For the past couple of years, I haven't seen the appeal of keeping Barry Zito on the roster.
Certainly Zito has been a valuable pitcher to teams in the past, having won the Cy Young award in 2002 in the midst of a successful run with the Oakland A's.
However, since signing with the San Francisco Giants back in 2007, Zito hasn't seen a season with a winning record, wasn't allowed to pitch during the Giants' successful postseason run in 2010 and spent the majority of last year on the disabled list.
Known for his eccentric personality, many Giants fans have wondered if his quirks have overshadowed his abilities to consistently pitch effectively. Finding that balance is something that other Giants, like Brian Wilson, have little difficulty with.
Zito hasn't been producing for a guy who was signed for a then-record pitching contract, and if he was the topic of any discussion (which was rare) it was a debate as to whether or not it was more effective to keep him on the roster or to buy him out of his contract.
Zito's best days seem to be behind him, and nothing in his overall history with the Giants seemed to indicate anything to the contrary.
After starting the season with a three-game losing streak against the expected-to-be-dominant Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants were in danger of continuing that streak against the Colorado Rockies on Monday. Though the Rockies are hardly as competitive in the NL West as the Diamondbacks, they came into Monday's game with one win under their belt (after three games in Houston) which was still one more win than the Giants.
It was Zito's turn in the rotation to start, which was a situation many fans had been dreading since watching his performance in spring training and since starters Ryan Vogelsong and Eric Surkamp were put on the DL.
Although I was expecting a very 2012 Zito on the mound, a variation his recent work, what I witnessed was a Zito that resembled something closer to his consistent performances 10 years ago. Zito completed a shutout game, his first since 2003, and became responsible for the Giants' first win of the season.
One game is certainly nothing to get too excited about at a point in the season where there are still at least 158 left to play, but in giving the Giants their first win of the season after a somewhat-disasterous start, Zito has perhaps earned back a little bit of confidence amongst the Giants loyal.
At the very least, pitching a complete game with only four hits and no runs should give Zito more confidence in himself for his next start, especially crucial considering his past with the club and the aggressive indifference (at best) of its fans towards him as a player.
The Giants now get a day off before resuming their series in Denver on Wednesday, with Tim Lincecum expected to make his second start of the season. Zito temporarily has bragging rights amongst the bullpen, although his focus will most likely be on maintaining his own personal momentum for his (expected) start at home on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates (who currently have a 2-1 record).
At their healthiest, the Giants have some of the strongest pitching in the league. If Zito can take the momentum from Monday's win and produce more successful games in the near future, he could find himself as a very key player this season.
I don't think anyone has been expecting this of Zito since 2007.