Don't Panic, the Giants' 9-0 Loss Simply a Worst-Case Scenario

Ted SillanpaaAnalyst IApril 2, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 04:  Barry Zito #75 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during a spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 4, 2010 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

It's just a spring training game in a big league ball park.

Doesn't mean a thing. Nothing. Zero. Nada.

The Oakland Athletics beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0, on a chilly night in front of sparse crowd at AT&T Park Thursday.

Really. Don't give the game another thought. It didn't count in the standings.

It's tough coming north from Arizona and getting acclimated to ...

Who am I kidding?

Barry Zito was the Barry Zito we've seen struggle for the bulk of his Giants career.


His fastballs were 82-86 mph. That's what USA Baseball officials look for in pitchers trying out for the national 14-and-under age group team.

Two quick outs in the first. We're thinking, "Does Zito look more fit this season? Or, is it just the orange stripes on the pants tucked up around his knees?"

It was great. Spring training meant a lot when Zito got two quick outs against the A's starters. Then, Ryan Sweeney watched pitches everywhere except near Bengie Molina's target and drew a walk.

Admit it, you were thinking, "He's throwing fine. He's going to walk people. I do think he looks leaner..."

All of a sudden Nate Schierholtz was sprinting toward the archways in right field. Kevin Kouzmanoff hit a blast off a Zito not-real-fastball away. Haven't fans more or less agreed that Schierholtz is an amazing defender? The guy who has to play because he can handle that tricky right field at AT&T?

It was disconcerting to see the ball rocket off the bricks, blast right past Schierholtz and ...

It's only spring training. Doesn't mean anything, even if Randy Winn never played a ball off those bricks into a double that wound up in center field.

At that point, there was no reason to stay calm when panic was called for, right?

Good Barry retires Kurt Suzuki on a wicked curveball. We know from too many first innings gone terribly wrong what Bad Barry does...

Crack! Goodbye! Suzuki's trotting around the bases and it's 3-0. Suddenly, we didn't much care if Zito look fit or if the orange stripes on his socks were cool or not.

Zito went three innings, gave up seven hits, five runs, five earned runs and ... he only walked one batter. How could he? His pitches kept hitting the A's bats.

The last thing Giants fans wanted to see on Thursday was...exactly what they saw Zito do on Thursday. No pop on his fastball. No ability to hit his spots. The good news is that he has started this way before and, by July or August, managed to right himself.

(Note: KNBR's F.P. Santangelo, who spent a career watching pitchers to pick up anything that might help a hitter, spotted something wrong with Zito's delivery.

Zito's curveball and change-up were coming with his typical straight-overhand delivery. His kinda-fastball was thrown with a three-quarter side-arm delivery. Hitters can see the difference and salivate.

Conversely, maybe Zito just needs to tweak the mechanics and get the fastball back up to 87 mph.)

My particular panic stems from the fact the Giants need Zito to be solid and from my near manic desire to see the guy succeed. My three sons were or are all pretty good pitchers. I get a little wound up, that knot in my gut, when they pitch. I overreact to every walk...sometimes every pitch. I want so damned much for them to do well.

I feel the same way watching Zito.

The 2010 Giants have some pop, though, so it could be that we could wind up enjoying balls rocketing around the yard and go to bed after a 7-6, 8-5 final. (That type outcome and, really, Giants fans wouldn't have cared who won or lost.)

The pop pooped out before the Giants even got started. They managed four measly hits, just three off  A's stud Justin Duchscherer. He looked great. If the Duke pitches like he can, and the A's call their young studs up from the minor league in May as most expect, Oakland could surprise in the AL West. (For a look at what the A's win could mean for the 2010 season, see

Giants fans even had a spring training feel-good story go up in flames before their eyes. Young right-hander Kevin Pucetas was brilliant early in Arizona, struggled in his last start...and gave up three runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings on Thursday. The kid who lives pounding the zone walked two.

Kind of makes you wonder how many feel-good stories we read out of camp are true and how many are creations of sports writers who need to give an editor 750 words every day by 7 p.m.

New sluggers, er, hitters Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa? A combined 0 for 6. Giants fans could really have used a hit from one of them to stem the desire to break a sweat and think, "This can't be happening..."

The bullpen was lights out. That's going to be the case often this year, so Zito doesn't need to be fantastic...he just needs to be the Zito who kept the team in games for five, six innings. The pen isn't much help when Bad Barry's on the hill.

It's not like some Giants fans have spent decades waiting for a championship. And, it's not like most of them didn't spend all winter saying, "The club didn't improve enough."

Finally, only the guy who calls himself the Giants Pumpkin and the old ladies who wear hats filled with Giants logo pins from 1958 through 2009 were confident that Barry Zito would be as good from the start as he was at the end of 2009.

Where were we?

Oh, reason to panic. The game didn't mean a thing.

Can't expect the boys to focus and gives us a regular-season effort on a cold night in...well, OK...the A's were tack sharp and so youthfully enthusiastic that Edgar Renteria looked 55-years old by comparison.

Relax! The Giants are a veteran club. They know what they can do. Just gettin' their work in, right? Those A's kids don't know any better but to stomp a foe into the ground every chance they get. Wait'll they fizzle out in ... well, OK, we don't know if they'll fizzle out.

No reason to panic, in spite of a Giants' effort seemed aimed solely at creating a mass panic attack among their fans.

Ted Sillanpaa looks at the Oakland Athletics and what their Bay Bridge Series win might mean at www.bayareasports.comLink text

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