SAN FRANCISCO -- To the casual observer, it may seem strange that the Giants would lavish a seven-year, $126 million contract upon Barry Zito yet not even make an offer to Jason Schmidt, the winningest pitcher in their San Francisco history who signed for "only" three years and $47 million with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. But it didn't seem strange to Schmidt himself. "I watched them do it many times. It didn't surprise me one bit," Schmidt said Friday, perhaps thinking of Dodgers teammate Jeff Kent. "That's just the way they work. They wanted to go younger and Barry Zito is a younger guy. It didn't bother me one way or the other, really. Besides, I didn't want to play seven more years anyway."
Schmidt, whose .678 winning percentage as a Giant (78-37) tops even Juan Marichal's (.630, 238-140), was initially surprised that Zito signed with San Francisco, though the value of his contract didn't come as a shock. "We all figured he was going to get something around that, having Scott Boras [as an agent] and be willing to go anywhere to raise your value," Schmidt said. "But in the end, when I really thought about it, it kind of made sense. I think [the Giants] wanted to make a splash in the market and do some things. It was a good signing for them." Schmidt, who won't pitch during this weekend's series, sensed when he packed his bags at AT&T Park at the end of last season that he wouldn't return. "For the most part, I figured it was over," he said. Still, some habits were hard to break. "I came into the ballpark today heading to the clubhouse and I realized I was going the wrong way. So I had turn around and go back," said Schmidt, 34. "I mean, I knew I wasn't going to the home clubhouse, but I had no idea where I was going. I'd never been in here before." Schmidt, who defeated Milwaukee in his Dodgers debut Wednesday, felt instantly comfortable upon joining his new team. "It's a great group of guys," he said. "I hated the Dodgers when I was over here. It's the other way around now. "The weirdest thing was putting on these blue shoes." Benitez better: Right-hander Armando Benitez considered himself "almost" 100 percent healthy -- a step up from the estimate he issued late in Spring Training, when he gave himself a 90 percent rating. "Right now I feel very good," Benitez said. "I feel I can use my legs now and push off." That has been a problem for Benitez since 2005, his first Giants season. That year, he needed surgery on May 3 to reattach the tendons of his right hamstring, yet he managed to resume pitching in mid-August. Last season, he endured problems with both knees, preventing him from throwing at full force for most of the year. Appearing for the second consecutive night Thursday, Benitez walked the first batter he faced, Adrian Gonzalez, on four pitches, but still recorded the save in the Giants' 5-3 victory over San Diego. Sweeney improves: First baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list with a contusion in his right foot, said that he'd be fit enough to play if he weren't forced to be sidelined. "There's a lot of people out on the field who are playing now who are probably worse off than I am, and I don't mean that out of any disrespect," Sweeney said. Although Sweeney has resumed taking batting practice, performing agility drills and running -- "I don't know if I can call it 'sprinting' anymore," the 37-year-old joked -- he's fairly certain he'll need to play a few Minor League games on an injury-rehabilitation stint before he's pronounced fit. Moreover, while Sweeney's injury might disappear, the Giants' roster crunch hasn't. He isn't assured of a spot on the roster once he's eligible for activation next Friday. But since the Giants have no left-handed batters on the bench when Ryan Klesko starts (except for switch-hitter Todd Linden), the club's braintrust might think harder about keeping Sweeney. Short hops: Although Friday night's game-time temperature was 54 degrees, manager Bruce Bochy said that he never considered scratching left fielder Barry Bonds and his sometimes balky knees from the lineup. Bochy still plans to rest Bonds on Saturday in a day game following a night game, which will give Linden his first start of the season. ... Bochy said that he received several phone calls congratulating him on his first managerial victory with the Giants. "Most of them were, 'About time,'" Bochy said dryly. Coming up: Right-hander Russ Ortiz will make his first Giants appearance since the fateful Game 6 of the 2002 World Series when he starts Saturday against Los Angeles. Right-hander Derek Lowe will start for the Dodgers.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.