Barry Zito’s first two seasons with the San Francisco Giants have been a disappointment, but the club still believes the onetime ace can build off a strong finish to 2008 and regain the success he once enjoyed on the other side of the bay.
An opening-day starter each of the last two seasons, the quirky left-hander makes his first start Friday night when the Giants open a three-game set against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner with Oakland, enters the third season of a seven-year, $126 million contract. He’s 21-30 with a 4.84 since joining San Francisco, and hasn’t looked like the pitcher who never had a losing record in seven seasons with the Athletics.
The Giants, though, feel this might be the season Zito turns things around.
Though he started 0-8 and finished 10-17 - a career high for losses - with a 5.15 ERA last season, he went 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA over his final eight starts.
Thanks to an intense offseason workout program with Giants closer Brian Wilson, Zito has lost weight and toned his body in preparation for the season.
“He’s got his stamina and strength where we want,” manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants’ official Web site.
Zito has a chance to help the Giants (2-1) to their second straight victory. He is 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA in nine career starts against the Padres (2-2), with the wins coming in his last three decisions against them.
Bengie Molina drove in four runs, Fred Lewis had three hits and Aaron Rowand went 2-for-4 with an RBI in San Francisco’s 7-1 home win over Milwaukee on Thursday, the Giants’ second win in that three-game series.
A scary moment came in the ninth inning when rookie reliever Joe Martinez was hit in the head by Mike Cameron’s line drive. Martinez walked off the field, but was taken to the hospital. His status for this series is uncertain.
One of the lowest-scoring teams in the majors a year ago, the Giants scored 19 runs in the three games versus Milwaukee. Rowand went 6-for-11 with a homer and four RBIs, while Molina was 5-for-12 with one home run and five RBIs.
Molina is 3-for-5 lifetime against right-hander Shawn Hill, who is scheduled to make his Padres debut Friday. Hill went 1-5 with a 5.83 in 12 starts last year for Washington before a strained right forearm ended his season.
Though the Padres went 5-13 against the Giants last season - including 2-7 at Petco - they enter with momentum after rallying for a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Thursday to split that four-game set.
“We’ve got a lot of energy,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody’s confident. We know what we’re doing. We’re not intimidated by anybody and we really feel like we can compete in (the NL West) and we know we can win here.”
Gonzalez had six homers and 15 RBIs against San Francisco last season.