“I can’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ve got a job to do here.”
The 25-year-old left-hander returns to work looking to build on one of his best outings of the season when the A’s resume a four-game series with the Minnesota Twins at The Metrodome.
Zito finished the first half of the season 8-6 with a 3.28 ERA and was elected to the Midsummer Classic by the players. However, because he threw 108 pitchers in Oakland’s 1-0 win over Baltimore on Sunday, the A’s informed the Commissioner’s Office that Zito would not be able to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star game.
Baseball officials added New York Yankees right-hander Roger Clemens to the AL team, making Zito an inactive participant who could be in uniform, take part in the festivities, but not play in the game.
Zito said he could have pitched an inning and that he learned of the move from a reporter at Monday’s media session. The A’s maintain they informed Zito of their decision to hold him out of the game before he left for Chicago.
“I threw (108) pitches, but this is the same thing as last year, when I pitched Sunday and threw Tuesday (in the All-Star game),” Zito said. “I told (A’s manager Ken) Macha I’d be able to go if they need me.”
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed just four hits over eight brilliant innings Sunday, but did not receive a decision as the A’s didn’t score until the bottom of the ninth.
Oakland entered the All-Star break riding a five-game win streak, but dropped Thursday’s series opener 6-2.
Jacque Jones went 3-for-5 in his return from the disabled list for Minnesota, which had lost 12 of its previous 13. Jones had been sidelined since July 1 with a groin injury.
STANDINGS (through July 16): Athletics - 2nd place, 4 GB, AL West. Twins - 3rd place, 7 1/2 GB, AL Central.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (8-6, 3.28 ERA). In seven career starts against Minnesota, Zito is 1-3 with a 5.15 ERA.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Johan Santana (4-2, 3.00 ERA). Making his first start since June 13, Santana was reached for three runs and five hits over six innings of last Friday’s 5-0 loss to Anaheim. The 24-year-old left-hander, who was used as a reliever between starts, struck out four against the Angels without issuing a walk. Santana is 1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in eight career appearances against Oakland, including one start.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Byrnes, .295 avg.; Eric Chavez, 17 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 56 RBIs; Erubiel Durazo, 52 runs; Byrnes and Chavez, 7 SBs. Twins - Jones, .306 avg.; Torii Hunter, 15 HRs and 59 RBIs; Corey Koskie, 48 runs; Luis Rivas, 8 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Twins, 5-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - OF Byrnes, the A’s leading hitter, went 0-for-4 Thursday and is hitting just .083 (4-for-48) in July. … The A’s are 20-11 in the first game of a series this year, but are 13-17 in the second. … Oakland purchased the contract of rookie RHP Rich Harden from Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday. Harden becomes the A’s fifth starter, replacing RHP Aaron Harang, who was optioned to Sacramento on Wednesday, and will make his major league debut on Monday at Kansas City. Twins - OF Shannon Stewart, acquired from Toronto on Wednesday, went 0-for-5 in his Twins debut Thursday. … Minnesota is just 7-12 against the AL West this season. … Despite getting two hits Thursday, including a homer, OF Hunter is hitting just .216 (8-for-37) over his last 10 games but has three homers and six RBIs during the stretch.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 18-24 on the road; Twins - 23-23 at home.