Barry Zito hadn’t heard that Mark Ellis had announced his retirement. He also hadn’t heard that Tim Hudson has indicated this might be his last year in the game as well.
After hearing the news on both longtime teammates, Zito smiled and offered a word of caution Thursday to any player who may be thinking about calling it quits – think long and hard about it.
“I think hanging it up is going to be harder for guys than they realize, after being out of it for a year,” said the 36-year-old lefthander, who is trying to revive his career with the A’s after a year’s hiatus from the game. “You feel like you’re in control of the game, and then you’re not in it, and you want be back in that game so bad.”
Based on his own experience, Zito said players may look at retirement a little too cavalierly.
“We’ve got a long way to go in life once we get out of this thing,” he said. “That’s not a factor for you when you’re in it. You say, `Ah, I’ve had enough.’ But it’s a difficult decision.”
Zito had his year off pre-planned before his 2013 season had ended with the Giants, and added that it was hard to watch, particularly in the playoffs when his competitive juices would start to kick up.
“The playoffs are such an intensified version of what we do,” he said. “That’s really what we live for. It was difficult in ’13 and ’14. Watching the Dodgers go up against the Cardinals, I was wishing I was out there.”
As far as his own career resuscitation, Zito took another key step Thursday. He faced live hitters for the first time, threw 30 pitches, and came away satisfied.
“It definitely felt pretty good for the first time out,” he said. “It’s not quite game intensity, but it’s definitely a step up from throwing bullpens.”
Zito admitted he can’t gauge where he is compared to where he might be if he hadn’t taken a year off, but said his conditioning is good and his motivation to pull off his return is off the charts.
“I definitely want to come out and bust my tail and leave everything on the field every day,” he said. “If you’re getting comfortable in spring training, that’s probably not the mindset to have. I’m definitely giving more every day than I would if I hadn’t been gone for a year.”