Notes: Leaner Ortiz looking good

Notes: Leaner Ortiz looking good

TUCSON, Ariz. -- You might say that Russ Ortiz had a chance Monday to put frosting on his cake.

The right-hander faced the Arizona Diamondbacks, who released him last June and ate nearly $22 million of his contract, and pitched 2 1/3 effective innings in the Giants' 9-0 exhibition loss at Tucson Electric Park. Ortiz didn't allow a run or a hit during his stint, but ultimately was charged with two runs when the pair of Diamondbacks he walked came around to score in Arizona's seven-run sixth inning.

Followers of the Diamondbacks probably were surprised to see Ortiz excel. He was 5-16 with them in 2005-06 after signing a four-year, $33 million free-agent contract in December 2004. Monday, one leather-lunged patron let Ortiz know exactly what he thought about him as the right-hander warmed up for the fourth inning.

But Ortiz, who retired all nine Chicago Cubs he faced last Thursday, pitched two more scoreless innings as he continued his bid for the Giants' No. 5 starting spot. He also continued remaking himself.

In Sunday's Arizona Republic, a columnist cited Ortiz's fondness for donuts when he pitched for the Diamondbacks. The reference angered several Giants, who deemed it unfair.

As it turns out, Ortiz has curbed his sweet-tooth tendencies -- which, along with his improved pitching mechanics, may have hastened his resurgence. Ortiz said that he reduced his sugar intake late last season after he joined the Baltimore Orioles.

"I figured I'd lose five or six pounds and I ended up losing 12 or 13 pounds. I guess that's a good thing," Ortiz said. "I'm getting at a point where I realize I don't know how much longer I have to play. I don't like working out, but I do it."

Arizona manager Bob Melvin theorized that Ortiz's return to San Francisco, where he finished 67-44 from 1998-2002, can provide a psychological boost. Ortiz agreed.

"I'm sure there's some truth to that," Ortiz said. "Any time you feel comfortable, I think it helps a great deal."

Ortiz's sense of comfort includes being able to work with either of the "only two pitching coaches who know me well" -- San Francisco's Dave "Rags" Righetti and Baltimore's Leo Mazzone.

"If I had the opportunity to get back with Rags, I was going to do it," Ortiz said. "It worked out. So far it's been great."

Ortiz appeared bound to complete another three shutout innings until his control deserted him in the sixth. He explained that he began rushing his delivery when he realized how close he was to attaining his goal.

"I wanted to finish strong and got a little out of rhythm," he said. "It's hard to be right there every single time. I felt like if I needed to make a pitch, for the most part, I did that."

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Minor glitch: Barry Zito's second Cactus League start hit a snag near the end of his three-inning performance, when he was charged with a bases-loaded balk that produced Arizona's first run.

Otherwise, Zito looked sharp as he established his fastball -- his top priority, since it makes his offspeed pitches more devastating.

Zito explained that the balk stemmed from unfamiliarity with catcher Bengie Molina, like him another Giants newcomer.

"I just got crossed up," Zito said. "Molina was set up outside and I came up ready to throw a fastball in and it takes a minute to get used to these signs. I'm just glad no one got hurt."

Briefly: Relievers Erick Threets and Oscar Montero combined to walk three batters in Arizona's seven-run sixth, which stuck in manager Bruce Bochy's craw. "It's hard to defend walks," he said. ... The Giants' flu epidemic kept subsiding, as second baseman Ray Durham was the only player absent due to illness. But several remained weakened, including left fielder Barry Bonds, whose availability for Tuesday's exhibiition against the Los Angeles Angels was iffy. ... Bochy said that right-hander Tim Lincecum will make his Cactus League debut in Wednesday's split-squad game against Milwaukee while Matt Morris faces Seattle. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who hasn't pitched due to tenderness in his arm, is tentatively scheduled to relieve against Seattle.

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.