"Even if there still is," Zito said, "I'm not perceiving it that way now."
Zito gave the doubters fresh material this spring when he altered his pitching motion for the second year in a row. Last year, he tinkered with his stride in February before returning to the delivery that helped him amass a 102-63 record with Oakland from 2000-06. This time, Zito waited until his third Cactus League start before pulling his surprise. He no longer brought his hands over his head from the windup, explaining that this change synchronized his hands with his kicking leg more properly."I think my stuff has later movement," Zito said. "You always want your stuff to move as late as possible so the hitter can't gauge it and basically determine where the ball's going to be when he swings at it." Zito has struggled in his previous Opening Day starts, losing all three of them while compiling a 9.49 ERA. This includes last year's opener against the Padres, who defeated the Giants, 7-0, as Zito surrendered three runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings. This kind of history never entered Bochy's mind as he named Zito to pitch Game 1 after the first workout for pitchers and catchers. "When Barry hits the mound, we expect to win and we expect him to give us a chance to win," Bochy said. "That's not ever going to change for us."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.