Barry Zito, here saluting the Oakland crowd Saturday, thought his starting days were over. Nope. He’ll start again Wednesday vs. Angels.
Barry Zito’s last big league start Saturday in the Coliseum against the Giants was many things.
What it wasn’t was his last Major League start.
The A’s said Monday they will have the 37-year-old left-hander start Wednesday against the Angels with staff ace Sonny Gray shut down for the season with hip pain.
Manager Bob Melvin was among those who believed Saturday’s two-inning stint against San Francisco was the 37-year-old left-hander’s last.
With Gray out, the dynamic changed.
“I asked Barry if he was up for it, and he was very up for it,’’ Melvin said.
Zito said following Saturday’s start against fellow Big Three mate Tim Hudson he’d like to get one or two more games out of the bullpen, saying “I’d love to contribute,’’ but a start wasn’t on his radar.
“When you look at him come off the field, you (Zito) are thinking it’s certainly the last time you’re ever going to start,’’ Melvin said. “Potentially there may be an outing out of the bullpen. To start again, this is going to be a very motivated guy. So you kind of throw rest and pitch counts out the window with a guy like him.’’
Zito will be pitching on three days’ rest. Normally that would be a problem, but this isn’t normal. Zito threw 48 pitches in his Saturday start against fellow Big Three member Tim Hudson.
“He’s a pretty motivated guy,’’ Melvin said of Zito. “He could care less about how many pitches he’s thrown or three days’ rest or two days’ rest. He’s just eager to get another start.’’
As for Gray, the A’s have lost starter after start this year to the disabled list. They didn’t want to see Gray’s hip problem get any worse than it already is.
“With Sonny, we just don’t want to push it,’’ Melvin said. “We have so many guys on the disabled list now, he was kind of the Last of the Mohicans as far as the starters from early in the season. It didn’t make sense with one more start to try and push it to get him through a game.
None of the five men who began the year in the rotation will finish it there. Gray joins Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman in being hurt. Scott Kazmir was traded to Houston and Drew Pomeranz was moved into the bullpen after eight starts in which he was 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA. Pomeranz’s ERA in the bullpen is 2.61.
Gray, 14-7, saw his ERA climb from a league-leading 2.13 to a season-high 2.73 in September, but Melvin was quick to discount the last month for his ace.
“Sonny had a great year, he really did,’’ the manager said. “You kind of remember things recently when he had a couple of tough outings, but we needed to win one of those games for us against the Giants and he was there for us for that (Friday) game.
“He gave up a two-run homer in the first, then maybe pitched as well as we’ve seen him after that through six innings. You look at all the internal numbers, hits, innings pitched, ERA all those things, and he’s one of the best performers in the American League for sure.’’
–Bryan Anderson was given his first Oakland start behind the plate with Stephen Vogt getting Monday’s start off. Vogt is expected to catch Tuesday and Wednesday. “It’s exciting for Bryan,’’ Melvin said. “With the workload Vogt’s had and just coming off an injury, it was prudent to play Bryan today.’’
–Danny Valencia, who was hit hard in the left elbow by a pitch Sunday and left the game after four innings, said he was feeling much better Monday and was back in the A’s lineup at third base.