in the Giants’ traditional spring opener at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

And by the way, a strikeout of the Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano, Chicago’s own $136 million man. Nothing like getting the best in a competition worth $262 million to stake a claim to greatness.

“It was a good battle,” Zito said when it was over. “It’s funny how it worked out, the two of us facing each other.”

It certainly got the day’s highlight out of the way early. Zito delivered his first “real” pitch as a Giant at 1:07 p.m. (MST), and Soriano scorched it just foul past third base. Zito delievered a strike, then two balls, and Soriano followed by fighting off two tough pitches. Zito then brought some high cheese and Soriano swung through it.

Beyond that, it was a fairly routine day. Zito threw 29 pitches in all, 18 for strikes, allowed only Derrek Lee’s single and departed after two innings. He didn’t get a chance to show off his new bunting skills. His motion looked remarkably similar to what it’s been all these years in Oakland.

“It felt great,” Zito said _ (and on a side note, let me know when some pitcher describes a spring start as anything other than great ) _ “It felt great to get into a game situation, with the crowd and everything. That’s something you don’t get in the offseason or the first two weeks of camp.”

Zito also got a chance to show himself off in the Giants’ colors for the first time. The uniform top was dark black, the pants were gray, the socks black and pulled high (no stirrups).

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I checked myself out in the mirror, and I looked pretty good in these colors. The green and gold faded faster than I thought.”

Gotta disagree with him there. Zito looks quite odd in Giants colors, and it’s gonna take some time for that not to be the case. As for the green and gold fading, that will happen quick. The Giants will hold a promotion during an open house this weekend. Fans turning in a green and gold Zito jersey will get two free tickets to a game at China Basin on the final weekend of the exhibition season.

His old employers will love that.